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University Librarian and Dean of Libraries Mary M. Case retires

photograph of Mary Case
Dean Mary M. Case

Today we celebrate Dean Mary M. Case as she retires after a remarkable career. The following interview with Dean Case conducted by Carlos Sadovi, UIC News, highlights her many accomplishments and notable experiences in librarianship and during her sixteen years at UIC, as well as her plans for the future.

Congratulations, Dean Case!

I’m originally from a small town in Northern New York State. I first moved to Chicago to attend graduate school at Northwestern University. While there, I discovered librarianship and left to obtain a master’s degree in library science at the University of Michigan. I returned to the Northwestern Library where I worked for a decade in serials and acquisitions services, serving as a department head for many of those years. Then, interested in broadening my perspective, I spent two years as Northwestern’s Director of Program Review in the Office of the Vice President for Administration and Planning.

From Northwestern, I moved to Washington, D.C., to take the position of Director of the Office of Scholarly Communications at the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). My job at ARL was to help transform the scholarly publishing system by promoting creative, innovative and alternative ways of sharing research results. Though I enjoyed my work at ARL, I began to miss being on a university campus. I was fortunate that when the UIC position came along, Provost Michael Tanner was willing to give me a chance, despite my somewhat unusual career path.

How long at UIC and why come here?
I came to UIC in July 2004 as University Librarian. I had lived in the Chicago area for almost two decades previously, and I loved Chicago. I also loved the idea of coming to an institution that was committed to educating the youth of the city and was deeply engaged with the community. UIC was an institution on the rise. I saw the role of University Librarian as a way of giving back to Chicago by helping the Library support the University’s commitment to urban, public higher education and ground-breaking research.

What are your plans after leaving UIC?
In the short term, I plan to turn off the alarm clock and sleep, read books all the way through and get in shape. My husband and I plan to travel—when that is feasible again (Italy was high on our list). I also hope to stay involved with the Chicago Collections Consortium (CCC), a group I helped found several years ago. We haven’t decided yet whether we will stay in Chicago for the long term—winters here are becoming more and more of a challenge!

How do you see the future at UIC and what work would you like your successor to continue?
I am very excited that UIC will continue to grow in stature, recognized for its academic excellence and diverse community. It will be increasingly acknowledged for its contributions to the people of Chicago in everything from arts and culture to public policy, entrepreneurship, engineering and health. I know the Library will continue to work collaboratively with City educational institutions, libraries, archives and museums.

Until a successor has been found, I am grateful to Dean Karen Colley for her service as interim university librarian and dean of libraries. I know she will continue the work we have begun to ensure that the Library is not only a diverse, but also an equitable and inclusive organization. Everyone in the Library must feel valued and empowered to contribute to the mission. Moreover, its collections, instruction, and services must meet the needs of our diverse user communities. The Library has also begun to make good progress on building support for faculty and students on data management and digital scholarship. These are areas that are critical to the research landscape on campus and need to be carefully nurtured. I also hope a new University Librarian will be able to continue renovations of library facilities, perhaps even someday overseeing the building of an addition to the Daley Library.

What do you believe are your greatest professional accomplishments?
I had the privilege of being involved in the founding of two organizations during my career. The first was SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which I helped launch while I was at ARL. Created to encourage more cost effective scholarly publishing opportunities, in its 20 years of existence, SPARC has become a leading international force in promoting open access, open data and open educational resources. Its impact on U.S. legislation and policy, grant funding policies, and the global publishing community has far exceeded what any of us involved in its creation could have imagined. The exceptional vision and passion of SPARC’s two executive directors have been responsible for the incredible achievements of the organization. I am so proud to have been a part of its beginning.

While at UIC, I was one of the leaders in founding the Chicago Collections Consortium (CCC), a consortium of libraries, museums, and archives that collaborate to preserve and share the history and culture of the Chicago region. The group was incorporated in 2012 with 12 founding member organizations and has grown to almost 50 members today. UIC received two grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop the governance structure of the organization and to design and build a portal to finding aids and digital images in members’ archives. It has been exciting to see the CCC grow and present programs, exhibits and workshops, and I know we have only begun to tap the potential of this significant collaboration. I envision great opportunities, for example, for grants to help members process, digitize, and conserve collections, as well as funding to develop curricula for teachers who wish to introduce original source materials into their classes or to create exhibits and programming to illuminate Chicago’s history.

What is your greatest memory of your time at UIC?
It is hard to narrow this one down. There are so many!

My very first day on the job started with a breakfast meeting in the newly constructed Richard J. Daley Archives Room with then Mayor Richard M. Daley and his five siblings. The discussion centered on plans for a fund-raising gala to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the senior Mayor Daley’s first election as Mayor and support the archives. That was a pretty intimidating and awesome way to start!

The Daley family has continued to champion the Library, with subsequent donations of papers by Mayor Richard M. and Bill Daley. Mayor Richard J. Daley considered the founding of UIC one of his greatest accomplishments; the Daley family remains critical to the legacy of the University, the Library and the City of Chicago.

I was also grateful to have served as co-chair of UIC’s Obama Presidential Library Steering Committee. Though our proposal did not win, we did get to tell UIC’s story on a national stage.

But there are other just as important memories, as well. The looks of amazement on students’ faces when they saw for the first time the IDEA Commons, the Circle Reading Room and the renovation on the first floor of the Library of the Health Sciences. Being able to create spaces for students that are functional, attractive and comfortable has been a true reward of my time at UIC. By fully embracing the electronic information world, we have been able not only to provide access to exponentially more resources, but also to create more space for users in our facilities.

UIC is a very special place, especially for the people it attracts to work and learn here. I am fortunate to have had wonderful colleagues and university officials, who have supported and collaborated with the Library over the years. The faculty and students with whom I have interacted have been passionate, incisive and appreciative for what the Library has done and continues to do to meet their needs. We have wonderful donors who have enthusiastically supported our vision. Most of all, I am grateful for and proud of all of the Library colleagues with whom I have had the good fortune to work over the past 16 years. Their dedication to our mission and their hard work during difficult years made possible accomplishments too numerous to have mentioned here. Thank you, UIC.

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