Eleanor Heishman, who is credited with leading the digital revolution for the University’s Libraries and playing a similar role for the entire SUNY system, has announced her plans to retire at the end of this fiscal year.
Heishman, who is stepping down after 14 years as director of the University Libraries, said she plans to retire to West Virginia and run a bookstore.
“The timing is good,” she said. “A lot of the things I wanted to achieve have been accomplished. I want to leave with the Libraries in a strong position to do a search for my replacement.”
Provost Mary Ann Swain praised the “superb leadership” Heishman has provided for Binghamton and the SUNY system. “She has overseen preservation of print materials and a significant move toward enabling access to more and more electronic materials,” said Swain. “She chaired the SUNY committee responsible for developing a forward-looking plan to link all the system’s libraries thereby making significantly more resources readily available to our students, faculty and staff. The campus could not have increased its graduate and research presence without the support of excellent libraries. I shall miss her constructive thinking about the institution as a whole and her good humor.”
Among the accomplishments while Heishman was director is the recent implementation of the online catalog at Binghamton as part of the SUNYConnect Project. The goal of the project is to link the library resources of more than 60 campuses, making it the largest library system of a public university. Binghamton is serving as one of six pilot sites for the system through its new BearCat online catalog.
Heishman chaired the SUNYConnect Advisory Council for a year during the planning phase and continues to represent the university centers on the council as the program is implemented. She also serves on the New York Higher Education Initiative to explore the potential for cooperative acquisitions among the libraries of public and private academic institutions in New York.
When Heishman came to Binghamton from the University of Cincinnati, where she was associate university librarian the Internet hadn’t been invented yet. BU Libraries had a half dozen computers, and traditional card catalogs. Today, it has more than 300 computers, an expanding number of online databases and electronic resources, and network connections to resources around the world.
“There have been dramatic changes in how information is published and how it is accessed,” Heishman said. “We have been aggressive in licensing access to the new electronic resources for the campus.”
A key to the success of the University Libraries, Heishman said, has been the skill and commitment of her staff. “When I came in 1988, I found a staff that was ready to move forward and ready to change. They were willing to undertake an ambitious instructional program, the aggressive move to new computer systems and electronic resources and evaluation of collections.”
The new technology requires that librarians take on a greater role in teaching users retrieval skills and ensuring and maintaining accessibility, she said.
During Heishman’s tenure, the libraries weathered several budget downturns while the cost of information sources skyrocketed. Despite the challenges, Heishman said the University, particularly the provost’s office, had a strong commitment to providing information resources to support the academic programs.
Heishman said budget constraints forced the libraries to do a major serial review and cancel some of traditional paper subscriptions. At the same the access to on-line resources was enhanced so that the reduction in locally owned journals would not mean less access to information for the students and faculty.
Even with the digital conversion, space continues to be a major issue for the libraries. “The next phases of the Bartle renovation needs to consider library needs in the context of the total academic picture,” Heishman said, “and take into account changes in how information is published and how we are using libraries.”
She said she expects BU to have a continued long-term need for its off-campus storage facility.
Heishman earned her masters in library science at Drexel University and held positions at Cornell and the University of Cincinnati.