We were extremely pleased this summer when the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees approved the reappointment of Dean Xuemao Wang for a term of five years effective July 1, 2017. Every five years, per board rule, university deans participate in a decanal review. This is a thorough procedure that evaluates their leadership as perceived by their fellow deans, UC leadership, and their respective college’s faculty and staff. In enthusiastically recommending Dean Wang’s reappointment, the librarian and staff review committees recognized his outstanding leadership, advocacy, and vision for UC Libraries to become the globally engaged, intellectual commons of the university—positioning ourselves as the hub of collaboration, digital innovation, and scholarly endeavor on campus.
To kick off the fall semester, we caught up with Dean Wang to discuss his favorite experiences at the university so far and his plans for UC Libraries’ future.
- Your decanal review marked almost 4 years for you at the university. What are your proudest memories of that time?
To begin, I’d have to say working with UC Libraries’ faculty and staff to create the new Strategic Plan. It was a long exercise- taking over a year- and very thorough, engaging, and participatory. This process included the creation of the ten strategic initiatives, which were launched shortly after the plan across the entire UC Libraries system. Over the course of this process I was able to gain a better understanding of the organization, its culture and people, and a better realization of the shared vision I’d like to create for this organization, and its potential and possibility to take UC Libraries from excellence to eminence.
Secondly, the joy and accomplishment I’ve felt in helping UC engage with China, in my role as special advisor to the President/Provost on China affairs. It was very rewarding to see the success of UC’s joint Engineering Co-Op undergraduate program with Chongqing University come to fruition, and the soon to be fourth cohort of over a hundred students registered. Also rewarding are the relationships I’ve built in traveling to China with the President, Provost, other deans and senior administrators. I’ve traveled many times and seen the partnerships building with the deans, not just to help their academic programs but to help them gain a better understanding of the Libraries’ role in those programs.
More recently, the creation in working with the entire university community to develop the University of Cincinnati Press, as well as to launch a new Digital Scholarship Center hosted by UC Libraries.
- Two years ago UC libraries launched their Strategic Plan under your direction. How do you feel about the progress that’s been made since then?
I am very satisfied with our initial achievement, together with faculty and staff. I also feel there is greater potential ahead in the future. We’re not there yet, but the foundation that we have established over those 10 exploratory initiatives will enable us to pursue what I now refer to as Cincinnati’s niche-based leadership in academic and research libraries.
We cannot be excellent at everything. With our university’s resources, if we do it right, we can be outstanding, a leader, a model, a pace setter, a trail blazer in the areas that align with the academic strengths of our university and the history and culture of our city, and to communicate and show Cincinnati’s character.
- What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Generally speaking, the first challenge is resource based. Given our current ARL ranking, our relatively small endowment for the library and the university, and the relatively small fundraising operations for UC Libraries, resources are a challenge given our bold, ambitious goals.
Another challenge is the transition from a traditional, printing material-centric work flow and service model to a digitally centric work flow and service model. As both workflows demand organizational resources, we need to consistently watch our resources and plan to meet both operational and strategic needs.
- What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
I’m looking forward to the new additions to library space, particularly the joint-initiative with the provost’s Student Success corridor, which includes the new Langsam Starbucks that opened in August and the official kick off of Langsam Library’s 24×7 service.
Second, I would like to see a further and deeper implementation of the Strategic Plan and its initiatives, with sustainability in mind. More reflection and deep thinking about how to create new strategic initiatives will also be necessary, while at the same time balancing support for significant operational challenges.
Third, I look forward to the full implementation of UC Libraries’ Organizational Development (OD) initiative, which will further enable and sustain our continuous change.
Fourth, I look forward to the recruitment and hiring of several senior leadership positions to strengthen further UC Libraries senior leadership team.
Last, I am also looking forward to continually expanding our resource base with broader partnerships with others, including other academic departments at UC, and proactively engaging grants and fundraising activity. It’s going to be an exciting five years!