Bruce Taggart, Vice Provost for Library and Technology Services, to Step Down in 2020

Taggart’s LTS legacy includes major projects that have changed the face of teaching and learning at Lehigh. 

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Kelly Hochbein

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“The entire campus was ready for a change. You could feel it,” says Bruce Taggart of the atmosphere when he arrived at Lehigh in 2000 as the university’s new vice provost for library and technology services. 

Taggart was ready to help drive some of that change, he says, and he did. Twenty years later, after leading campus-wide infrastructure improvements, increasing faculty development opportunities and spearheading major library renovations, he plans to step down—or “pivot,” as he prefers to say—leaving behind a legacy that has had a lasting impact on teaching, learning and student life at Lehigh. 

Bruce Taggart, Vice Provost for Library and Technology Services at Lehigh University

Bruce Taggart, Vice Provost for Library and Technology Services

“Bruce Taggart’s many contributions to LTS and the wider Lehigh community have helped our university evolve significantly over the past two decades,” says Provost Pat Farrell. “His vision and passion for innovative technologies and collaborative spaces have provided countless opportunities for students, faculty and staff. We wish him the very best as he begins his next chapter.”

An Unexpected Path

Taggart did not start out on the path to a career in technology or education. Instead, he originally thought he would pursue a career in economics or public policy. After earning a bachelor’s degree in public administration, he served as a federal intern for the White House Conference on Balanced National Growth and Economic Development under President Jimmy Carter.

After completing his federal internship with the White House initiative, Taggart went on to graduate school at the University of Connecticut, where he pursued a master’s degree in public policy and discovered a love of teaching and life in academia. As a graduate student he was appointed to a campus-wide strategic planning committee on student technology access and research computing, which would serve as a turning point. Several projects from the strategic plan process received funding for student technology growth and research computing, and soon he shifted to a focus on more technology-related positions, including leading campus-wide technology planning at UConn for several years.

“So I kind of morphed into it,” he explains. “[There was] a recognition of my planning and communication skills at UConn, and then they brought me in to participate on a couple strategic planning projects, and that turned into an exciting career path.”

Taggart earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from UConn and accepted a position as chief technology officer at Portland State University (PSU). During his six years there, Taggart reorganized several separate campus technology areas into a single, integrated Office of Information Technologies; provided all students with Internet access for the first time at the university; worked with the provost to advance faculty development; implemented several new PC labs across campus and in the Millar Library; opened an award winning state-of-the-art multimedia classroom building (Hoffman Hall); co-founded the Portland Research and Education (PREN) gigapop with Oregon Health Sciences University and the University of Washington; and, before leaving PSU, worked with students in the architecture program to design a new “Technology Commons” expansion to the Millar Library.

Then, he says, Lehigh came calling.

“There was huge potential there,” Taggart says. “There was a new president [Greg Farrington]. There was a ‘let’s go’ sense of growth that was about to occur. And it was my first dive into a private university with a formal responsibility for libraries and a larger responsibility to support the research mission.”

Innovating at Lehigh

Taggart has led a number of initiatives during his 20-year tenure. His first major project was a big one: the renovation, preservation and transformation of the Linderman Library.

The seven-year process included the restoration of the grand reading room and the transformation of all other spaces into modernized areas for teaching, research, special collections access, collaborative learning and socialization.

“We put in all the amenities of a modern, state-of-the-art, high-tech library in a 1870s collegiate Gothic building often referred to as our ‘Harry Potter Library,’” says Taggart. Today, Architectural Digest lists Linderman Library as one of the most stunning university libraries in the world to visit.

 Also on Taggart’s list in his early days at Lehigh: the 2020 Initiative, Farrington’s plan to envision what Lehigh would need to build and grow to be successful in 2020, which included campus-wide academic planning and also academic infrastructure and e-classroom buildouts.

“About 35 percent of the classrooms had technology in them when I arrived in 2000,” says Taggart. “By the time we were done with the 2020 Initiative, 90 percent of the classrooms at Lehigh were ‘walk-in technology ready.’ So that was a big move...and it made a big impact on faculty teaching and learning.”

He would go on in 2016 to serve as co-chair of the Academic Infrastructure Working Group, along with Jack Lule, professor of journalism and communication. “Every three to five years, you just have to make a large reinvestment of capital to change the classroom environment, because technology changes that quickly,” says Taggart.

At Lehigh, Taggart’s work also included the creation of the Lehigh Lab, a nationally recognized organizational model for a virtual campus learning lab that targets supporting innovation in teaching and learning; the development of the university’s first high-performance computing cluster and computer grid for research; the creation of Lehigh’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning; and the development and implementation of a campus-wide portal system, among many other initiatives. He also served as co-principal investigator on two NSF cyberinfrastructure grants totaling more than $2.3 million, which created Lehigh’s first “Science DMZ” for the ATLSS Center and brought gigabit network access to high-priority research areas in biology and life sciences in the C-wing of Iacocca Hall.

It’s not that difficult to create a vision or roadmap for change, but it takes talented people to make the vision become reality, and I was very fortunate to have just that team with me for 20 years of leading Library and Technology Services at Lehigh University.

Bruce Taggart

Taggart’s efforts also extended beyond Lehigh’s campus. As a founding member of the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN), Taggart helped establish a state-wide ten-gigabit network that expands broadband Internet access and directly connects public and private universities, K–12 schools, public libraries, public broadcasting facilities and medical facilities across Pennsylvania. Taggart has served as both chair and vice chair of PennREN, which was funded by a $99 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and includes Lehigh, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania, Bucknell University, Drexel University and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Also in 2009, Taggart became a founding member of the Mellon Foundation’s $5.2 million Open Library Environment (OLE) open-source software project. The project’s goal: to develop a next-generation integrated library system as well as architecture for future Web 3.0 library systems development. Original partner institutions included Lehigh, the University of Indiana, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, the University of Florida, the University of Maryland, North Carolina State University and the University of Michigan.

That collaboration with other universities, says Taggart, was just as valuable as the expanded network access and the library software it produced.

“I didn't join the Open Library Environment for the software,” he says. “I got Lehigh involved in the OLE Project to have our librarians collaborating with the top librarians in this country and in the world…and now we've created an ecosystem of international collaborative libraries based on the OLE collaborative partnership. I think PennREN and the OLE project are two of the most impactful projects that I've done at Lehigh and in my career.”

Says Deborah Jakubs, the Duke University Librarian and vice provost for library affairs at Duke University and chair of the OLE project: “When the Mellon Foundation offered a grant to Duke University Libraries in 2007, encouraging us to ‘think big’ and, with colleagues from around the world, to design an open source system to meet the needs of 21st century librarians and their users, Bruce Taggart was there. All along the way, from the early development of the OLE project, through present-day FOLIO, Bruce’s commitment has been clear and his ideas have advanced the project’s development at every step. He was the first chair of the OLE Board, and his energy and engagement—as well as his technical knowledge and sense of humor—have been invaluable to our community.”

Fittingly, one of Taggart’s final projects at Lehigh is reimagining and transforming another beloved Lehigh facility: the Fairchild-Martindale Library.

“If I have one knack in my career, it's looking at spaces and places and imagining what could be,” he says. “If you look at the transformative changes we've made on the third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors [of FML], they’ll have a greater impact on the student learning experience at Lehigh than most buildings on campus. Fairchild-Martindale is really where the creative learning action is happening for a majority of our students. It’s a study destination.”

Students have found a home in FML for many reasons, says Taggart, with its many mobile whiteboards, mobile technologies, quiet zones, collaboration hubs, multimedia labs, Visualization Lab, spaces for students to display art and other forms of creative expression, and the new Café for food, study and socializing. He takes great pride in the fact that students in Lehigh’s interfaith group requested space on the library’s fifth floor for a meditation, prayer and reflection space. Students feel welcome and comfortable in FML, he says.

Bruce Taggart meets with students at the opening of the new Café at FML at Lehigh University. 

Taggart meets with students at the opening of the new Café at FML. 

“I came to Lehigh 20 years ago with enthusiasm and excitement to make a postive impact and difference in the lives of students, faculty, staff and the community as a whole; not just with technologies or library materials but with organizational changes and cultural changes creating new teaching, learning, and social spaces which support and enhance collaboration, creativity and community,” Taggart says. “Speaking of community, being part of the Lehigh community has been great for me and my family. Attending academic, cultural and athletic sporting events has been great, and two of my sons will soon be Lehigh alums—Ian ’20 and Bruce ’22—and my youngest son Chase is also looking at Lehigh after socializing with folks from the materials science and architecture programs. Being part of the Lehigh family has been special. For that, I thank you, Lehigh.

“While I have been recognized for many LTS accomplishments in my career at Lehigh, none of them would have been possible without a truly amazing LTS leadership team and a talented group of professional IT staff and librarians. They were the ones who made things happen. It’s not that difficult to create a vision or roadmap for change, but it takes talented people to make the vision become reality, and I was very fortunate to have just that team with me for 20 years of leading Library and Technology Services at Lehigh University.”

Story by

Kelly Hochbein

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