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Elaine Westbrooks - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Elaine Westbrooks Elaine Westbrooks

Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian | UNC-Chapel Hill


Library leader with expertise in future of academic libraries, scholarly publishing, open access, diversity and inclusion in higher ed.





Elaine Westbrooks in front of Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill loading image Elaine Westbrooks in Davis Library loading image


Changing the Game Through a Catalyst Mindset




Elaine L. Westbrooks has been Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 2017. She leads a library system that includes 10 libraries; nearly 10 million volumes; 300 librarians, archivists and staff; and a budget of approximately $45 million.

Westbrooks has held leadership positions at the University of Michigan Library, the University of Nebraska Libraries, and the Cornell University Library. She began her career as a cataloger and digital research librarian at the University of Pittsburgh.

Westbrooks is a member of the Association of Research Libraries' Scholars and Scholarship Committee and the Executive Committee and Governing Board of the Triangle Research Libraries Network. She serves on the boards of the Digital Public Library of America and the HathiTrust Digital Library.

She co-edited "Metadata in Practice" with Diane Hillmann (2004) and "Academic Library Management: Case Studies" with Tammy Nickelson Dearie and Michael Meth (2017). She is a frequent speaker on issues of open access, transforming the scholarly communications system and inclusion, diversity, equity and access in libraries and higher education. Westbrooks has a B.A in Linguistics and an M.L.I.S. from the University of Pittsburgh.

Industry Expertise (3)

Library and Information Management

Information Services


Areas of Expertise (10)

Academic Libraries


Diversity & Inclusion

Scholarly Communication

Open Access (OA)

Digital Libraries



International librarianship

Higher Education

Accomplishments (6)

Triangle Research Libraries Network (professional)

Governing Board

HathiTrust Digital Library (professional)

Board of Governors, 2020-2022

Digital Public Library of America (professional)

Board of Directors, 2019-2022

University of North Carolina Press (professional)

Board of Governors, 2018-2019

Foreign Expert, Fudan University Libraries (professional)

Shanghai, China, 2015-2017

UCLA Senior Fellows program (professional)

Fellow, 2014

Education (2)

University of Pittsburgh: M.L.I.S. 1999

University of Pittsburgh: B.A., Linguistics 1998

Affiliations (3)

  • American Library Association
  • Association of Research Libraries
  • The Grolier Club

Media Appearances (5)

University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks is on a mission to open Carolina’s research to all

The Well, UNC-Chapel Hill  online


Question-and-answer with Elaine Westbrooks about the future of academic publishing and how it will impact the University’s mission of research, teaching and service. "I hope our scholars realize that this is something that has to be done. This is the tipping point for us. The money is not there to support the status quo. I’ve heard from many faculty who agree that that we need to change this system that we have."

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Unsustainable scholarship: How private companies control research in higher education

Daily Tar Heel  online


Vice Provost of University Libraries and University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks said the current system of scholarship is unsustainable. “We’re at this tipping point,” she said. “We’ve all lost control over the scholarly publishing system.”

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The War to Free Science: How librarians, pirates, and funders are liberating the world’s academic research from paywalls.

Vox  online


As the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill librarian, Elaine Westbrooks is facing what she and so many other academic librarians call the “serials crisis”: “If we buy the exact same journals every year, I have to pay at least $500,000 more just for inflation,” she says. “I can’t afford it.” In her ongoing negotiations with Elsevier, Westbrooks is considering “the nuclear option,” as she puts it. That is, canceling the subscription that gives UNC Chapel Hill students and faculty access to thousands of Elsevier journals.

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The Beginning of the End for the "Big Deal"?

Inside Higher Ed  online


A lot of people are feeling inspired by what the UC system did,” said Elaine Westbrooks, vice provost of university libraries at UNC Chapel Hill. “They did what many of us thought was unthinkable.” Westbrooks is preparing to enter into negotiations with Elsevier next month. The university’s one-year contract with Elsevier is due to expire in December. She is tight-lipped about her negotiating strategy but says she is “open to all options” -- including the possibility of not reaching a deal. Westbrooks has been meeting with faculty, students and staff for the past year to discuss the library’s position on the Elsevier deal and ascertain which Elsevier journals and services they value most. “We’re looking at everything, every data point we have,” said Westbrooks.

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After the Elsevier "Tipping Point," Research Libraries Consider Their Options

Chronicle of Higher Eductation  print


Elaine L. Westbrooks, the university librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, last week emailed her campus that “difficult choices” may lie ahead as the university approaches talks with Elsevier. Calling the UC system’s decision “bold,” she indicated that she had started meeting with deans, administrators, academic departments, and faculty groups to discuss journal costs and other issues. Renewing the bundles, she wrote, is “unaffordable and unsustainable.” Westbrooks told The Chronicle that while she is not prepared to say that her university will follow UC’s lead, it must entertain various options. The university is focused on affordability, she said, and budgets are extremely tight. “This is the tipping point for us,” Westbrooks said. After the UC news, she said, “I’m more compelled to disrupt … We’re more empowered to stick to our values.”

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Event Appearances (4)

The Future of Scholarly Communiations: Moving Towards an Open Infrastructure

National Central Library  Taipei, Taiwan


Collective Reinvestment in Open Infrastructure

ACRL/SPARC Forum  Washington, D.C.


Engagement Strategy for Sustainable Scholarship (panelist)

Association of Research Libraries  Minneapolis, MN


Leveraging Technology for Equity

DPLAFest  Chicago, IL


Sample Talks (4)

Taking Back Control of Research & Scholarly Publishing

Some publishers charge so much for subscriptions to their academic journals that even the libraries of the world’s wealthiest universities are no longer able to afford the prices. How is such an absurd structure able to sustain itself—and how might we change it?

Moving beyond diversity, equity and inclusion

Highlighting the difference between diversity-, equity- and inclusion-centered policy, strategy and values versus those centered on dismantling the structures that reinforce inequity.

Changing the game through a catalyst mindset

Transforming libraries from a "service mindset" to a "catalyst mindset"

International Librarianship

How international library partnerships flourish in the digital age.