The old business adage is when one starts out at a company, they put you at the ground floor and expect you to work your way to the top. In the case of Charlotte Davis Brown, they put her in the basement — literally.
“This is not your typical library,” said Brown, who celebrates her 25th year as director of the McLeod Business Library. “We decided that this would be a place where people come to do their research — and we do talk!”
Brown is the first and only director of the library, which started life as the “Professional Resource Center” in just two rooms of the basement of what is now known as Tyler Hall. Now the library occupies four spacious rooms of Alan B. Miller Hall, and is home to an impressive host of searchable business databases, together adding up to over $400,000 in yearly subscription fees.
“And they are always adding more,” said Brown.
It was the vision of John Jamison, who served as the dean of the business school from 1983 to 1990, to build a reference library, which would be mostly made up of electronic resources. And thanks to Brown’s time at working Stanford’s business school library, she knew exactly what to bring in to build a world-class resource center for students and faculty.
“We started essentially with nothing,” said Jamison. “We had the idea to start getting some databases that the students could get into, because it was at that time that laptops were being introduced with our Executive MBA program.”
The library has grown up a lot since its days in Tyler Hall, and most agree that this is due to generous gifts, hard work and the watchful guidance of Brown herself.
“We got some money and Charlotte came up and made it happen,” said Jamison. “The faculty found that she was very useful and then students found their way to her. In many ways, she has been the mother and holder to the access door of all knowledge for 25 years.”
Among Brown’s favorite accomplishments was when she created a “walking tour” of the local libraries, whether they were in Williamsburg, Newport News or even Virginia Beach, she found a library close by the students’ homes where they could conduct business research and complete course work. This became extremely valuable for many Flex MBA students through the years.
And while it is true that technology like the Bloomberg Terminals have replaced many a book in her 25 years, Brown said that there will always be a need for a library, though it might not necessarily be a physical place where people come to conduct research.
“People can get all their information from their iPads, and some libraries check out those devices,” said Brown. “This is already happening — people will do their research anywhere.”