Tuesday, January 29, 2008
MONMOUTH - Western Oregon University has tapped a new dean of library and media services.
Allen W. McKiel, who most recently oversaw libraries for Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., began his duties at Hamersly Library on Jan. 7.
He steps into a position vacated by Gary Jensen, who retired last fall after 20 years as library dean at Western.
McKiel's professional interests and activities are centered on transitioning libraries into an environment of electronically distributed information.
"These are very exciting times for libraries," said McKiel, 60. "The things we'll be doing is trying to adapt the needs of academia into the new information sphere - the internet, and everything that's happening with it."
McKiel earned his doctorate in higher education administration from Indiana State University, his master's degree in library and information science from Indiana University, and his bachelor's degree in English literature from Purdue University.
McKiel worked on integrated library software systems during stints with NOTIS Systems Inc. in Illinois and the Online Computer Library Center in Ohio during the 1980s.
Those skills were expanded into the online library environment during his 12 years as a regional library director for Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana.
Transitioning print to electronic resources in higher education requires evaluating the need and usage by faculty and integrating information literacy into the school's curriculum, McKiel said.
"We'll see books around for a long time," McKiel said. "But more and more, for research purposes, college faculty are showing that they want to be able to manipulate and find data online."
Returning to the West Coast - McKiel grew up near Los Angeles - was one of his primary motivations for applying at Western.
McKiel said he wanted to work at a small university with progressive leanings regarding information technology.
"This university size is more flexible, creative and responsive to changes than Research I universities," McKiel said. Western "is just a good personal match for who I am."
Besides technology and education, religion is another institution that has long held McKiel's interest.
Last year, he published a book called "Beyond Tolerance: Religion and Global Community," which examines the commonalities of the scriptures of the world's religions.
McKiel said the work was borne out of his own religious exploration and from weekly religious discussion groups he and his wife used to host with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
"We had people over every Friday night for dinner," McKiel said. "We've talked with Native Americans, a Buddhist monk and a Zoroastrian."
(Zoroastrianism is considered a precursor to some major religions, such as Christianity and Islam.)
McKiel is working on a second book about individual responsibility and development in religion.