JoAnne Sparks recently retired from her position as University Librarian at Macquarie University after nearly six years in the role. Her energy and vision will be much missed, and we wish her the very best in the next chapter of her life.

JoAnne took up the role of University Librarian at Macquarie University in January 2013 and has achieved a great deal since then.

Some of her key achievements at Macquarie include:

  • Radically re-conceptualising the Library’s strategic approach to emphatically position the Library at the nexus of research and learning/teaching both now and into the future
  • Engendering a culture of improved effectiveness and flexibility through a client service model, quality enhancement program and outcomes-oriented work processes that staff could readily engage with
  • Conceiving of and hosting the Sydney Conference, a symposium that attracted attendees from around the world to examine the future of scholarly publishing
  • Overseeing the 50th anniversary celebrations of Library services at Macquarie
  • Envisioning and implementing an expanded University Librarian portfolio that includes the Learning Skills Unit, the Art Gallery and Archives and Records Management
  • Accelerating the Library’s growth into digital, including a huge expansion in e-resources and open access material
  • Ensured the Library continued its central role in research support though taking a key role in the introduction of PURE

JoAnne’s career as a librarian and technologist spanned over 30 years in academic, corporate and non-profit organisations in Australia, the United Kingdom and United States.

She was previously Director, Information Services and University Librarian at Griffith University and prior to that held senior management roles at the University of Oxford, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Pharmaceutical Research Institute at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

For many years JoAnne has travelled regularly to Northern Thailand to work with the Karen Department of Health and Welfare and other  community-based groups from Eastern Burma as a volunteer teacher and advisor.

Some of her closest colleagues wanted to say a few parting words to pay tribute to JoAnne’s great work.

Fiona Burton & Susan Vickery, who jointly take on the role of Interim University Librarian

Working with JoAnne has been a privilege. Don’t let her sense of humour fool you. She is incredibly intelligent with a vision light years ahead. With a “can do” attitude she has kept the Library growing and connected to the University’s core mission. Questioning norms and assumptions and always coming back to the evidence and real facts to inform decisions. As a Manager, she has been extremely supportive and generous in sharing opportunities, giving us room to grow and develop, yet always guiding the Library’s leadership team to a higher order of strategic planning. As an advocate of the Library …no one could find a bigger fan. She often claimed that she came to Macquarie to work in the “best Library in Australia (if not the world)” and is recognized globally as a passionate and active leader in the sector.

Nicole Gower, Director, Human Resources

In addition to being a superb University Librarian, JoAnne is also a wonderful leader. She has contributed significantly to the gender equity strategy and was an early adopter/leader around flexible ways of work and LEAN process improvement. One of the things I have always admired about JoAnne is her strong connection to the pulse of the University. She was often invited to participate in University-wide initiatives and projects as a result, always approaching these initiatives with energy, positivity and as an opportunity to have impact. She leaves the Library and the University in a much better position because of her significant and varied contributions.

Sherman Young, former Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Teaching

JoAnne is a one-off. Enthusiastic, innovative, future focused. In the time I’ve known her at Macquarie she was always to first to sign up for ambitious, exciting projects – underpinned by a love of students, learning and the University. As well as being a champion for Macquarie’s amazing library (on campus and online), and ensuring it supports both teaching and research brilliantly, her work on rethinking scholarly communication and challenging old notions of information flows is sector leading. And on top of all that, JoAnne is great fun to be around. She will be much missed.

Leanne Holt, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Strategy

Joanne was my allocated mentor when I came to Macquarie University. She went over and beyond to make my transition to Macquarie a positive experience, sharing her deep expertise and knowledge, as well as sharing some personal stories and reflections. Joanne is totally committed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education and ensured the library played a key role in the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and communities as well as strategies that contribute to Indigenous Learning and Teaching and Research. All the best Joanne in your retirement, I will miss our monthly lunch catch ups and thank you for your collegiality and friendship. 

Mariella Herberstein, Chair of Academic Senate

The University Librarian has an ex-officio position on Academic Senate, so whether they like it or not, they have to attend the 3-hour meetings every month or so. A lot of Senate business does not necessarily directly affect the library, so the Librarian might be excused to drift off in thought occasionally. Not so JoAnne Sparks! She has been an active and engaged member of Senate, always ready to make thoughtful and relevant contributions to the discussions. She brought her excellent sense of humour to Senate and I particularly valued JoAnne’s perspective, which invariably illuminated a particular question from a new angle. I am personally grateful for JoAnne’s thoughtful contribution when Senate discussed whether to formally support Marriage Equality… and I am very sure JoAnne enjoyed my baking and the Senate bake-off. It is a great loss for Senate and Macquarie that JoAnne is leaving and I wish her all the best!

Zoe Williams, Head of Governance Services 

During her time at Macquarie JoAnne was a strong supporter of good governance and was an active participant in a range of University Committees. In addition to sitting on Academic Senate as an ex-officio member, JoAnne was a member of the Student Experience Committee of Council where she actively engaged with student representatives on a range of issues relating to the Library. JoAnne was always ready to provide an insightful perspective and a dash of wit and will be sorely missed.

Tanya Rose, Strategic and Innovation Lead, Learning Innovation Hub

Over the time that I’ve gotten to know Joanne, my respect and admiration for her – both on professional and personal grounds – has continued to grow. She not only demonstrates commitment to her work and field but also embodies curiosity and hunger for more knowledge, understanding, and skill. Above all, however, is her dedication to real and true growth and contribution. She unselfishly shares equally with her friends and colleagues as she does with her communities, both local and global. She is truly irreplaceable and will be greatly missed at Macquarie.

Rhonda Davis, Senior Curator, Macquarie University Art Gallery

JoAnne combines her leadership skills with creativity in the most unique fashion, seamlessly bringing ideas to fruition with the right mix of people. She has the rare quality of developing career pathways for all her colleagues and the humility in giving praise to others, acknowledging achievements and successes. JoAnne engenders a good and sound working environment that is productive and supportive that promotes congeniality. 

Posted by Geraldine Timmins

I was Community and Engagement Lead for the Learning Innovation Hub from January 2017 - October 2018 and Teche Editor during that time.

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