OU Names New Dean of OU Libraries

Mike Seals - January 20, 2021 10:45 am


NORMAN, OKLA. – The University of Oklahoma announced today the appointment of Denise Stephens as dean of OU Libraries, pending OU Board of Regents’ approval. She will begin her role at OU on May 24.

Stephens, an OU alumna and previous OU Libraries employee, will return to her alma mater from Washington University in St. Louis, where she serves as vice provost and university librarian.

A national search was conducted for the position, attracting 20 qualified applicants. The search committee – made up of 13 members representing OU Libraries faculty and staff, OU undergraduate and graduate students, and representatives from the College of Law, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Price College of Business – interviewed 12 semifinalists, ultimately selecting three finalists. The search solicited feedback from University Libraries constituencies, other college deans, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, School of Library and Information Studies faculty members, and members of the executive team. Stephens was the search committee’s unanimous choice and the preferred candidate of the different OU Libraries constituencies.

“We are delighted to welcome Denise Stephens back to the University of Oklahoma,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “Her vast experience in organizational development, planning and inter-organizational collaboration will ensure our libraries system continues its forward momentum in transforming and building programs and solutions that align with the larger goals of the university. We are confident that her deep knowledge and enthusiasm will drive OU Libraries to even greater heights.”

In her role at Washington University, Stephens manages the university libraries’ nine locations, the system’s archives and special collections, and more than 150 professional and support staff. Under her leadership, a library strategic plan was developed through a campus-wide collaborative effort involving faculty and students. She also helped spearhead a multi-institution initiative to establish a branch of the Federal Statistical Research Data Center at Washington University. Stephens oversaw the creation of the university’s academic support and collaboration program, which serves to enhance learning objectives and foster innovation in academic departments and campus organizations. She also saw the completion of a renovation project that transformed 16,000-square-feet of Washington University’s John M. Olin Library into new collaboration and study spaces, an AI and visualization lab, exhibition galleries and more.

Before joining Washington University, Stephens worked at the University of California, Santa Barbara as a university librarian. In this role, she increased the library acquisitions allocations by 15% and planned and executed the library’s $80 million expansion and update. Throughout her career, she has also held positions at the University of Kansas, Syracuse University, the University of Virginia and at OU, where she served as a library technician while pursuing her master’s degree.

“Through her time working in academic libraries across the country, Denise Stephens has gained unique insight into the opportunities and challenges facing the higher education library system,” said Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Jill Irvine. “She has a proven leadership record of overseeing large expansion and renovation projects, delivering innovative solutions to serve a diverse and evolving scholar community, and launching collaborative initiatives to promote academic success. I have no doubt she will do great things for OU Libraries.”

Stephens serves on the Center for Research Libraries Global Resources Network and the Greater Western Library Association Board of Directors and as the chair of the Digital Public Library of America Board of Directors. She has been published in numerous peer-reviewed academic journals, including Library Trends, Journal of Library Administration and Journal of Academic Librarianship.

Stephens earned her Master of Library and Information Studies and a B.A. in political science, both from the University of Oklahoma.




About the University of Oklahoma

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. For more information visit www.ou.edu.


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