Yolanda Cooper, the new vice provost and Lindseth Family University Librarian, has enjoyed a warm reception from the staff at Kelvin Smith Library—one that contrasts sharply from the cold, wintry mix that greeted her on her first day on the job in January.
One might think that Cleveland’s winter weather would put a damper on Cooper’s spirits—after all, she moved here from Atlanta, where she was a dean and university librarian at Emory University. But Cooper cheerfully noted that her first day in that southern city also was marked by severe winter weather.
“(In Atlanta) you can have 2 or 3 inches of snow and it shuts everything down,” she laughed.
Helping staff succeed is important to Cooper, who has a strong background in organizational development and human resources. That professional experience has helped shape what Provost Ben Vinson III called “an extraordinarily people-centered approach to leadership.”
In her first month and a half on the job, Cooper has made it a point to meet with every staff member at Kelvin Smith Library to learn about their roles and responsibilities, what they enjoy about their jobs and what challenges they face.
“I believe that the people who work in your environment are the most important reason for its success,” Cooper said. “You can accomplish all things if you create the right environment for them to thrive and be creative.”
Among her greatest priorities is helping the library increase its digital capabilities to meet the scholarly demands of the campus community. Cooper plans to build on the success of the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship— which provides advanced equipment, software, hardware and digital services to the research community—and ensure that all areas of the library increase their digital expertise. That will mean more professional development for staff who will, in turn, use their new skills and knowledge of emerging technologies to train the Case Western Reserve community.
Digital preservation is also a top priority for Cooper.
“Libraries today have their feet in both worlds,” Cooper said. “We have to be all things to all people in all formats. We still have print materials, and we have a fantastic special collection of rare books and manuscripts. But we’re zooming into a born-digital environment. It really benefits our digital natives to be able to [go online and] view our special collections–it’s what distinguishes university libraries today.”
Learn more about Yolanda Cooper in this week’s 5 questions.
1. Where’s your favorite travel destination?
I have two favorites. I really like Italy because of the architecture, but I also like Ireland because of the people and the landscapes.
2. What’s up next on your reading list?
I like to read science fiction/fantasy. Right now I’m finishing Wheel of Time. There are 14 books in the series and I’m on book No. 12. Wheel of Time is about magic—about different lands and people and environments. I like things that take me out of the now—it’s an escape.
3. Being new to Cleveland, what’s one local spot you’re looking forward to checking out?
I’m a walker so even though it’s been wintry since I arrived, I’ve been exploring new areas. I want to get to the lakefront and the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve. I also want to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and some of the other cultural institutions that I haven’t been to yet.
4. If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?
I think it would have to be that I could fly. I like to travel and to be able to do that in a short amount of time, to travel around the world in a half an hour, would be fascinating.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I like the eclectic feel of the campus—the more traditional buildings and then the hospitals and nearby cultural arts institutions. And, of course, the beautiful library that I get to work in every day.