Every morning, as I make my way onto the River Campus, the sight of Rush Rhees’s tower triggers thoughts about the day that’s about to unfold. However, recently it reminded me that tomorrow will be my one-year anniversary of being at the University.

In the time I’ve been dean, I have met with hundreds of people. And believe it or not, I can recall just about every conversation and something I took away from it. (I’m bracing myself for the time when this ability begins to fail me.) My biggest takeaway from these experiences is the members of our community have a deep love of the University, the libraries, and the surrounding community. That knowledge will fuel my work in the following year and the many that follow.

The past year has also made me realize how much the world of higher education is changing. In the past, it’s been considered a slow-mover in terms of change—and academic libraries are included in this. But I think those days are behind us. We are now expected to be in lockstep with society and change rapidly when necessary. That expectation has created opportunities, challenges, and a fair amount of discomfort. I think this is a good thing.

In my experience, discomfort can be positive and even useful. For example, I was wildly uncomfortable when my wife and I were leaving the hospital, strapping our newborn son into the car. I was terrified of entrusting a baby seat with his safety, not to mention all the thoughts about how being a dad had just become very real, but I was also incredibly excited to start a new chapter in my family’s life.

I have found a similar yin and yang in my work with the libraries. Whether it’s making a tough decision or having a difficult conversation, I have found that being thoughtful and empathetic and truly listening to others typically leads to growth, if not a positive result. So, if we want to continue growing, we need to be prepared for and even welcome some uneasiness and hardships. 

Thanks for a great first year. I look forward to the conversations and discomfort that lie ahead.

Kevin Garewal
Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean
University of Rochester Libraries