LSU Libraries’ assistant dean Elaine Smyth will retire on July 31 after more than 26 years of service to Louisiana State University.
After earning her Master of Librarianship degree in 1979 from the University of Washington, Seattle, Smyth began her career as a catalog librarian in the Department of Rare Books at Olin Library, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. In 1988 she came to the LSU Libraries as Head of the Manuscripts Processing Unit for the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections in Special Collections. Since then she has held numerous curatorial and administrative positions in Special Collections and served as head of the division from 2006 to 2011. As curator, she built the collections significantly in the areas of 18th century British literature, book arts and the history of printing, and natural history, and added dozens of facsimiles of medieval manuscripts, which are used each year by hundreds of students.
In 2011 she assumed the role of assistant dean of Libraries, and in 2013 she was appointed interim dean. As interim dean, she was instrumental in developing LSU’s Quality Enhancement Plan, “LSU Discover,” and promoted development of an institutional repository. Under her leadership, the environmental control system in Hill Memorial Library was renovated, and a facilities master plan was developed for the Libraries.
Smyth has also been a key player in conceptualizing, writing, and administering grants to preserve irreplaceable library materials and to make the Libraries’ rare and unique holdings accessible to a much wider audience through digitization. Serving as project author, co-principal investigator, or grant writer, she has been involved in 16 successful grant projects benefitting the LSU Libraries that total over $1,340,000. At the national level, she has served frequently as a grant panelist for both the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Smyth has published several articles, a bibliography of the Plain Wrapper Press, and contributed to two books on book arts. Between 1988 and 2009 she curated 18 exhibitions in Hill Memorial Library on topics ranging from the work of naturalist and artist John J. Audubon to the writings of Andrei Codrescu. She has been sought after for conference presentations and panel discussions and as a guest lecturer in various workshops, training sessions, and university classes.
At the university level, Smyth served on the Faculty Senate and several Faculty Senate Committees, and was elected to the Library Faculty Policy Committee four times.
Smyth is not only a leader on campus but also at the state and national levels. She has long been a member of and recently chaired the Louisiana Advisory Council for the State Documents Depository Program, through which she contributed to the effort to preserve and provide access to state documents. As interim dean, she served on the LALINC executive board, working with LOUIS staff to improve library services to LSU and other academic libraries in the state. Nationally, she has held multiple offices and committee positions in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Among these were section chair (2005) and head of local arrangements for the group’s 2011 meeting, which was held in Baton Rouge and attended by librarians from all over the United States and Canada.
The Louisiana Library Association recognized Ms. Smyth in 2014 by awarding her the Outstanding Academic Librarian Award. In 2000 she was awarded the D.W. Schneider Library Faculty Merit Award for excellence in job performance.
During her time at the LSU Libraries, Smyth mentored librarians at LSU and throughout the state, built the Libraries’ collections and services, and advanced the Libraries’ mission at LSU. Please join us in acknowledging Elaine Smyth’s success and in wishing her well in her retirement, which we hope will be as bright as the future she helped shape for the LSU Libraries.