Dean Emma Perry featured in LSU Faculty Senate newsletter

Southern University's Dean of Libraries Dr. Emma Bradford Perry was featured in the April 2013 LSU Faculty Senate Monthly Newsletter for her leadership role with the John B. Cade Library and Architecture Library.


Southern University’s Baton Rouge campus is home to nearly 7,000 students pursuing interests that cover everything from physics to French. It takes a cadre of faculty and staff members armed with a personal approach to help make these educations possible.

This effort is seen nowhere more than in the University’s libraries, helmed by Dean Emma Bradford Perry.

As Dean of Libraries, Perry oversees and provides for the overall administration and management of the University’s two library branches, the Architecture Library and the larger John B. Cade Library in the heart of campus.

Like most administrators, Perry is regularly occupied by budgeting, personnel management, and policymaking tasks, but she prefers to have her presence go even further.

“I am responsible for making sure that students receive services and resources that are exceptional in all aspects” and that they “leave with a good feeling,” she says. Ensuring this level of quality means Dean Perry takes frequent walks throughout the building to engage with the students who have come to expect great things from the Southern Libraries.

Part of that, she believes, comes down to staffing. “I think that all people who work in public service, particularly in a library, have to be customer friendly, outgoing, and have good interpersonal skills,” all qualities that come naturally to Perry, who has a background in speech and drama.

She maintains an open door policy in which students, faculty, and everyone in between are welcome to share their questions, comments, and concerns. “I will stop whatever I am doing and talk to them,” she says. This focus on patron input and ease of use has led to a number of changes within the Southern University Libraries.

Students particularly love the new student snack lounge in the John B. Cade Library which provides them with a quiet and comfortable place to grab coffee or a snack. Other upgrades include updated reading rooms and study areas, centralized copy machines, and an information technology center outfitted with couches, cable television, high-tech computers, and smooth jazz.

Perry’s favorite change is the complete remodel of the first floor, which included the installation of an “Ask Here” desk in lieu of the traditional reference desk. “Students don’t always know what reference, circulation, and other terms that librarians use mean,” she explains. The new desk provides an open opportunity for students, faculty, and visitors to ask anything and get answers. “The response has been tremendous,” she says.

Perry also believes in diversity, which is often absent in higher education administration. “When you’re part of a diverse group you get a better product, a better reward, and you can make better decisions,” she explains. Representation that includes people of all races, genders, and backgrounds has always been important, but it will become even more important in the future, according to Perry.

Perry’s insight comes after years of experience in every kind of library imaginable. After stints in small Louisiana schools, large public libraries, and consulting work, she knows where her heart truly lies. “My very special love is academic libraries. You are always providing services to people,” she says.

Through positions in large libraries like the one at Texas A&M and more intimate settings like the Harvard Business School and Dillard University libraries, Perry has been able to experience budgets of all sizes, people from various backgrounds, and professional development opportunities that have enriched her career.

She fondly recalls her time as an ETS (Educational Testing Service) Visiting Scholar and a UCLA Senior Fellow, two experiences that have made way for opportunities such as her role as a SACS Commissioner. She is also an active grant writer, journal contributor, and public speaker.

When looking to the future, Perry imagines that Southern’s libraries will be bigger and better than ever. She envisions a brand new building with technologically sophisticated equipment that will meet the needs of the 21st century student. “We want the library be the center of the university and for students to have a ‘wow’ experience,” she says.

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