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Ed Van Gemert, Vice Provost for Libraries, University of Wisconsin-Madison,(Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf announces that Edward Van Gemert, the Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian, will retire from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries in May 2018. A nationwide search will be launched in the near future to fill the position upon Van Gemert’s departure.

Van Gemert’s retirement follows 46 years of work with libraries, and 2018 will mark 36 years of continuous employment with the General Library System. Van Gemert came to the libraries as a student assistant in Memorial Library in 1971. He has held a number of positions over the years, including serving as the first person at UW-Madison to hold the title of Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work at an outstanding public research university, in a library system that makes an impact on campus, and has afforded me tremendous experiences along the way,” said Van Gemert. “As I prepare to explore the opportunities in the next chapter of my life, I can say without hesitation, my passion and advocacy for libraries and this institution will be unwavering.”

Van Gemert accepted the position of Vice Provost for Libraries under Provost Paul DeLuca in 2013, with instructions to rethink how the UW-Madison Libraries would advance their role on campus into the future, specifically: growing campus partnerships to assist the fundamental ways the university educates students; creating a strategic plan that encompasses the needs of stakeholders and leadership across campus; and creating a more focused effort to develop a philanthropic fundraising plan with the UW Foundation.

Van Gemert visiting Nazarbayev University in Kazaakhstan.

Provost Mangelsdorf, who filled DeLuca’s position in 2014, praised Van Gemert for his tireless efforts to move the libraries forward amid constant change in the higher education environment, all while making the libraries a sought-after campus partner.

“Ed has been a terrific colleague during a time of significant change, where visionary leadership and collaborative approaches to problem-solving have been paramount,” said Mangelsdorf. “He is a national leader on issues of access to library materials. We are very appreciative of all that he has accomplished with his leadership team during his time as Vice Provost and University Librarian.”

During Van Gemert’s leadership the Libraries have enjoyed campus support for increased acquisition funding, have been leaders in a long list of well-attended library programs, classes, events, and partnerships initiatives, both at the local and national level, and have made advancements in securing key development and funding partnerships. Additionally, the Libraries have undertaken the development of an extensive facilities master plan, as well as a campus-wide library consolidation project to better position the Libraries to meet campus needs.

Van Gemert helps open the Verona Shelving Facility.

Van Gemert has served as Chair of the Council of Wisconsin Libraries (CUWL), was on the Steering Committee of the Coalition of Networked Information (CNI), served in leadership roles with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA), and served as Chair of the HathiTrust Strategic Advisory Board.

Among other Libraries accomplishments during Van Gemert’s time are:

  • Providing vision and leadership for the development and transformation of one of the largest academic library systems in North America.
  • Built and developed strategic campus partnerships which resulted in WisCEL, BioCommons, the Design Lab, and SOAR advising moving into College Library, as well as the upcoming transformations with the Chemistry and Business Learning Commons spaces.
  • Overseeing responsible HR and budget management during challenging budget scenarios.
  • Leading fundraising for the now completed Verona Shelving Facility.
  • Overseeing a successful statewide library automation initiative to implement common library management systems for the UW System Libraries.

While the list of successes and opportunities under Van Gemert’s leadership is long, he is quick to note that his success is a direct result of the team he works with, both within the libraries and across campus, including all of Libraries’ generous donors and friends.

“The dedication of our staff is second to none, which has made our success possible,” said Van Gemert. “We have endured waves of change over the decades, and that will continue. Change is difficult, but the opportunities for the libraries to evolve with those shifts and make a great impact will only grow. I’m honored to have been a part of this experience for so long.”

Van Gemert said he looks forward to spending more time with this family, traveling, embarking on several cycling trips, reading, and engaging even more in his volunteer work for adult literacy.