Gary McCool

“My involvement with (Common Ground) allows students to see me as an engaged citizen who also wants to make the world a better place.”
“My involvement with (Common Ground) allows students to see me as an engaged citizen who also wants to make the world a better place.”

Award for Excellence in Faculty Service

Academic Reference Librarian and Coordinator of Reference Services
Political and environmental activist/Singer/Antiques Enthusiast

You don’t have to be a wizard at time management to pack more than a century of committee service into three decades. You just have to be service-oriented, like Gary McCool, reference librarian and Coordinator of Reference Services at Lamson Library and Learning Commons.

Since he came to PSU in 1978, McCool has served on 25 campus committees, including 30 years on the Council of Teacher Education, 17 years on the Executive Council, six years on the Saul O Sidore Lecture Series Committee, and five years on the University Environmental Committee. In addition, over the course of five years, McCool coordinated an extensive project to review and update the Faculty Handbook and Bylaws.

McCool’s long and diverse record of service to the University is rooted in his belief in shared governance, a partnership among faculty, staff, students, and administration in the governance of an institution. “If governance is really going to be shared, faculty members have to be on com­mittees and help make decisions that govern the university,” he says. By serving the University in this way, McCool notes, “I truly feel a part of Plymouth State.”

In addition to his involvement with University committees, McCool has served as an advisor to Common Ground, an environmental and social justice student organization, since its founding in 1982. “Common Ground focuses mainly on environmental issues, but it has also been a venue for students to learn about broader social issues,” notes McCool, who adds that his involvement with the group has allowed students to see him “as an engaged citizen who also wants to make the world a better place.”

McCool’s determination to make the world a better place led him to work to prevent a New Hampshire utility from purchasing a share of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. He brought several cases to the New Hampshire Supreme Court—each time without legal representation. While McCool won some of these cases, he was unable to prevent the Seabrook purchase, which drove the utility into bankruptcy. Following the bankruptcy proceedings, McCool ran for elec­tion to the new board of directors, and served on the board for a decade to help rebuild the utility. “It’s a very different utility now,” says McCool, who adds that the experience “showed me that there were some things I was interested in enough to become informed, find out how I could make a difference, and then follow through.”

Making a difference is something McCool does every day in his work, which includes researching and purchasing print and electronic resources for the library’s collection, conducting course-related library instruction, and help­ing individuals find the resources they need. For McCool, it’s the personal interaction that makes his job not only enjoyable, but fulfilling. “It’s very rewarding to help people navigate our resources, get the information they need, and watch them leave happy.”