The thought of starting a new job can be stressful, but add a global pandemic and it can quickly become overwhelming. Tracy Elliott, Ph.D., is taking this experience in stride. Her first day as dean of the Wilson G. Bradshaw Library at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) was March 23, just as campus cleared to begin online instruction due to COVID-19.
Although her early months were filled with Zoom meetings and introductions, the pandemic has allowed Elliott to focus on communication with her library staff. The experience helped reinforce an important belief: libraries must be flexible and adapt to change. Those two things ensure a library remains relevant, particularly in an era that relies on the virtual space to share information electronically.
“Everything I do is focused on helping the people who work in the library be successful,” said Elliott. “I want people to know these experts exist and what they are able to provide them. It’s our role to make sure that the university is academically successful.”
Elliott comes to FGCU from California, where she served as dean of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library at San José State University. While there, thanks to a unique partnership with the San José Public Library system, she helped lead the largest joint-use library in the nation, a concept where academic and public libraries merge to share resources while still serving distinct clienteles.
Before moving to California, Elliott was the director of libraries at the State College of Florida and head librarian at St. Petersburg College. Over her career, Elliott has also held positions at Rappahannock Community College, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Columbus State University and Auburn University. But, as a Florida native, she is happy to be back in her home state to help advance FGCU’s library.
“I have always kept my eye on FGCU. I knew this was a university where I could come in and take the library forward with the changes that are happening in higher education. I felt like this was a great match for me,” said Elliott.
Elliott’s focus is on the library supporting scholarship while connecting students with research to make the library relevant in their day-to-day studies. She is pushing the library to become more technologically savvy. For example, staff members are moving away from legacy-type to more online services.
The library is also in the process of switching to a new cloud-based system called Alma. Elliott says it is the first step in shifting the way the library does business. It will align FGCU with the other 11 public universities in Florida, allowing for high-level learning with the option to collaborate with these other institutions.
“It is going to allow us to be a lot more agile and efficient,” said Elliott. “It helps us support the amazing programs coming out of FGCU, like The Water School and the Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship. In order for them to be successful, they need a robust library that supports their academic work.”
Elliott also envisions the Wilson G. Bradshaw Library as a hub of campus, attracting students of all disciplines to come together and create. She is committed to implementing hands-on learning tools for students by enhancing spaces to accommodate technologies like virtual and augmented reality labs, digital prototyping and media production.
“The library is the heart of multidisciplinary work at any university, and students can enjoy that serendipity of multidisciplinary interaction,” said Elliott. “All of those types of technologies help students learn and produce scholarship in new ways.”
As a hybrid model of learning continues at FGCU, the library team sees more students take advantage of all it has to offer. Staff members are working to communicate what resources are available in person and online. They hope faculty members will encourage their classes to use the library. As Elliott says, “If you use the library, you will save time and get better grades. It’s just a fact.”
Learn more about the Wilson G. Bradshaw Library here.