Karen Estlund, associate dean for technology and digital strategies for Penn State Libraries, has been named the new dean of CSU Libraries. Photo courtesy of Karen Estlund
Karen Estlund got her first taste of what would become a lifelong passion as an undergraduate student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
“I was working as a work-study student when the internet became a thing,” Estlund said. “We were trying to figure out how we were going to merge old systems with the new and increase the accessibility of information. That link between technology and information access is what got me interested in libraries.”
That initial job launched her on a trajectory that took her to libraries at the University of Utah, the University of Oregon, Penn State University and now Colorado State University, where she was recently named dean of libraries.
Estlund, who starts on Dec. 1, is currently the associate dean for technology and digital strategies for Penn State Libraries. Dawn Paschal, associate dean for research, digital library and library services, has been named interim Dean of CSU Libraries until Estlund’s start date.
At Penn State, Estlund collaborated with faculty across the university to help create the Center for Immersive Experiences, which uses augmented and virtual reality and other technologies to innovate research, teaching and learning. In the spirit of being at a land-grant institution, she added that she also worked with the Penn State University Faculty Senate to pass a statement encouraging faculty to make research openly accessible whenever possible.
“Karen impressed all who interacted with her during the search process with her breadth of knowledge of libraries, her experience with digital technology, and her vision for taking the library forward into the 21st century,” said CSU Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda.
Ready for new role
Estlund says Morgan Library’s central location on campus makes it a great hub for research and collaboration.
Estlund said she found the CSU community extremely welcoming during her interview, adding that she was impressed with how the University focuses on the holistic student experience.
“When I started researching CSU, it was really some of the foundational values of the institution that resonated with me,” she said. “Concepts such as social justice and wellness and the student as a whole person. The libraries’ role in support of the holistic student is something that attracted me to CSU.”
When Estlund starts in December, she said she plans to go on listening tours to become acquainted with the community and learn about their needs. She also wants to start setting a baseline about strategic planning and build on CSU Libraries’ support for the teaching, research and service missions of the University.
Much of Estlund’s forward-thinking success can be traced back to her roots.
Prior to joining Penn State, she served as the head of the Digital Scholarship Center at the University of Oregon and directed the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program. She also was interim head of Digital Technologies and technology instruction librarian at the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, where she also taught web design as an adjunct professor.
Estlund earned her master of library and information science from the University of Washington and currently is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oregon.
Future of libraries
Having experienced the impact that the internet and other digital technologies had on libraries, Estlund said the future is exciting.
The challenge of figuring out how to make digital information more accessible as well as its preservation are just two questions that Estlund has explored at length in journal articles and academic presentations.
In her professional career, she has given dozens of presentations on topics ranging from open source repositories to annotations as well as digital scholarship.
“I look forward to working with the CSU community to figure out how to bring people in who are not already using library services.”
— Karen Estlund, new dean of CSU Libraries
As for her soon-to-be new home at Morgan Library, Estlund said its central campus location makes it an ideal place for research, collaboration and much more.
“I look forward to working with the CSU community to figure out how to bring people in who are not already using library services,” Estlund said. “It’s very well used now. But who’s not using the library, and how can we extend library services and expertise to be meaningful and available to them?”