Dean of libraries retires after 41 years of employment

Connie Foster, dean of University Libraries, will be retiring this summer after 41 years with WKU. Foster said she hopes to spend her retirement traveling with her husband and spending time with her grandchildren.

Emily DeLetter

An ongoing search for a new dean of libraries follows the current dean’s announcement of retirement last fall.

Connie Foster has worked for WKU for 41 years and has been the dean of libraries since April 2011. She will officially step down on June 30, of this year.

Before she was appointed dean, Foster worked part and full time in serials and electronic resources and as department head for library technical services.

As dean, Foster administers over three departments, 30 faculty and an equal number of staff and students.

Although Foster didn’t begin her career in the libraries, she felt called to her career because of the people.

“I just got drawn into a culture and work setting that I enjoyed, and I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people in an academic environment,” Foster said.

Along with her work in the libraries, Foster spent 10 years working as an editor for a social science journal. The journal, published by Elsevier, gave her significant professional experience in editing magazines and publishing models.

“Contrary to what people think, you don’t get to read that much,” Foster said of her job as dean. “There is so much to deal with in terms of people, spaces and daily issues that keeping up with what’s hot and what’s not isn’t high up on my list of jobs.”

Foster considers her biggest accomplishment working in the libraries to be her help with TopSCHOLAR, the WKU research and creative activity database. 

Created in 2007, TopSCHOLAR is a database for theses, dissertations, articles and presentations by WKU faculty, staff and students. Foster estimated TopSCHOLAR has reached over two million downloads since its launch 10 years ago.

With the help of former WKU provost Gordon Emslie, Foster also aided in the creation and renovation of the Commons on the fourth floor of Raymond Cravens Library on campus.

“We were able to take a very dreary walk-through and turn it into a great collaborative and sometimes quiet study area for students,” Foster said.

Deana Groves described working with Foster as helpful, fair and fun. Groves is the head of library technical services and worked with Foster for 24 years.

“I knew it was on the horizon,” Groves said of Foster’s retirement. “Her forward thinking moved us to the next step and allowed for growth within the library.”

Foster said it is typical to have a dean from outside the college vacancy to chair the search for the new position; Larry Snyder, dean of Potter College, is the chair of the committee for Foster’s replacement. Library representatives and representatives from other colleges make up the remaining committee members.

Following her retirement June 30, Foster plans to bike, travel and spend more time with her family and grandchildren. She is most anticipating being in charge of her own schedule.

“Ever since I’ve stepped foot in kindergarten, I’ve been part of an academic calendar,” Foster said. “Not being tied to one will be very refreshing.” 

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at (270)745-0655 and [email protected]