SILS Alumnus John Ulmschneider named ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year

January 24, 2020

John E. Ulmschneider, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), has been named the 2020 ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. The award, sponsored by GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO, recognizes an outstanding member of the library profession who has made a significant national or international contribution to academic/research librarianship and library development.

Outdoor portrait of John Ulmschneider
John E. Ulmschneider (MSLS '81)

Ulmschneider is a 1981 graduate of the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) program and received the SILS Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011.

The ACRL cited Ulmschneider’s many achievements at VCU in its announcement of the award.

“As dean, Ulmschneider successfully advocated for increased financial support, doubled professional staffing, championed diversity, equity, and inclusion, strengthened state and regional partnerships, and created a culture of innovation at the VCU Libraries,” said Jeannette E. Pierce, Chair of the ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award Committee and Associate University Librarian For Research, Access, and Instructional Services at the University of Missouri Libraries.

Ulmschneider will receive a $5,000 award on Saturday, June 27, during the ACRL President’s Program at the 2020 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago.

“I don’t have words adequate to express my gratitude to all of my extraordinary colleagues over the years who have made this recognition possible,” Ulmschneider said. “To be included among librarianship’s most accomplished leaders with this award, including my mentor, the late Susan Nutter, is deeply moving. I have dedicated my career to building institutional cultures that allow every person to flourish and all of us to rise to our best selves, and to develop and resource libraries that foster the success of our students and faculty and enrich our diverse communities. I am gratified that ACRL and my colleagues have recognized the importance of this work through this award.”

Read the ACRL’s full profile for details on Ulmschneider’s accomplishments, including:

  • Overseeing the expansion and renewal of the James Branch Cabell Library in 2016 and comprehensive updates to public areas of the Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences. The Cabell Library also became the first academic building on the Monroe Park campus to offer gender neutral restrooms in 2010 under Ulmschneider’s leadership.
  • Helping to launch the Open Textbook Network consortium in Virginia, supporting VCU faculty   in redesigning their courses to use affordable content, and leading the adoption of open community tools and services such as DataCite, DMPTool, Open Science Framework, InCommon, Carpentries, and ORCID.
  • Appointing VCU’s first university archivist in 2013, leading to a deeper commitment to preserving the history of the university.
  • Advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion, by encouraging the development of community programming focused on race, social justice, and religion.
  • Championing inclusive digital collections such as the Freedom Now Project, which engaged the Prince Edwards Community around police surveillance photographs from 1963 civil rights protests, and Mapping the Second Ku Klux Klan, 1915-1940, documenting the rise of the Klan with historical and contemporary context. Three VCU Libraries digital collections images were selected for inclusion in the inaugural exhibitions of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

As a culmination of these  and other efforts, the VCU Libraries received the 2018 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award and the Library Landmark award for the renewed Cabell Library in 2016.