The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Officials appoint new University librarian

Amanda Gray | Tuesday, February 8, 2011

University officials appointed Diane Parr Walker to the position of University librarian, according to a Thursday press release.

Walker is currently deputy university librarian at the University of Virginia. She will begin her position at Notre Dame on June 25.

“Diane Walker is a superb administrator who has the experience, vision and leadership skills to transform the Hesburgh Libraries into a model research library of the 21st century,” provost Tom Burish said in the release. “She is a proven innovator who understands how to manage the complex challenges imposed by rapidly changing technology and the demands of traditional scholarship.”

Walker has worked at the University of Virginia library for 26 years and has been in her current position since 2003, the release said.

“It is an honor to be invited to lead the libraries at this time of high expectations and of great opportunity,” Walker said in the release. “I look forward to joining the community and together with them building the Notre Dame library for the future.”

The University librarian is responsible for the administration, well-being and development of the University Libraries, its faculty and staff, collections of books, manuscripts, research materials, services and other activities, according to Section 11 of the Academic Articles governing the University.

Walker will take over for assistant provost Susan Ohmer, who was named interim University librarian on May 18. Former University librarian Jennifer Younger left at the end of the 2009-10 school year for a position with the Catholic Research Resources Alliance, according to a March 22 University press release.

“I am grateful to assistant provost Susan Ohmer for her skillful and dedicated service as interim director of libraries, as well as for the hard work of the search committee that identified, recruited and evaluated candidates for the position,” Burish said.

Ohmer said she likes Walker for the position.

“I can say that the libraries of the University of Virginia are models for us and that we are very excited to have someone who was important to their success coming to the Hesburgh Libraries,” she said. “I am enthusiastic about the choice.”

David Morris, a graduate student and one of the principal organizers of the student petition for library improvements, said Walker would be a positive addition for the library.

“This appointment appears very promising,” he said. “Diane Parr Walker’s record at the University of Virginia — involving renovation projects and the building of a new special collections library — indicates an ability and willingness to advocate for the library that has been lacking in previous Notre Dame library directors.”

Morris said her liberal arts background is also helpful for her new position at a research university.

“It is important for library administrators to know first-hand the research needs of the professors and students who use their facilities,” he said. “This is another important difference from her predecessors.”

Walker will need to work out the logistics for possible library renovation, he said.

“I believe that the most pressing need remains an on-campus depository because the main library is running out of space for books, and we will need a place to keep the collections if and when we do renovate the building,” Morris said.

Morris said the library needs more money in order to expand. According to Morris, the library currently receives between $20 million to $25 million a year. He said it needs closer to $40 million a year to improve.

“To put that in context, Notre Dame spends $75 million a year on athletics and over $150 million a year on administration and business operations. We dropped $50 million on a new hockey arena,” Morris said. “So $40 million a year for the library, the heart of our academic life, shouldn’t be too much to ask.”

Walker has played a role in several initiatives at the University of Virginia, according to the press release. She has helped with the planning and construction of a new special collections library, a major renovation of the school’s science and engineering library, opening a café in the lobby of the main library and planning the renovation for the 70-year-old main library, among other projects.

According to the press release, Walker earned a master’s degrees in musicology from the University of Iowa and library and information science from the University of Illinois. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music literature from MacMurray College.

She served for five years as music cataloguer and reference librarian at the State University of New York at Buffalo before coming to the University of Virginia as their music librarian, coordinator for humanities and social sciences branch libraries and associate university librarian for user services, the press release said.