U Hires Sarah Shreeves To Take Over as New Dean of Libraries


Tom Denton

(Photo by Tom Denton | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Caelan Roberts, Online Managing Editor


Following a national search, the University of Utah has selected a new dean of libraries. Sarah Shreeves, currently vice dean of libraries at the University of Arizona, will replace current Dean Alberta Comer, who will be retiring in June.

Shreeves initially heard about the job from a colleague who used to work at the Marriott Library and was later approached about the position by a recruiter from the U’s search committee. During the application and interview process, Shreeves said she got more and more excited about working at the U.

“I got to be really excited about the position, the reputation of the library, but also the reputation of the University of Utah,” she said. She added she’s excited about the direction the U is headed under President Taylor Randall, as well as the opportunity to work in a public university.

Shreeves said she has spent her career working in both public and private universities and loves working in a public university because of the opportunities it offers. 

“[Public universities] are so focused on their state and their community and really offer these opportunities to citizens of the state and to the community, and I love feeling that type of connection,” she said. 

The search committee, which was in charge of searching and vetting candidates for the job, was led in part by Catherine Soehner, associate dean for research and director of the Eccles Health Sciences Library.

Soehner said the committee was made of various faculty and staff from around campus, including people who work in the U libraries. Out of all the candidates, only four received in-person interviews, and the search committee shared feedback about their “strengths and learning curves” with the senior vice president for academic affairs, who made the final decision to hire Shreeves.

When combing through so many candidates, Soehner said it was important to look for certain traits that would aid them in their new position as dean of libraries.

“There’s so many things that you’re looking for, but certainly among the top are emotional intelligence and experience,” she said. “We want somebody who has been working at a relatively high level in an academic library.” 

Shreeves said moving into the position is a “big step,” but she feels ready for it. 

“And of course, I’m nervous,” she said. “But I actually think that new opportunities should make you a little nervous.”

Shreeves’ responsibilities as dean will include the overall stewardship of all of the U’s libraries and making sure that the libraries meet the needs of the campus community. 

She said she’ll be doing fundraising to support student and faculty needs, build partnerships across campus and will be responsible for the budget. 

“So really, that’s sort of setting the vision, setting directions for the libraries,” Shreeves said.

Her first goal in her new position, and what she says she is most excited about, is getting to know the people she will be working with, something she thinks is important for a new leader. 

“I think that the success of libraries is so dependent on the employees and so I’m excited to get to know them all better,” she said. 

The success of the libraries is why it was so important to select the right person for the job, said Soehner, with the new dean having the biggest apparent impact on the student campus experience.

With the Marriott Library getting approximately 1.5 million visitors a year, it is a place for students to “go to see and be seen but also to get some work done,” Soehner said.

“So the new dean of libraries has the ability to make sure that all students have a space — that they feel welcome to this building, that there are spaces for everyone, materials for everyone, that there’s a wide range of viewpoints being shown in our collections and reflected in our faculty and staff hires,” Soehner said.

Shreeves also stressed the importance of libraries at the U.

“It’s often said that the library is the heart of the university, and I think that is really true in that the library is the space where everybody can go to get access to information, to get support and it’s open to all campus,” she said. She added the library provides support for the research mission of the university as well as study and teaching materials for students and faculty. 

“So we are connected to so many parts of campus that if you were to remove that, you would find, I think, that the university would certainly suffer for not having an excellent library,” she said.


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