New AUL looks to collaboration and creative growth in an exceptional time

The Library is thrilled to welcome Mira Waller as our new Associate University Librarian for Research and Learning Services. Waller will guide the Library’s information services, including reference, reserves and circulation, and will ensure that the libraries provide a consistent, pleasant, and productive experience to all researchers and Library visitors.

University Librarian John Unsworth remarks:

“Mira comes to us from NC State Libraries, which is the same library I worked with in 1990 to launch the first peer-reviewed electronic journal in the humanities, Postmodern Culture. From that time to this, the NC State’s Library has produced many library leaders, including Mira, who was most recently their head of Research Engagement. Before that, she served as Associate Head of Collections and Research Strategy — and before her time at NC State, she worked as Director of Publishing Services for Project Euclid, a university-owned platform for publishing research in mathematics and statistics. Mira Waller’s long experience and her rich and varied background will serve her and UVA very well in her new role as our Associate University Librarian for Research and Learning Services.”

Waller joins the team in an interesting time, to be sure, so we sat down for a quick interview to get to know each other.

We’re thrilled you’re joining us at UVA! What will be some of your first priorities be as you settle in with your team?

I am excited to be here, and have received such a warm welcome from everyone that I have “met” and corresponded with at UVA. While COVID-19 has affected how I approach some of my initial priorities, it has not changed them. My first priority is getting to know my team and encouraging them to spend time learning more about each other’s work. It’s important to me that we establish trust, develop common goals and learn from each other in a holistic and meaningful way. Another high priority for me is to develop an operational and procedural understanding of the Library and develop strong relationships with my colleagues on the Senior Leadership Team. Next, I’d like to explore ways to build upon the Library’s existing relationships and develop new collaborations, with an eye towards strengthening and tailoring the Library’s support of research, teaching, and learning to current and future needs at UVA. 

You’ve done a lot of work in the past to fortify connections between research, academic engagement, and libraries — are there specific projects in this area that you’re excited to dig into?

Yes! Although I have to say that I have a couple of caveats. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s important to ground ideas with some background knowledge and context. And while there are a lot of exciting possibilities (and challenges) that make me want to roll up my sleeves and dig in, I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I know everyone’s current priorities will be shaped and colored by the pandemic and its aftermath. Having given my disclaimers, a few project ideas that have been percolating around in my mind are:

  • Developing deeper ties with the new School of Data Science. From what I understand the School of Data Science will be offering doctoral and undergraduate degrees, as well as certificate programs. I see a lot of potential for experimentation and cross pollination, possibly with RDS, DH Certificate program, Scholars’ Lab, etc…
  • Working with the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Provost’s office to develop additional channels to support and amplify undergraduate research. Some of the outputs could be displayed in Alderman once it’s renovated and open.
  • Working with Charlottesville and Albemarle county to help the community in the aftermath of COVID-19, which would tie in with President Ryan’s vision of UVA as both great and good.

You’re coming to us at a strange time for higher education and even the world… do you see opportunities in this time of increased telework and distance learning?

Strange times indeed. I think one of the things that we learned about higher education, and even more specifically UVA, is that apparently it is possible to make quick, grand sweeping decisions like getting all your previously in-person classes online if faced with a pandemic. It was inspiring to see that we could pivot so quickly, with all hands on deck, and just do what needed to be done. And regardless of what happens in the fall, we’ve learned some lessons that we can apply moving forward. We also have an opportunity in the coming weeks and months to think more strategically about online teaching and learning, and to expand our future planning around what research might look like in an online environment. This could also be an opportunity for higher ed to rethink some of the long-held tenets around promotion and tenure and an opportunity to show how trust in science is important; universities and colleges are good neighbors and part of their communities; and what the value of higher education is. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our community as you’re starting this new role?

Over and over again I’ve been impressed with the fortitude and general willingness of my UVA colleagues to do what needs to be done. I’ve also met neighbors who have been kind and welcoming despite current circumstances. Having read a lot about the negative side of human nature during times of crisis, I am grateful I have landed in a community that showcases our better nature. Despite all of the challenges of starting a new job in a new place during a pandemic, I’m happy to be here.




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