An inquisitive mind and an abundance of energy have taken Southern California native Peggy Gross from biochemistry to academic publishing to a passion for information research and teaching, with a side trip to the Olympic trials as a competitive swimmer — not once, but twice. These are just some of the highlights from the resume of the new director of the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Library of Veterinary Medicine at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. And did we mention the Olympic trials?
What made you want to go into this field?
After studying biochemistry and philosophy as an undergrad at California State University, Long Beach, and earning a master’s degree in literature from Duquesne University, I taught English for a time and eventually combined these things working in academic publishing at W. W. Norton. I was there for eight years. When my mom developed ovarian cancer I searched for everything I could find out about it on the web. That’s when I became interested in information research on a deep level.
What will you be doing in your new role?
Our students and faculty are very busy and their time is valuable. I believe our job is to remove as many barriers as possible to access the information they need. In many ways that means bringing the library to them — electronically and even by going to their research spaces outside of the library. We want to empower researchers from start to finish, to be their partner in their in-depth information needs.
What are you most excited about in your new role?
One thing I’m really excited about is making high-quality and specific resources available to all students easily. I’m also looking forward to collaborating with researchers from areas such as finding grants to creating sophisticated literature searches across multiple databases. Our library team here is amazing, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with them. I’m also working on a Ph.D. in higher education policy research and assessment to learn more about the latest developments in the field.
What is your background?
I had a lot of free time in the summer when I was working in the publishing job, and I used it to pursue a master’s in library science at the University of Illinois. In 2008, I transitioned to a job as associate director of the library at a small medical school for a couple of years and that led to a position with the library at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where I was for another eight years.
What’s something someone would be surprised to learn about you?
I was a competitive swimmer, and in addition to competing in college I qualified for the Olympic trials twice in the 50-meter freestyle event, in 2000 and 2004, when I was in my 30s. After that I swam in the masters category, a special class of competitive swimming for athletes aged 25 and above, and in 2005 I was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly in my age group. I’ve also done some coaching, including of little kids. I think whether you’re coaching or leading a team as a manager, the best leaders take a team approach. They don’t micromanage. The best coaches are motivators, leaders and teachers and they make things fun. They pull the best out of people.
When you’re not on campus, where could we find you?
Probably at the park, on the swings at the playground. I’m a single mom by choice, and I have a 4-year-old daughter, Ellie. She keeps us both moving.
Tell us about your pets.
My dog Cleo passed away a year ago at the age of 15. She was a black Labrador and full of energy, like Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. She was trained as a service dog, but failed after her first year. I adopted her, and she was my soul mate. She was very protective of Ellie and me. But in December we adopted a cat, a grey shorthair named Captain. Ellie picked out the name.