New Library Director Promises Changes

Library Director Lisa Forrest looks to make the library an innovative, welcoming campus location.. Photo by Maya Eggert ‘19

By Drew Eastland ‘21

Staff Writer

This semester, students might notice some changes to the campus’s main library. New E.H. Little Library Director Lisa Forrest seeks to push the library into the future with bold brainstorming and collaboration. 

“Right now, libraries are at a very interesting place… [this is a] great opportunity to have a voice in the future of the library,” Forrest remarked. “The more student voices I have in helping me develop a plan…I think the higher our chances of… [raising] the money we need to renovate the space.”

Hailing from Cottonwood, Minnesota (population 1,230), Forrest described herself as never expecting to attend college. She instead directly enlisted in the US Army as a Counter Intelligence Assistant. She started taking classes at night in what she recalled as a “tin trailer campus.” 

“I would be looking at this guy next to me, and he’d be like, ‘I’m going to take a class at night,’ and I’d be like, ‘wait a minute I am just as smart as you, if not smarter,’” Forrest remembered. “So, I just started taking classes at night.”

After the army, Forrest attended the University of Buffalo. After graduation, she chose to work in occupational therapy for seven years. She described the work, often with children with cerebral palsy or autism, as a rewarding challenge.

“She has deep empathy,” Technology and Innovation (T&I) Director of Digital Innovation Kristen Eshleman expressed. “The medical field really [gave her] an insight into human behavior in a [unique] way.”

Forrest’s journey to becoming a librarian happened spontaneously. She described overhearing a conversation at a coffee shop about someone studying to be a librarian. “What?! You have to go to school to be a librarian…I had no idea,” Forrest exclaimed. “I thought, ‘That sounds really great…I could hold books all day’ (which I don’t).”

Fourteen years later, Forrest still works among stacks of books. She began her career at SUNY Buffalo State, where she fostered lasting relationships and is still in touch with some former students. She also held poetry readings on the library roof while there. 

Following her time at Hamilton College, Forrest joined Davidson this summer, and so far has enjoyed working with both staff and students. She described Davidson students as free-thinkers and collaborators with “can-do” attitudes.

“I really agree with the College’s purpose, and I really appreciate the diversity you can find here,” she said. “[At Davidson] there is a different culture [and] a spirit of creativeness.”

Forrest hopes to work with a variety of groups on campus: T&I, research librarians, and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). 

“[Forrest] is a collaborator like no one I have ever seen,” Eshleman said. “She will bring an energy and an enthusiasm for innovation for student centered designs.”

Forrest also wants to involve students in the process. Students who have already worked with her expressed excitement for her new ideas and gratitude for her value of student opinions. One example of this occured back in early August when Forrest brought in three sample chairs and allowed students to vote on which chair they preferred.

“I think she really values student opinions,” Brian Sawe ‘21 commented. “[In allowing students to sample the chairs] she would get an idea about the students’ preferences with regards to the new furniture.” 

Forrest’s goals for the library are both digital and spatial, from improving the research platform to function like a “Google search” to clearing out old, dusty periodicals. Forrest hopes to direct the library towards becoming a more modern sanctuary of resources.

“Digitally, our library system is not the best.” Forrest said, “We have an opportunity to look at these large runs of print journals that are taking up the basement.” She believes that better organization of these areas can create more student space.

In addition to Forrest’s technology concerns, she also envisions the library involving itself more with on campus activities: poetry, art, and sports. Forrest is focusing on connecting with student organizations on campus to create a central hub.

“We have a great opportunity to really support and showcase the scholarship of this college.” Forrest quipped, “[I’m] interested in how the library can be the crossroads for interdisciplinary scholarship.”

While Forrest promises changes, she also quickly pointed out that changes will take time. So, what might change this year? Goal one is new furniture: tables and chairs. Don’t worry, the beloved rocking chairs aren’t leaving either. After that, expect to see more events at club libs, such as art and poetry displays.

“[Our] primary goal [is] to make the library more student-focused,” Access and Operations Assistant Ian Hicks ‘17 stated. “[We] want more transparency between the library and the student body.” One way that Hicks it trying to encourage communication between students and the library is through the library’s social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter (@DavidsonLibrary).

While Forrest’s ideas and plans are quite bold, Hicks remarked: “I don’t think she’s suggested anything that is unattainable…She’s very ambitious, and a lot of the changes are going to take time.”

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