Learning is ‘common’ knowledge for new library dean
Leslie Haas is passionate about lifelong learning, and her career has focused on making learning easier for others.
Haas is bringing that philosophy to Fort Hays State University as the new Dean of Library Services. She will take over her new position at Forsyth Library in November.
Haas’ specialty has been building Learning Commons, a place she calls a “sandbox,” a place where students can try new equipment and experiment – and build community.
“I believe my job in my field is to help the students, the faculty, the entire campus community, learn and get excited about what it is that they are doing,” Haas said. “A library should be a place where students can go and explore and try out new ideas.”
After traveling the country – and the globe – both professionally and personally, Haas found familiarity in her new home in the center of the United States.
Haas comes to FHSU from Statesboro, Ga., where she has served as head of the Research Services Department for Georgia Southern University Libraries since 2017. Prior to that, she built Learning Commons areas in libraries at both Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates and Loyola University in Chicago. She grew up in Idaho and is currently working on her doctorate online from the University of Liverpool, England.
But she has a connection to Hays from years past. Her dad’s family is from Ness City, just 60 miles southwest of Hays, and while visiting her grandparents in Ness City as a youngster, she accompanied her family to Hays to shop.
“I have great memories of western Kansas from my childhood,” Haas said.
While browsing the Internet one day this summer, Haas became intrigued when she came across the Fort Hays State opening. She has a passion for libraries and remembers visiting her grandparents in Ness City every summer and making occasional trips to Hays.
“My parents are definitely excited about my new job,” Haas said. “My mom is coming to Georgia to help me pack up and move.”
Haas first got interested in libraries as a child when she discovered “the research process fascinated me.”
Following high school, she stayed in-state to work on her bachelor’s degree at Boise State University, then earned a master’s in library science from the University of Arizona and a master’s in education from Loyola University in Chicago.
“I feel fortunate my parents never put limits on where I could live, and learn,” she said.
Her experiences range from business reference librarian to numerous leadership roles
in Texas, Ohio, Utah and the Middle East.
“She brings with her vast experiences from around the world, as well as superb skills as a supervisor, administrator and leader in higher education,” said Dr. Jill Arensdorf, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. “I look forward to working closely with Ms. Haas to expand library services and advance the Forsyth Library.”
Haas calls the advent of the Internet a game changer for libraries, where the staff’s responsibility to their clients changed from actually giving them the information at hand to helping them navigate through all the different avenues to find their information.
“Librarians have had to learn how to balance providing the information both locally and virtually because the Internet has impacted every part of our library,” she said. “That’s what makes librarianship in higher education so interesting – coming up with ways to meet the needs of all our clients, because there are a lot of different learners.”
Meeting students’ needs is a priority for Haas.
“What’s rewarding for me is that ‘ah-ha’ moment, when it clicks,” she said, “when someone sees the fruits of their research.”
Forsyth is scheduled for a complete renovation in a few years.
“The staff is excited about how the renovations will enhance the space and services were are providing, and I love that enthusiasm,” Haas said. “Fort Hays State is head and shoulders above so many other universities. There is a synergy there that is really exciting.”
However, she is already impressed with what the staff has accomplished and is looking forward to begin the next step of her journey with them.
“I want to work with the Forsyth staff and remove any barriers the students might have,” she said. “The students may not remember my name. But I would like for them to love how they felt when they were at the library.”