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Query ready for the challenge

March 31, 2000

Carol J. Schlueter

If you do an Internet search under the word "challenges," you won't find "Tulane libraries" in your results. But you should. The challenges ahead, to find significant new funding for the libraries and shape them for greatness, aren't daunting to Lance Query. Tulane's new dean of libraries and academic information resources is energized by the work ahead.

"That challenge is what's drawing me to Tulane," Query said from his desk as dean of university libraries at Western Michigan University. Query accepted the position at Tulane last month, ending a national search by a university committee led by Harvey Bricker, professor and chair of the anthropology department.

"I am delighted that Tulane has been able to secure the services of someone of Dr. Query's caliber," Bricker says. "He is very well thought of at Western Michigan because he has a clear understanding of what a university library must be."

President Scott Cowen adds about Query, "His background and accomplishments make him ideally suited for this important position. Enhancing our library system is a high priority in Tulane's plan and one that is near and dear to me."

Query's description of himself as an "expert generalist" is born partly from his varied background. The St. Louis native is a former high school teacher who spent a year in Peru teaching high school in an exchange program. He earned a master's degree and PhD in Latin American history from Indiana University. As a result of a research project for a Venezuelan foundation and work as a bibliographer for Northwestern University, he decided to earn another master's degree in library science from the University of Chicago.

From there, he began a series of progressively responsible positions at Northwestern, culminating in the role of assistant university librarian for planning and administration, then acting university librarian. He also served as an adjunct member of the history department. He joined Western Michigan University in 1993, where he helped develop the Center for Teaching and Learning, bringing together resources across campus.

Tulane will draw on his significant experience "in the trenches," in all aspects of library work from collection building to reference work, and from budget development to human resources. Fund raising is another challenge on Query's frontier. He approaches this challenge as a partnership he shares with Cowen and with Paul Barron, interim senior vice president for academic affairs. Query has experience to bring to the fund-raising agenda.

At Northwestern and at Western Michigan, he was successful in increasing the library's endowment, enhancing the "friends of the library" programs and handling overtures to the corporate world. The latter meant raising funds through selling the library's research services to corporate clients, an idea he may like to try at Tulane.

"Fund raising is not necessarily just about gifts. It's also about new and creative ways to bring resources into the library," he says. Yet Query remains a realist. "Improvement must be made with the library system. You have to have the highest quality product before you can sell it. Donors simply aren't interested in remediation."

And there's an even more basic problem. As a library, he points out, "We don't have any alums, yet everybody is an alum. It's an identity problem of sorts."

Nonetheless, he is looking forward to developing a strong relationship with students, staff, faculty and alumni to reinforce a service-oriented approach to libraries.

"The real strength of the faculty at Tulane is that there is a perception of the need to move ahead in technology, but enormous respect of what print formats can offer," he says.

As Query looks to the future, he wants Tulane's libraries to better assist students in learning to navigate independently the millions of sources of information. He calls it a "cooperative engagement" with faculty to develop such programs, adding, "If we don't, the library runs the risk of being obsolete." Yet Query sees great things ahead. "Effective libraries aren't inexpensive. One thing is certain, however; there has never been a great university without a great library."

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