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K-State Today

July 1, 2021

Gayle Willard to retire after more than 50 years of service

Submitted by Audrey Hambright

Gayle Willard, professor/director of the Veterinary Medical Library, is retiring after more than 50 years of service to Kansas State University and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Willard received a Bachelor of Science in secondary education in 1970 and a Master of Science in educational media and technology in 1984 from the College of Education at Kansas State University. Initially hired as a student employee of the Veterinary Medical Reading Room in 1966, Willard continued to pursue a library career after learning of the new veterinary library. In 1973, she became the first library associate, assistant to the head, under Dean Trotter.

She recalls how one of her first assignments was to go to the new library and mark every shelf to indicate where all of the journal titles would begin. In 1985, Willard became head, solidifying her leadership role in the Veterinary Medical Library. Willard received a Master of Library Science from Emporia State University in 1987 and became an assistant professor and director of the library. Willard was promoted to professor in 1999. She has worked with the past 10 deans of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Willard's leadership goals within the Veterinary Medical Library were to foster a flexible, yet cohesive, environment centered on staff and veterinary students. Her innovation and determination secured a myriad of grants to establish expansion and development of information literacy, technology and learning spaces for the Veterinary Medical Library. One such instance was during the 2014-2015 library renovation where she pressed for collaborative study spaces specifically for use by the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students, smart technology to be accessible by all patrons, and electronic course resources; a project which continues at present.

Peter and Louise Kaufman, frequent donors to the Veterinary Medical Library, said the following about Willard: "We met Gayle about 30 years ago. We were approached for a donation to the library in order to meet an outstanding need to satisfy the accreditation of the Veterinary College. Little did we know that we would be receiving a gift of Gayle and starting a long-term friendship. Gayle has been passionate about the library. Each year she would contact us to discuss the needs of the library. She has been an inspiration and visionary. Over the years, the library has grown under her direction and evolved to meet the changes in the students' needs. We will miss her and wish her the best in retirement. She should enjoy her time with Lloyd and her family."

Willard's leadership led to becoming a founding member of several veterinary medicine and animal health associations. She recalls working with other veterinary medical librarians to establish the International Conference of Animal Health Information Specialists and acquiring monetary aid from Jack Mara Hill's Pet Nutrition for the first conference in Reading, England in 1992. She also became a founding member of the Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine Association in 2004.

Her successes continued through her involvement within numerous organizations, committees and services within Kansas State University. As evidenced by obtaining the Professorial Performance Award in 2007, 2013 and 2019, Willard demonstrated her solid leadership and dedication to the university. As such, Willard served on the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee as the information specialist from 1999 to 2021 and fondly recalls her experiences with faculty across the university.

Willard's dedication to the veterinary medical and health sciences earned her the Louise Darling Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Collection Development in Health Sciences in 2004. In 2006, Willard received the Brice G. Hobrock Distinguished Faculty Award for outstanding librarianship and superior accomplishments among the K-State Libraries faculty. In 2014, Willard was honored with the Phi Kappa Phi Meritorious Service Award. Most notably, she became a member of the Academy of Health Information Professionals in 1989 after passing all sections of the exam on the first try. In 1995, Willard was awarded distinguished member and in 2021, Willard was awarded the status of emeritus member.

Her memberships include Phi Zeta Honor Society of Veterinary Medicine, Beta Phi Mu Library Honor Society, Phi Delta Kappa Education Honor Society, and the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society.

After retirement, Willard plans to enjoy playing more bridge, learning mahjong, traveling, leisure reading, service to her community, and, most importantly, spending more time with her friends, grandchildren and family.