School of Library and Information Science pares down director search

Walter Doerschuk

The search for a new director for Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science is closing in on its final stages.

Richard Rubin, who previously served as the school’s director, is now the associate provost for extended education, a new position within the executive offices. 

“It’s mostly about stimulating, promoting the growth of online courses or programs,” Rubin said. “That’s its primary purpose.”  

Rubin served as the school’s director from 1999 to 2010. He said he loved his time as director and took his new position because he wanted a new challenge.

“It was something new and something I was very interested in,” Rubin said. “And I thought the university was at a point when people were really getting ready to take this next step.”

Jeff Fruit, the director of Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is the chair of the committee in charge of searching for the new SLIS director.  

Fruit said the short gap after Rubin left his position as SLIS director was not appropriate to do a search.

“We started a department search, but it got slowed down because they had a hiring slow down there last year when state budget was uncertain,” Fruit said. “A lot of positions got held up for a while.”

Because of that, Donald Wicks, who was part of the SLIS faculty, was appointed as the interim director. Wicks, who had been a faculty member within the SLIS, started his new position rather quickly in August of 2010.

The search restarted for a permanent SLIS director last fall with a committee consisting of mostly faculty members. The committee was responsible for finding a diverse group of qualified candidates and narrowing the group down.   

Since the restart of the search for the next director, the committee has narrowed down its list of candidates to four.

Wicks is one of the candidates along with three others from outside of Kent State. Tomas Lipinski from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Maurice Wheeler from the University of North Texas and Mary Stansbury from the University of Denver and a former Kent State faculty member are all being considered. Lipinski said the reason for his interest in the position is because it is a new opportunity.

“SLIS Kent … is supremely well-positioned to succeed in what direction it wants to move, and from a dean/director position, having good people is a clear prerequisite,” he said in an email. “I don’t think the potential of the CIC in which SLIS sits has been exploited fully yet, either.”  

Wheeler declined comment, and messages left with Stansbury seeking comment were not returned.

Athena Salaba, associate professor and one of the committee members, said previous experience was among the qualifications the committee was looking for in the candidates.

“They have to have been a faculty member of a SLIS, and they have to have administrative experience,” Salaba said.

Fruit added the candidates needed good leadership skills and a knowledge of distance learning.

Each candidate was recently brought to campus as well as the State Library of Ohio, where Kent State maintains a section of the library. The candidates met with students and faculty to discuss their ideas for the school.

Fruit said meetings with students and faculty also help sell the school to the candidates.

“These candidates are all pretty accomplished people, and they see this as a good move for them,” Fruit said. “These kinds of things are really a two-way street. We’re selling them as much as they’re selling us.”

Now that the campus visits are done, the hiring committee will share the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate with Stanley Wearden, the dean of the College of Communication and Information. Fruit said the decision is essentially up to the dean from there.  

Fruit added the goal is to have the new director in place this summer.

Wicks said if one of the outside candidates is brought in, he will be available to work with the new hire. He said he will probably go back to his position as a SLIS faculty member.

“I have appreciated the opportunity to be the interim director,” Wicks added. “Regardless of the outcome, I look forward to the dean’s decision, and we’ll go from there.”

Contact Walter Doerschuk at [email protected].