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Turning the Page

Friday, November 10, 2017
Chris Nolan talks with student

Chris Nolan is Trinity’s new university librarian

by Jeremy Gerlach

Chris Nolan, a stalwart at Trinity’s Coates Library since 1987, is succeeding Diane Graves as university librarian.

Graves, who will be named an emerita professor, joined Trinity in 2001. During the past 16 years, she helped the library successfully navigate fundamental challenges as readers have shifted to digital media, while also championing the Open Access movement which promotes universal access to scholarly research.

Under Nolan’s watch, the library will continue to grow as a hub for smart, accessible information across all platforms.

“We’re still focused on acquisition—we’re always looking for the best material we can get,” Nolan says. “But we are also transitioning to streaming content and ‘a la carte’ journal content—this fits better with what our students are used to reading.”

While the library remains home to more than 750,000 books and bound journal volumes—along with other physical media such as microfilms, music collections on CDs and DVDs—Coates also boasts an expanding collection of digital films, periodicals, and other online productions.

“Accessing content digitally means our students aren’t going to be bound by the open hours of the library,” Nolan says. “Wider, faster access: That’s where we are headed.”

This digital focus also means Nolan and company can make the library itself more flexible.

“The library is a place for people, too, not just books,” Nolan says. “Freeing up some of this room means we have valuable space for other educational purposes.”

Under Graves’ watch, the library has grown to host on-campus divisions such as the Tiger Learning Commons, the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching, the Trinity University Press, and other student services centers. Under Nolan, the physical outlay of the library will continue to shift, too: the fourth floor has continually added more booths, whiteboards, and received other updates to group learning spaces over the past few years, while library staff are eyeing upgrades for other floors as well.

“There’s always this stereotype that the library is this place where you are shushed,” Nolan says. “We’ll always have that quiet study space, but we’ve also taken steps to create places for students to gather and work in groups.”

Coates’ versatility has been a major factor in drawing and keeping Nolan at Trinity.

After starting his career at UCLA and the University of Utah, Nolan came to Trinity in 1987 as a references services coordinator, thinking he would stay just a few years.

“I just loved it here so much that I had no desire to return to a huge research institution,” Nolan says. “Here at Trinity, we have such a wonderful combination of digital access, collections, and open space.”

Nolan was promoted to head of reference later in the 1990s, then worked his way up as interim library director—just as Graves arrived—then assistant university librarian, and finally associate university librarian.

Diane Graves sits at desk

Before Graves arrived on campus, she made career stops at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va., the University of Mississippi, Loyola University/Chicago, the University of Illinois/Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Augusta [GA] College, and Miami University of Ohio. She holds a B.A. in English and masters in Librarianship from Emory University, and was a Fellow at the Frye Institute in 2001.  

At Trinity, Graves brought her experience to bear on issues of information literacy, providing services to students and faculty, and promoting Coates as a more accessible, dynamic library while still strengthening its traditional, academic functions.

Nolan, now as university librarian, sees himself as carrying on Graves’ momentum.

“Diane has been highly innovative,” Nolan says. “I’m following her, not replacing her.”

Still, Nolan has his own unique interests. For all the new spaces, digital content, music, and movies at the library, Nolan says students can expect to find him indulging in a bit of print-centric reading from time-to-time.

“I love going by the shelves for the new books and browsing what’s coming in—there’s still so many fascinating things being published in so many areas,” Nolan says. “One of the things I really like about being a librarian in a place like Trinity, is that I can dabble in all sorts of subjects. I can look at physics, astronomy, religion, and current events—one of the nice things here is having access to a range of high-quality, recent materials. It’s fun that way.”

Jeremy Gerlach is Trinity University’s brand journalist, and the last book he read is The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero. Email Jeremy at jgerlach [at] trinity.edu or find him on twitter @JT_Gerlach.