Farewell to Jennifer Gunter King

On Tuesday, October 2, we celebrated Jennifer Gunter King and thanked her for her more than six years of wonderful leadership in the Harold F. Johnson Library.     Jennifer’s last day was on Friday, and she is now headed to Georgia to oversee the Stuart A. Rose Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University.    We will miss her dearly!

Below are some of my excerpted remarks from her reception.

Jennifer King at her farewell reception
Departing Library Director Jennifer King at her farewell reception.












When we were searching for a new Director of the Library 7 years ago, we wanted someone who would be “transformative.”   That was the word we kept using.  We hired Jennifer because we knew it was time to go back to the founding documents of the college and the original vision for an innovative library that came from a 1969 report by Robert S. Taylor that Jennifer quickly unearthed from the Archives when she arrived.  In the report, Taylor wrote, “The challenge for libraries is the creation of a new institution merging the best of the traditional library with a readiness and capability to make maximum use of innovation in communications technology. To do this several things are necessary. First, the library must contain not only books, but all forms of media relevant to the educational process, not as additional packages but as integral parts of the learning process.  Second, the library must extend itself to responsibilities not normally included in the conventional library. Third, the library must be open­ ended.”

Jennifer turned out to be the perfect person to first go back to this document, and secondly, to actually transform our library.   I still remember her presentation at her interview, when she used a lot of hand gestures about bringing all services together into one cohesive center. And  then shortly after she got here, her enthusiasm in expressing that, while we were a good library, we needed to be a, and I’m quoting Jennifer here, a kickass library.     And, indeed, in her 6 and a half years here, that has all come to fruition:  Jennifer got herself invited to the college’s administrative meetings,  she helped make this Seydel Reading Room a reality, and, of course, she got us the Mellon grant that has transformed the main floor of the library into the Knowledge Commons,  thereby bringing academic support services together  into the library space.  Jennifer has always made the rest of us so very tired, the rest of us who may only have 3 or zero kids, or no dog, or just one chicken, or only 3 cats, and no bunny…. just watching her work so hard, each day full of new energy and ideas.

I recently heard this poem* which made me think of Jennifer and all of the transformation she has brought to keep reminding us of our founding document…

May we be reminders, each for the other, that

the path of transformation passes

through the flames.

To take one step is courageous;

to stay on the path day after day,

choosing the unknown, and facing

yet another fear, that is nothing

short of grace.

Jennifer, thank you so much for bringing such transformation and grace to this now kickass library!

Rachel Beckwith

*excerpt of poem Sangha by Danna Faulds, published in her book Go In and In, 2002.

Jennifer Gunter King speaking at her farewell reception


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