Katie Vale, librarian and head of information and library services at Bates, dies at age 51

Katie Vale, college librarian and vice president for information and library services at Bates since September 2015, died unexpectedly on Nov. 27 due to complications from Crohn’s disease. She was 51 years old.

Katie Vale, photographed in February 2016 by Phyllis Graber Jensen.

In her brief time at Bates, Vale “quickly proved herself to be a strong and creative organizational leader,” said President Clayton Spencer on Nov. 28 in a message to the campus community announcing what Spencer characterized as “shocking and profoundly sad news.”

Praising Vale as a “national leader in educational technology,” Spencer said that Vale was a “wonderful, collaborative colleague, a professional of enormous breadth and intellect, and a person possessed of quick wit and self-deprecating humor.”

Service Information

A memorial service for Katie Vale will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Temple Shir Tikvah, 34 Vine St., Winchester, Mass. Complete service information is at katievale.com

Just the ninth college librarian since Bates’ founding in 1855, Vale oversaw the college’s integrated Information and Library Services organization, including Ladd Library, the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Academic and Client Services, Network and Infrastructure Services, and Systems Development and Integration.

At the time of her appointment in 2015, Vale said that she looked forward to helping Bates “demonstrate how information technology and the library can support the value proposition of the liberal arts — the lifetime reward of intellectual curiosity, academic rigor, and engaged citizenship.”

In a recent Bates Magazine story about the college’s new interdisciplinary Program in Digital and Computational Studies, Vale said that she and her colleagues looked forward to supporting students and faculty in the new program because “what ILS excels at, especially on the library side, is helping people make connections, find information, and learn to use technologies to ask questions and solve problems.”

She added that “technology plays a central role in myriad forms of inquiry and expression, and students will learn and apply skills that will help them at Bates and well beyond. That excites us a lot.”

She was an adroit advocate for her team’s needs and projects.

In her time at Bates, Vale and her ILS team bolstered information security protocols and improved disaster preparedness while deepening the college’s network redundancy capacity. They introduced better project-management practices and improved and expanded the capacity of the IT Service Desk.

She prepared the college’s online research and scholarship repository, Scarab, to accommodate more faculty and student work, part of a rapid ramp-up of efforts to educate the Bates faculty on the “broad issues relating to scholarly communication, such as open access and authors rights,” said Laura Juraska, the college’s associate librarian for research services.

Jim Bauer, who reported to Vale as director of network and infrastructure services, said she was an adroit advocate for her team’s needs and projects, whether it was understanding the promise and limits of cloud computing or the changing space needs and uses in Ladd Library.

“I could go to her with a list of 87 or so things that we’re doing, and she could turn that technical language into clear English to help other college leaders understand not just what we do, but how our work supports the college’s academic mission and the choices that can be made based on limited resources,” said Bauer. “It was great to have those conversations.”

“Katie was an open, inclusive, unflappable, and deeply kind leader.”

Vale’s other accomplishments included the introduction of a high-capacity computing cluster for Bates faculty working with big data; strengthening of the library’s longstanding collaborations with Colby and Bowdoin; a collaborative project with the Dean of the Faculty to create a public, searchable online directory of Bates faculty and their areas of academic expertise; creation of a digital animation studio in Pettigrew Hall; completion of a new Academic Resource Commons in Ladd Library; and a partnership with the College Store to reduce textbook costs.

And, she embraced the student tradition of a special night of laser tag on the ground floor of Ladd Library.

“Katie was an open, inclusive, unflappable, and deeply kind leader,” said Andrew White, director of academic and client services for ILS. “These characteristics were the hallmarks of her relationships with ILS staff and campus colleagues alike. She brought her razor-sharp wit and thoughtful intelligence to every conversation.”

About that wit. “She was low-key hilarious,” said Jeremy Cluchey, a former colleague who praised Vale as a role model with the “rarest combination of being brilliant, competent, and supremely human.” After Cluchey took a position at Maine Audubon, Vale gave him a solar-powered, lighted chicken lawn ornament. “She didn’t shout her jokes, but they were better than everyone else’s so you made sure to listen.”

Active in a variety of professional organizations, Vale authored a number of publications and was frequently invited to present at such industry gatherings as the annual EDUCAUSE conference, including a panel presentation on “Women Disruptors in Academic Technology and IT,” and the NorthEast Regional Computing Program conference, presenting on “Building a Culture of Educational Excellence,” both in 2015.

She was the co-author (with Allison Littlejohn) of the chapter “Massive Open Online Courses: A Traditional or Transformative Approach to Learning?” in the book Reusing Open Resources: Learning in Open Networks for Work, Life and Education (Routledge, 2014).

Vale was a member of the Chief Information Officers of Liberal Arts Colleges group of the Council on Library and Information Services, representing Bates and its leadership in the art and science of merging library and information-technology functions.

Vale came to Bates after seven years at Harvard University, where she had been director of academic technology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and, most recently, director of digital learning at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

At Harvard, Vale oversaw initiatives supporting teaching, learning, and academic workflow, and served as course development manager for Harvard’s first offerings via the EdX platform. She supported faculty and students engaged in curricular and pedagogical innovation and worked with librarians on both e-research and larger organizational issues.

From 1992 to 2008, Vale held positions at MIT that supported faculty teaching and scholarship.

She was selected as a 2012 Frye Fellow for her leadership potential in higher education’s rapidly changing IT landscape, and received an EDUCAUSE Rising Star Award in 2014 for her record of collaborative leadership, her influential work on major educational technology projects at Harvard and MIT, and her “innovative spirit” that has helped “grow projects from their infancy to a point of wide dissemination.”

Vale earned a doctorate in educational media and technology from Boston University, using her dissertation to examine models of teaching and appropriate educational technologies as well as factors contributing to the longevity of online courseware. She earned dual A.B. degrees, in cognitive science and anthropology/archaeology, from Brown University.

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