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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Potential dean of university libraries wants to innovate campus library

Mia Hennen
Brent Mai talks about his ideas and goals if selected as the new dean of university libraries. Mai visited campus on Aug. 3 and 4 to meet with various stakeholders on campus.

Brent Mai jokingly said he has “beef” with a map of Wichita State that showcases the development underway on the Innovation Campus. 

“The library ought to be a part of all the new things that are happening here,” Mai, a candidate for dean of university libraries, said. “That’s one of the conversations I want to have is to be sure that the library is included in the discussions of the new things that are going on over there because we’re part of that innovation.”

The candidate is one of three vying for the spot formerly held by Kathy Downes, who retired in the spring. The dean of university libraries is in charge of overseeing the various libraries on campus, including Ablah Library, the McKinley Chemistry Library, and the Thurlow Lieurance Memorial Music Library.

Mai, a Kansas native, has hopped around the country over the years, working and studying at various institutions. He currently serves as the dean of the Thomas G. Carpenter Library at the University of North Florida. 

“There are a lot of reasons for my making this kind of a move at this time,” Mai said. “(Wichita State is) an interesting place to be. You’re doing some cool things here that I’d like to be a part of.”

With a background in corporate research analysis, Mai said he is “very data-driven.” 

“I constantly want to have data that inculcates the culture of assessment,” he said.

Mai touched on several values he holds as a leader, like respect, transformation and trust. He called these “cultures” in his leadership world. 

“We want to be able to look at all the different things that are involved in the library … and be able to assess … (if) we’re doing what it is we claimed to be doing in our world,” Mai said.

With a shared biomedical center between the University of Kansas and WSU in the works, Mai said there’s an opportunity to encourage greater collaboration between the different university libraries in Kansas.

“You’ve got a new dean at KU. You’ll have a new dean here, so you’ll have the chance to do some new things,” he said.

When discussing his vision for the library, Mai tied WSU’s focus on “inclusive excellence” to the point that “separate is not equal.” He said university libraries have to be a place for everybody.

“There are no safe spaces in the library,” Mai said. “The entire library is a safe space.” 

Mai said that on any given day at UNF, he can walk out of his office and see hundreds of students working or studying.

“That gives me energy to keep moving forward and doing new things because I want to see that interaction happening in the spaces in the library,” he said. “That’s why we’re here.” 

More about Mai’s professional and educational experience can be found in his cover letter and curriculum vitae

To share your opinion on Mai, fill out this survey. It closes on Aug. 5 at midnight.

Another public forum for Michele Reilly will be held on Aug. 7 at 3:30 p.m. in room 261 of the RSC.

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About the Contributor
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Reporter
Mia Hennen is a reporter for The Sunflower. Most recently, Hennen served as editor-in-chief for the 2023-2024 year. A senior English major, Hennen will graduate in May 2025 and hopes to pursue a career in journalism.

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