Fondren's first Paws and Take a Break event, December 10, 2013

This week marks the final week Dean Gillian M. McCombs is at the helm of the Central University Libraries. Dean McCombs’ contributions have been far-reaching and numerous as she has tirelessly worked for the students, faculty, and staff at SMU. The Central University Libraries’ staff will deeply miss the vision and leadership which she has provided over the past 19 years. We wish her the best of luck as she begins this new chapter in her life.

Over the years, one of our favorite things to do has been to listen to the eloquent and moving speeches by Dean McCombs. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to close with an excerpt from the farewell address which Dean McCombs gave at her SMU Retirement Reception hosted by SMU President, R. Gerald Turner. Look for the full transcript in the 2016-17 Central University Libraries Annual Report coming this fall.

“As you can imagine, deciding to retire was a momentous decision for me, and not made lightly. Richard and I had bought our house in Taos in 2007, so we were ready when the time came, although not soon enough for him to enjoy, sadly. I feel that the majority of projects I have been stewarding the last few years have come to completion. There is new leadership on campus with Provost Currall and two decanal searches concluded. The University completed the centennial campaign to great fanfare and the Fondren renovation was finished off in September last fall, therefore making this a good time to hang up my library shingle! What do librarians do when they retire? They go to the stacks of course!

Seriously, my years at SMU have been wonderfully exciting. I never could have imagined all that we would accomplish when I first set foot in Fondren Library. I now leave with the aroma of coffee in the air from the new Starbucks Café, nestled in the Collaborative Commons and adjacent to our high-tech Prothro Learning Commons. We will have moved all our online catalogs and electronic resources to the cloud; our reading room has been restored to its former glory seating over 100 students.

Fondren Library Renovation Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, April 15, 2016It is a very different world for libraries today and I am proud to have led CUL’s digital transformation in this, the knowledge economy. But the book has not been neglected. It is worth remembering in this, the age of tweets, that you can’t write if you don’t read. We will never lose that thrill of having a new book to read – on one’s e-reader or in print! And although I am fond of saying it is not your grandmother’s library any more, I am hopeful that our grandmothers – yours and mine – would still find a place that they could enjoy and feel comfortable in, although mine would have to have a good cup of tea on hand, with teapot, no teabag!

Central University Libraries completed its first strategic plan in 2000. It was entitled For Future Reference and I would like to leave you with the closing passage from that document – it is Merlyn speaking to the young King Arthur, in The Once and Future King, by T. H. White.

“the best thing for being sad … is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then – to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags for it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.”

That is what we are about, here at SMU, and I am honored to have been here for 19 years and to have had some small part to play in this particular and beloved landscape of learning. From the heart Thank you!”


Farewell, Dean McCombs! We will miss you! Central University Libraries Staff at the conclusion of Dean McCombs' Retirement Party, May 2017