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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Dean of libraries candidate encourages entrepreneurial mindset, lifelong learning

Nithin Reddy Nagapur
Stephen Patton, candidate for dean of university libraries, speaks to public forum attendees on Aug. 9.

When an audience member posed a ChatGPT-made question on how the library could leverage technology to support lifelong learning, Stephen Patton jokingly pointed out the artificial intelligence’s technology bias.

Patton elaborated that the library promotes lifelong learning, as opposed to what he views as academia’s recent shift to a “vocational” approach.

“My frustration is that we’re moving from a system … (where) we were looking at teaching, learning and teaching how to think, to more of a vocational basis,” Patton said. “That’s the point of higher ed: not to train you to run off to your job, it’s giving you that information that makes you a good citizen.”

Patton is one of three candidates interested in the dean of university libraries position. The role, formerly held by now-retired Kathy Downes, is responsible for overseeing Ablah Library, the McKinley Chemistry Library and the Thurlow Lieurance Memorial Music Library.

Patton, a doctoral student in technology management at Indiana State, is the chair of Cunningham Memorial Library’s Systems Department at the same university. He previously served as interim associate dean of library services.

He has also earned master’s degrees in computer science and library and information studies from Columbus State and Florida State, respectively.

Focusing on the library’s potential for innovation, Patton discussed embracing an entrepreneurial mindset for library projects.

“We want to encourage a level of risk-taking in an environment that sometimes discourages threats, (and) most importantly, provides fertile ground for curiosity,” Patton said.

Some of Patton’s past projects include cataloging music archives and promoting Open Access Resources, which he said has saved students money on buying textbooks.

Patton also discussed the importance of understanding research projects and services, with that task divided among him and his team.

“I was able to really get a sense for what research was being conducted across campus,” Patton said. “So service can be a strategic effort rather than just a haphazard individual effort.”

Patton said the library can also play an important role in information literacy, such as when their history librarians shared government documents collections with classes.

“There’s propaganda that we could go after, such as visual literacy, information literacy, socio-visual literacy and lots of components that we can integrate into the classroom,” Patton said.

Kimberly Engber, dean of the Honors College, mentioned Wichita State is on track to become a Hispanic Serving Institution and asked Patton how he would help the library serve underrepresented students.

Patton discussed bringing in different library collections geared toward specific communities and contextualizing current materials, showing their intentionality in keeping them.

“The library as a whole should be inclusive space in general, but you could also create pockets, safe spaces around the library,” Patton said.

For student outreach, Patton brought up his library’s student ambassador program, where students learned the library’s various roles and then promoted them across campus. 

“You learn so much better from somebody that you view as a peer,” Patton said.

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

To share your opinion on Patton, fill out this survey. It closes on Aug. 11 at midnight.

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About the Contributors
Courtney Brown, Investigative News Editor
Courtney Brown is the investigative news editor for The Sunflower. Brown previously worked as a reporter and assistant news editor.
Nithin Reddy Nagapur, Photographer
Nithin Reddy Nagapur is a third-year photographer for The Sunflower.

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