Michigan State University

Cliff Haka Retires After 21 Years as Director of Libraries

Katie Diamond

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Cliff Haka joined MSU Libraries in 1982 as an Information Librarian and later became the Head of the Information/Reference Department from 1985-1987. He went on to become the Assistant Director for Access Services from 1987-1991 and then the Assistant Director for Administrative Services from 1991-1997 before taking on the role as Director of Libraries in 1997. 

Taking charge at a time when all campus dorms were being wired for the Internet, the Libraries were experiencing a sharp falloff in use. To counter this, Haka committed to an aggressive program to encourage students to return. This effort included physical upgrades of study space, the introduction of the Cyber Cafe, expanded hours of operation to 24 hours a day, five days a week, and the addition of hundreds of public access computers.  
A second early initiative was to invest in librarians. Haka increased funding to support librarian efforts in professional and scholarly activities, and beginning librarian salaries were increased to continue to attract “the best and the brightest.” A library faculty evaluation system that directly parallels the system utilized by the teaching/research faculty was also implemented.    

In 2000, Haka played an instrumental role in the development of MeLCat, the State of Michigan’s eLibrary catalog and resource-sharing system that now includes over 450 libraries across the state. Inspired by the land-grant mission of MSU, he brought the right people together and invested the funds to make it happen. 

“Without Cliff, there would be no MeLCat,” said Colleen Hyslop, Associate Director for Systems and Technical Services during the early days of MeLCat who worked closely with Haka throughout her career before retiring as Senior Associate Director of Libraries in 2014. “He had the vision. While there were many people who contributed to the success of the pilot project that eventually led to MeLCat, it never would have happened without his leadership.” 

Ten years into his role as Director of Libraries, in 2007, Haka pushed for more librarian positions, pointing to the significant impact of the work that librarians were doing to carry out the academic mission of the university, particularly in the areas of instruction and big data. Thanks to his advocacy, the Provost committed to twenty new librarian positions which entailed four new hires each year over five years.

While the library that he grew up in doesn’t really exist anymore (there were no personal computers when he attended college), he has successfully led the Libraries into the future during a time of exponential growth in technology and considerable transformation in libraries.   

During his career, libraries have become so much more than a place to go and get information. Increasingly, libraries are helping people with what to do once they find the information, providing software and consultation services to help library users make sense of complex information resources such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).   

Haka prioritized and supported the construction of new, inspiring spaces for collaboration and learning such the creation of Hollander MakeCentral, the relocation of the Special Collections Reading Room to the first floor, and the construction of the new Digital Scholarship Lab. Many of these and other enhancements required outside funding, and his work with Development is noteworthy.

Haka noted that, “MSU does not have a long tradition of fundraising, so when I become director, the library had less than half a million dollars in endowments. Things got off to a great start with a million-dollar gift from the United States Golf Association for the Turfgrass Information Center in 1999, and we are now in the neighborhood of 16 million dollars in endowments. That helps a great deal. But in the end, it is the staff that makes things happen, with or without funding, and in that regard, the staff we have built here has never disappointed.”

While he will miss the daily activities as Director of Libraries, he looks forward to joining his wife, Sue Haka, in retirement and will enjoy spending time with family and friends, especially his grandchildren. He also looks forward to spending more time working in his vegetable garden, traveling, and of course, golfing. 

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