April 3rd, 2014
President E. Gordon Gee offered some inspiring words to WVU Libraries employees during a visit to the Charles C. Wise, Jr. Library Tuesday.
“I appreciate the work that you do,” Gee said. “When I talk with students, they seem to be very happy with the Libraries.”
He said a key to keeping them happy is providing good customer service. Gee encouraged librarians and staff to always be welcoming when someone approaches them for help.
“If a student comes in here and asks a question, and you give them a big hug and tell them, ‘I’m going to help you’, they will always remember that. If you growl at them, they’ll remember that forever. And that’s probably the person who will invent the new Google and would have given us a billion dollars,” Gee said. “Remember, every person is a friend of the Libraries.”
Two other important ingredients for a successful library are for employees to embrace curiosity and eschew complacency. Gee encouraged the audience to think about how they can make the Libraries a place that exudes energy, enthusiasm, and change.
“I want this to be a place of ideas. The Libraries should be the most forward thinking place in the institution,” Gee said.
A hindrance for many is a fear of change and a desire for things to remain the same. One of the problems with that mindset is that change is inevitable.
For example, Gee noted that he now goes online every day to read what used to be a stack of newspapers. He also talked about buying the eBook version of one of his favorite books, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. He likes that he can easily access the book’s contents without lugging the thick, 944-page tome around with him.
Predicting change is difficult, but having the willingness to move along with changes is a choice.
“If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevancy even less,” Gee said.
Gee wants the University to break free from old habits that make it comparable to an elephant that is big, ponderous, slow, and methodical. He envisions a University community that is fueled by curiosity about how to keep growing and improving itself and the way it serves.
“Universities can’t stay still,” Gee said. “We need to be a ballerina, not an elephant with a tutu.”
Dean of Libraries Jon E. Cawthorne thanked President Gee for visiting the Libraries and presented him with a gift to commemorate his talk.