Winston Walden retires this month after setting library on solid foundation

Winston A. Walden’s first job in a library was 1973, and already by then, ordering systems were online and larger libraries had automated circulation.

In fact, libraries have often been in the forefront of technology advancement, he says.

“And things have just become more and more sophisticated,” he said. “The biggest change I’ve seen in my career is the development of the World Wide Web. Just look at Tennessee Tech’s Web site and how many Web pages we have. I still marvel.”

Walden retires from Tennessee Tech University after 24 years at the end of this month, a choice he has made that will allow him to spend more time pursing two of his other passions: birding and family genealogy.

He arrived at TTU soon after earning a doctorate from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. When Walden joined TTU in 1986, the university’s library collections were housed in three campus buildings: Jere Whitson held the main library, South Hall housed periodicals, and Derryberry Hall contained the archives.

Today, the modern Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library and Media Center consists of 105,000 usable square feet, 353,000 books, 27,000 electronic books, 55,000 maps and the media center houses more than 40,000 titles in various formats. The Volpe Library opened its doors in June 1989. Its furniture, equipment and automated systems cost $9.1 million at the time.

“We adjusted quite quickly to the new building,” Walden said. “Before we even moved in the first furniture, students rearranged boxes so they could study. The students were ready for it.”

Perhaps that was a forerunner to TTU’s learning commons. TTU this week interviewed a fourth candidate for the new position of dean of Library and Learning Assistance. The new dean will lead the university’s effort to establish a learning commons on the first floor of the Volpe Library.

Walden’s work set a good foundation for the future of the library, said TTU Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Jack Armistead.

“Under Dr. Walden’s leadership, the Volpe Library has kept up with all of the significant changes in library technology and services. We have been very lucky, especially during the recent decades of financial austerity, to have a library director who refused to consider shrinking budgets as insurmountable barriers to progress. His wisdom and foresight will be missed, and I’m sure the new library dean will consult him often,” Armistead said.

Walden says he likes the new directions the library is taking to meet the needs of current and future students, faculty and staff.

“It’s needed,” he said. “Students have always liked this building. It’s a very open, flexible building and lends itself to a learning commons.”

According to Deanna Nipp-Kientz, the library’s interim director, Walden’s contributions to the library and TTU overall are many. Here are just a few: