Introducing our new University Librarian Caroline Williams

The University of Queensland Library's new leader, Caroline Williams, brings a wealth of international expertise and lots of enthusiasm to the role. 

On 18 March, Caroline Williams joined UQ from the University of Nottingham, where she was Director of Libraries, Research and Learning Resources. We caught up with Caroline to learn more about what drew her to UQ and her vision for the Library.

What drew you to The University of Queensland?

First and foremost, I was drawn to The University of Queensland by the teaching, learning and research excellence it delivers and the quality of work being done at the Library.

When I visited the University late last year, I felt there was a great sense of energy and optimism and I was excited about being part of that. I could see the potential to use my experience in UK libraries and build on the great things happening here. Also, UQ campuses are beautiful. It was all very appealing.

I'm now settling into life in Brisbane, enjoying catching the ferry to work and exploring the city and hearing about its history, and trying to get used to the seasons being the opposite of what I'm used to.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by the chance to make a difference. I really do care about libraries and the contribution we can make to the lives of our students, researchers and communities.

At UQ, we can do that by connecting our students and staff with what they need – whether that's information, data, resources, or other people. No matter what you’re working on, it’s worth connecting with us – we can often help.

What do you hope to achieve over the course of the next year?

First, I want to get to know the Library staff and meet more of our UQ staff and students.

One of my priorities will be enhancing our students’ library experience. Students flock to our libraries at all hours of the day and night. We're upgrading some of our spaces now and the major upgrade of Central Library should be ready in Semester 2. We'll keep working on improving student access to resources, spaces, and support, and I'd like to make sure all our students know about Digital Essentials.

Developing students' digital and information literacy is critical to UQ's strategic plan to create game-changing graduates who are able to thrive in the digital workplace. We produced Digital Essentials with this in mind. The modules can help students develop digital skills they'll need at university and in the workplace. We involved students in the development process and we've had great feedback already, along with requests to develop more modules. 

The Library also has a great contribution to make in the research space. UQ has a successful and ambitious research agenda, which the Library supports through open access, research metrics, and understanding and tackling the challenges around data. I’d like to build on the work that is being done at UQ to strengthen research and data management and further develop partnerships and collaborative ways of working with other areas of the University.

What changes have you seen in libraries during your career?

Well, I began my career 30 years ago at the University of London. Libraries today are very different … the book persists and is particularly celebrated in our Fryer Library, alongside what you can really see here at UQ: the Library as a place of creation and collaboration, where people from all parts of the University come to access our know-how, get the resources they need, and work on projects together. 

Libraries still collect and curate information and data but now we do so much more. We have an important role in helping people develop skills to navigate information to find what they need and use it. We are increasingly open and digital. We reach out to our academic communities. Many of our spaces and collections are available 24/7. We develop new services and spaces with our students in mind, because the Library is an important place on campus for them to study, collaborate, and take a quiet break – so you now see sleep pods and kitchenettes in libraries.

But even though libraries look different, our purpose is essentially the same. As writer Neil Gaiman said: libraries are about information, education, connection, access, safe spaces, and freedom.

What do you think the future will be like for libraries?

The first thing I’d say is that university library futures are very much tied into university futures. As we see changes in teaching, learning, and research, librarians think about what this means in terms of the nature of information and how it is created and communicated, and then support, spaces, services, collections we provide and share.

The second thing is that I’d like to reiterate that our purpose is a constant. I love the expression of this in the words carved in the stone above the entrance to the Duhig library building – knowledge, learning, achievement – it’s how we deliver that purpose that changes. 

And next a word about technology and the impact that it is having on the world we live and work in, from the information society to the fourth industrial revolution we hear about the opportunities and challenges that technological advances bring.  Libraries have an important role in both making the most of these opportunities and in helping people develop their digital and information skills.  People need to be able to identify quality data and truthful information among the fake news and misinformation that exists, especially online.  

I believe that people will continue to use and value libraries; they are valuable engagement assets and symbols of learning, information exchange, and community.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

Only that I'm happy to be here and looking forward to the future. Since I arrived, I've been busy meeting University and Library staff and discovering our services. Over the coming months I'll be meeting more and more UQ staff, and I hope to meet more of our students too. So if you see me around please say hello.  

Caroline Williams has joined The University of Queensland (UQ) as our new University Librarian. She replaces Bob Gerrity, who has taken up the University Librarian position at Monash University.

 

Last updated:
31 May 2019