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University of Pennsylvania Libraries Announces Emily Morton-Owens as Associate Vice Provost for Technology and Digital Initiatives

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The University of Pennsylvania Libraries is pleased to announce that Emily Morton-Owens has been named Associate Vice Provost for Technology and Digital Initiatives. In this role, she will lead and work with colleagues across the Libraries and the University to plan, implement, scale, and sustain digital technologies and practices that enable Penn students, researchers, scholars, and their collaborators to function skillfully and competitively in a digital world.  

“As a national leader in library technology, Emily is celebrated for her people-first approach,” said Constantia Constantinou, H. Carton Rogers III Vice Provost and Director of Libraries. “Her technical acumen, combined with her focus on user service, her commitment to team building and collaboration, and her considerable multidisciplinary strengths, will guide the Penn Libraries as we build on current successes in technological transformation in alignment with our strategic priorities.” 

Morton-Owens is currently Acting Associate University Librarian for IT at the Penn Libraries and was a core contributor to the Penn Libraries Strategic Plan 2020-2025. She has held positions of increasing responsibility and complexity over her six-year tenure with the Penn Libraries and played a leading role in making library technology more accessible across campus. Her extensive professional experience in both information technology and library management beyond Penn includes positions as the Applications and Systems Manager for the Seattle Public Library and as an Assistant Curator for the New York University Health Sciences Library.  

She holds an MS in Computer Science from the Courant Institute of New York University and an MS in Library and Information Science from Drexel University. From 2013 to 2018, she was the instructor of Digital Library Technologies at the College of Computing & Informatics of Drexel University.  

She also brings deep knowledge and passion for the humanities to her work. She holds a BA in German Studies, with a focus in art history, from Yale University. She speaks both French and Dutch, and in recent years she has extended her interest in languages through taking introductory courses in Korean at Penn. 

“As our technology landscape gets more complex, we need to embrace digital libraries as services, programs, and experiences that include but extend beyond information technology,” said Morton-Owens. “We are building the libraries of the future, and our technology is a large screen for us to project our values on. The Penn Libraries is committed to human-centered design and development, and I look forward to working with my very talented Penn Libraries colleagues to provide effective user experiences that meet the needs of diverse communities on campus and in the wider world.” 

Morton-Owens's vision and approach has been recognized nationally. She served in 2019-20 as President of the Library Information Technology Association (LITA) and in 2020-21 as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Library Association’s Core division. She previously sat on the editorial board of the journal Information Technology and Libraries, the book publishing panel of the Medical Library Association, the LITA Research & Assessment Committee, and LITA Top Tech Trends Committee. She has authored or co-authored and presented numerous peer-reviewed articles and presentations on topics ranging from de-identifying patron data to building open repositories for cultural heritage sources and building mobile services for a medical library.  

As Associate Vice Provost for Technology and Digital Initiatives, Morton-Owens will oversee a team of 80 Penn Libraries staff members, providing leadership and direction for both traditional and innovative digital services, systems, and initiatives. Areas under Morton-Owens's purview include digital development and systems to support the digital library; desktop support and client services; educational technology and learning management, including management of Canvas, the University-wide courseware platform; research data and digital scholarship; Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image; and cultural heritage technologies and digital assets management. 

She will also work with colleagues across the University of Pennsylvania on overall digital strategy and IT governance and innovation, with the ultimate goal of continually improving, enhancing, and extending library services based on the emerging needs of the Penn community.  

Her first day of work in her new role as Associate Vice Provost for Technology and Digital Initiatives will be January 10, 2022.