In Memoriam: Christine Drew, Associate Director of Research and Instruction Services in the Gordon Library
Christine Drew, associate director of research and instruction services in WPI's Gordon Library, passed away on February 5, 2013, at the age of 42. She had been a member of the WPI community for nearly nine years and had built a reputation as devoted ambassador for the library and as a consummate professional dedicated to advancing her profession and the Gordon Library and to helping WPI students, faculty and staff members, and alumni become more savvy researchers and learners.
“Ask Christine a question and you’d get pages and pages of information with hints, tips, and more," said Tracey Leger-Hornby, dean of library services. "Christine taught hundreds of classes, tested hundreds of research tools, wrote hundreds of web pages, and attended dozens of student, faculty, and community events. These activities were all labors of love. Christine was always the first to help, first to volunteer, first to give recognition and thanks, without reservation. The library profession just lost a pioneer, a champion, and a role model. The Gordon Library and the WPI community lost a dear friend who made a difference in the world through her many simple generous acts.”
Drew earned a BA in American literature at Worcester State College (now Worcester State University) in 1992 and an MLS (master of library science) from Southern Connecticut State University in 1994. She then spent four years as coordinator of reference and user services at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and six years as manager of instructional services at Babson College before joining WPI in 2004.
She began as Instruction Coordinator, was promoted to manager of instruction and outreach in 2006, and was appointed associate director of research and instruction services in 2010. In that last role, she led the library's Research and Instruction team and the university's information literacy and assessment initiatives. She played a central role in the library's efforts to reach out to the greater WPI community to promote its resources and services.
She was most recently the library's liaison to the departments of Biology and Biotechnology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Chemistry and Biochemistry, and to the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division, and had worked with other departments over the years. In 2007, the Management Department presented her with its "Outstanding Service Provider Award.”
Drew was passionate about learning and teaching, and delighted in delving into the Gordon Library's vast information resources to seek answers to questions of all kinds. She was equally devoted to helping students and faculty and staff members discover how to use those resources, print and electronic, to their full advantage to advance their research, teaching, and project work.
She endeavored to reach out to members of the community right at the start of their WPI careers, holding orientation sessions for new students and faculty. She was also a longtime advisor in WPI's Insight Program, in which teams of professionals—faculty advisors, community advisors, and resident hall advisors—work with first year students to make their transition to college life successful. She developed and delivered special instructional programs for overseas project teams and for students in WPI's first year Great Problems Seminars to help them appreciate all that the library offered as they embarked on their interdisciplinary research projects.
She was relentless and creative in developing programs that kept pace with WPI's changing academic and research landscape, and with using evolving instructional and communications technology, including social media, to deliver instruction and useful information in ways that most effectively reached her constituents and fit into their busy schedules.
In an article on information literacy instruction and outreach published in 2012 by OCLC, a nonprofit, membership, computer library service, and research organization serving nearly 26,000 libraries, she noted how those time pressures were pushing library instruction in new directions. "Informal learning is constantly trending more and more toward microlearning and on-demand learning in every area," she wrote. "And we as librarians need to keep pace."
That same article documented the success Drew had realized in bringing the community to the library to learn, noting that since her arrival in 2004 she had "led initiatives that have doubled the number of participants in library instruction from 2,000 attendees to more than 4,500.” Drew's legacy at WPI also includes nearly three dozen information–packed guides to library resources and resources for particular areas, including those for student project teams traveling to such locations as China and Morocco, for research and teaching on sustainability, and for museum studies.
Drew was active in a number of regional and national library, technology, and education organizations, including the New England Library Instruction Group, the New England Library Association, the American Library Association, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Northeast Regional Computing Program (NERCOMP), and made frequent presentations at meetings of these and other groups on emerging trends in library science and on what she had learned from working within the framework of WPI's project-based learning environment.
Outside of the library, Drew was known for her diverse interests (from beekeeping to travel to exploring museums) and for her devotion to a number of causes, including literacy, local cultural organizations, and the environment. Her effective work beyond the campus was recognized in 2012 when she received the Denise Nicoletti Trustees' Award for Service to Community at the annual Faculty Convocation.
"Christine’s vision and leadership have brought a positive and unique impact on numerous organizations," the award citation noted. It pointed, in particular, to her work on behalf of literacy and lifelong learning. "In 2009, as a co-organizer of The Big Read program, which was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Christine created an Edgar Allen Poe discussion group to coincide with other activities going on around Worcester. The Big Read is aimed at encouraging reading among lapsed or reluctant readers. The following year Christine guided an NEA proposal to develop a similar program at her local library, in Whitinsville."
Her interest in environmental conservation led her to regularly participate in neighborhood clean-ups organized around the annual celebration of Earth Day and to recruit faculty and staff to pitch in, too. As a member of the WPI Green Team, "she has been a tireless volunteer for the Annual Sustainability Poster Competition," the citation noted.
In addition to her parents, William and Sandra, she is survived by her domestic partner, Jeffrey L. Forgeng of Northbridge, Mass.; two brothers; six nieces and nephews; three aunts; and two uncles.
A memorial event of remembrance for family and friends will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Trustees of Reservations or the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.