Giesecke announces libraries departure, new accreditation assignment

Joan Giesecke
Joan Giesecke

After 16 years leading UNL Libraries, Joan Giesecke announced July 17 she is stepping down as dean to accept a new administrative assignment.

“I have decided to step out of my role as your dean,” Giesecke said in her announcement message to library colleagues. “I am intensely proud of the things we have accomplished together and I’m excited about the next phase of advancement for the UNL Libraries, but as you are aware, I continue to face health challenges that are increasing my fatigue levels. I have appreciated your support over the last few years as I balanced my responsibilities here in the libraries, special assignments on campus, and my national leadership roles in ARL (the Association of Research Libraries) with a set of medical treatments.”

Giesecke became dean in March 1996 when Kent Hendricksen became associate vice chancellor for information services. She first joined UNL in 1987 as assistant dean for Automation and Technical Services and a year later was promoted to associate dean for Collections and Services.

As dean, Giesecke has led all efforts for the state's only comprehensive research library including the main library and six branches.

Reflecting on 25 years in UNL Libraries, Giesecke said there are three things of which she is most proud: overseeing renovations to improve the libraries in size and service, enhancing the diversity of libraries faculty, and the strong relationships developed to help the colleges advance their teaching and research.

“I’m proud that we’ve created a student-centered environment that we have been able to upgrade on a regular basis to meet the changing needs of our students,” she said. She oversaw the $12.6 million Love Library renovation completed in March 2001. She also oversaw the 2002 development of a high-density storage facility on East Campus, housing 600,000 low-use volumes that are available to constituents within a one-day turnaround time.

Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ellen Weissinger said “Joan has very strategically created a library that is at once technically sophisticated and user-centered. She consistently peeked over the horizon to make sure that our faculty and students had the materials, technologies and services that we were about to need. As she accomplished this, she has been exceptionally focused on innovative service to the scholarly community on campus. The library enjoys the strong support of the campus and that means that Joan has positioned the libraries so well for the future.”

Under Giesecke’s guidance, the institutional repository Digital Commons was developed, now offering more than 57,000 full-text volumes – second largest in the country – and accessed in more than 190 countries. Libraries has moved significantly from print to electronic resources, with less than 2,000 of its 40,000 full-text journals only available in print. All others are available electronically to users’ desktops or other devices.

She tripled the dean’s endowment for the library, started the dean’s honor club for major donors, assisted with the implementation of a system that now provides more than 400,000 campus images that are available on historic or research topics, brought in a “safe assignment” system to help students understand how to cite materials correctly and avoid plagiarism, and worked cooperatively with the other NU campuses to negotiate better pricing on electronic resources. Along with the dean of Arts and Sciences, she helped to oversee the growth of the center for digital research in the humanities.

Giesecke earned a bachelor’s in economics from the State University of New York at Buffalo, a master’s of library science from the University of Maryland, a master’s in management from Central Michigan University and a doctorate in public administration from George Mason University. She was associated with George Mason's libraries for 10 years prior to coming to UNL.

Her involvement in addition to ARL includes American Library Association, Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the Greater Western Library Alliance, Nebraska Library Association and the Virginia Library Association. Among her civic leadership activities are Lincoln Rotary Club 14, and chairing the Women in Philanthropy section of the United Way of Lincoln/Lancaster County. She also chaired UNL's Combined Campaign.

In 2009-2010 she was interim director of University of Nebraska Press and in 2010 was interim associate vice chancellor for extended education and outreach. She has taught numerous graduate and undergraduate classes and workshops and written six books.

Weissinger and Chancellor Harvey Perlman have asked Giesecke to coordinate the university’s preparation for the Higher Learning Commission accreditation (due in 2016).

“While I will miss my library colleagues, I will have the opportunity to explore new areas and contribute to the campus mission in a new position,” Giesecke said. “As some of you know, accreditation is a major research interest of mine and I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to explore this area in depth.”

“This is another door opening.”

Weissinger said libraries associate dean Nancy Busch will be stepping in as interim dean on Aug. 12.

- Kelly Bartling