After a distinguished 31-year career, Director of Library Access Services Sharon Wiles-Young, who oversaw the planning and implementation of open-source library systems FOLIO and OLE, will retire on May 31, 2023. A search committee has been formed to identify her successor.
Under Sharon’s leadership, the Lehigh Libraries flourished as a model of experimentation and technical innovation that improved access to library resources and services for students, faculty, staff, and scholars. In 2014, Sharon led the Lehigh Libraries through the transition from its legacy integrated library system to the Mellon Foundation-supported Open Library Environment (OLE), an open source library management platform that allowed for more flexibility in managing library digital resources, as well as communicating with other campus systems and applications.
Her team’s work on OLE paved the way for the launch of FOLIO (Future of Libraries is Open) in 2020, making Lehigh one of the first academic libraries in the world to fully migrate to the open source Library Services Platform. The work leading to its implementation, in collaboration with IndexData, EBSCO, Inc., Duke, University of Chicago, Cornell, Texas A&M, Colorado (Boulder), and several prestigious European libraries, stands as one of Sharon’s crowning achievements as director. Little more than three years later, the FOLIO project is a highly successful endeavor, encompassing more than 3,000 librarians working collaboratively around the world. It allowed the Lehigh Libraries to enhance digital and physical lending, collections acquisitions and analytics, data and machine learning decision making, and further collaboration at the local, consortia, and global level.
A frequently consulted expert on library access technologies and infrastructure, Sharon is known for her technical expertise, endless energy and ingenuity, and deep devotion to both the Libraries and Lehigh.
A passion for innovation and partnership
“Among Sharon’s many noteworthy accomplishments are her transformative work around preparing our libraries to provide access to Lehigh’s ever-growing digital collections and her attentive care to our library spaces and patrons.” University Librarian Boaz Nadav-Manes wrote in a message to campus on April 27. “Her passion for partnering globally with other libraries to create innovative open-source library systems (such as OLE and FOLIO) has garnered admiration and respect from library professionals around the world. More than her deep expertise, Sharon’s unique ability to gain broad trust and cultivate lasting relationships has made her work a vital part of the Lehigh community.”
“I have enjoyed each day collaborating and working with so many talented and dedicated people,” Sharon said. “In the Lehigh Libraries, most everything is a team effort, the staff help each other, and all have the same goal to move projects forward.”
“Among the achievements I am most proud of are working with all the library teams and implementing new services such as open source systems to automate more library processes and to offer services such as paging and new discovery systems like the EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) and VuFind, which introduced single search to the Asa catalog,” she added.
With a long history of supporting staff development in the library profession, Sharon often encouraged her staff to explore leadership opportunities, such as co-presenting at conferences and engaging in local and national library initiatives.
Greg Reihman, Vice Provost for Library and Technology Services, said of Wiles-Young, “The impact of Sharon’s work extends across Lehigh. For many years, we have counted on her and her team to manage the acquisition of library materials, to provide quality lending services to faculty, students, staff, and visitors, to ensure access to our print and digital collections, and to modernize our physical library spaces. What’s more, she has had a significant impact on the library profession, envisioning future needs, leading innovation, and building partnerships that have led to impactful change here and across the globe. And through it all, she has been a powerful advocate for staff professional development and a consistent voice for equity of access and inclusion. I have learned many things about librarianship from Sharon and I will deeply miss her dedication, her expertise, and her kind heart.”
Joining Lehigh in 1992 as Manager of the Serials Department, Sharon was successively promoted to Team Leader of the Organization Information Department in 1996, and then Director of Library Access Services in 2002, managing both the Lending Services and Technical Services teams.
Leading through transformative change
During her 20 years as Director, Sharon oversaw the reorganization of nearly 400,000 volumes and 70,000 books and government document collections from the Fairchild-Martindale Library, which added nearly 550 seats over a five-year period. She also managed the temporary transfer of all collections from Linderman Library during its two year renovation, while providing uninterrupted access to these vital library collections.
In 2019, she played an integral role in relocating the Lending Services team space, ILL office, and what was then the FML Circulation Desk (an area now home to the The Grind cafe) to alternate locations and collaborated with the Help Desk team to merge library public service desks into one single, integrated service point.
Chulin Meng, Director of Library Technology, praised Sharon’s leadership and collaborative spirit.
“Sharon has led our Library Access Services during a period of transformative change in scholarly communication and library services,” said Meng. “Her enthusiasm in developing and adoption of new and innovative library technologies is contagious. We definitely will miss her leadership and collaboration.”
In addition to her duties as director, Sharon authored or co-authored multiple papers on open source library management. She has also given numerous talks and presentations in workshops, educational meetings, and at regional conferences such as the American Library Association (ALA), and internationally in Germany and China.
She was elected to OLE and FOLIO Product Councils and served as Chair of the Product Council for two years. She also served on several PALCI committees including as co-lead for the PALCI Retrospective Collections Committee, and chaired the PaLA Technical Services Roundtable.
Sharon earned an undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology from Hartwick College and a master’s of Library Science from the University at Albany, SUNY.
A reception will be held on Tuesday, May 23, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., in the Linderman Library Rotunda. We hope you will join us as we celebrate Sharon’s many contributions to the Lehigh Libraries and dedicated service to the campus community.
We know that many of you will want to express your appreciation for Sharon's service to Lehigh and have created a publicly-available Kudoboard to collect well wishes and memories from colleagues, faculty, and friends.
Her passion for partnering globally with other libraries to create innovative open-source library systems has garnered admiration and respect from library professionals around the world.