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In Honor of Librarian Kate Carter

Kate Carter standing outside near water

President Valerie Smith shared the following message with the campus community on March 1, 2023:

Dear Friends,

With deep sadness, I write to share the news that Kaitlyn A. Carter, head of digital initiatives and strategies for the College Libraries, died of cancer on February 23. She was 43.

Kate, a member of the Libraries staff for nearly 20 years, is remembered for the grace and intelligence with which she approached her work, as well as for her wide-ranging creativity and irrepressible sense of humor.  

Kate is survived by her mother, Kathleen Carter, brother Bruce Carter, sister-in-law Angela Love, nephew Rowan, and niece Vivian. A memorial will take place Saturday, March 4, at 2 p.m. at Swarthmore Friends Meeting House on campus. In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes donations in Kate’s memory to a local no-kill animal shelter or to Unite for Her.  

I invite you to read more below about Kate and her many contributions to our community. 


Val Smith

In Honor of Librarian Kate Carter

Kaitlyn A. Carter, the head of digital initiatives and strategies for the College Libraries, died on Thursday, Feb. 23, at age 43. With her passing, Swarthmore has lost a fiercely intelligent, devoted, and creative librarian whose contributions benefited the experience of Swarthmore students, faculty, and staff for nearly two decades. 

“Kate loved the Swarthmore library and her work,” says Director of Libraries and College Librarian Anne Houston. “I only had a few short months to get to know Kate, but I had already grown to value her intelligence, perceptiveness, and wonderful sense of humor. She was one of a kind.”

Carter, who grew up in Delaware County, Pa., earned a B.F.A. at New York University and an M.L.I.S. at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2003, she joined Swarthmore’s Access and User Services Department in McCabe Library.

“I will always remember how quickly Kate became a valuable member of the library when she was first hired,” says her then-supervisor Alison Masterpasqua. “Within a year or two, she realized she had found her ‘work home.’"

Carter’s responsibilities and library knowledge grew, ultimately crossing all departments. As digital initiatives librarian, she played a key role in developing a wide range of projects and scholarship such as the library’s website and Works, the faculty research database. She contributed to complex efforts such as the Early Novels Database and the virtual exhibit W.H. Auden at Swarthmore College, among others. For several years, Carter also helped support the Summer Educational eProject Development program, which helped faculty and staff create new digital resources to enhance teaching or facilitate undergraduate research. 

In 2015, Carter took on her most recent role as head of a newly formed Digital Initiatives and Scholarship Department, in which she provided strategic leadership for the Libraries’ online presence, collections, and services. A member of the Libraries’ leadership team, she also provided a wide range of expertise and direction to the TriCollege Libraries. 

Carter also coordinated the Spring Library Internship Program for a year with longtime colleague Pam Harris, who retired last year after serving as interim College librarian. “I knew she would be an amazing partner and inspire students to consider librarianship,” Harris says.

McCabe frequently hosted some of Carter’s more whimsical inspirations. She crocheted small bluebirds to decorate a tree “built” in the atrium using the green National Union Catalogs prior to deaccessioning. In February 2016, she produced several Quaker Valentines inspired by images in Friends Historical Library. One April Fool’s Day — punning on the French “poisson d’avril” tradition — she helped fill McCabe with microfiche “microfish.” She also collaborated with Harris on a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book about College founder Lucretia Mott called the “Mott Plott,” which involved a magical time-traveling bonnet and saving the world from various disasters. They even finished a few chapters.

“Kate was wickedly funny,” Harris says. “So much of her wit and fun cannot be published! Kate was one in a million.”

Carter defied her illness with grit and resilience for 12 years.

“Bearing witness to the many triumphs and challenges that accompany illness, and Kate's steely determination that this particular illness would never ever define her life even as she was living with it, are part of the worst and the best legacy of my beautiful, brave friend,” says Interlibrary Loan Specialist Kerry Kristine McElrone. 

“Her most memorable advice to me as we encountered challenges at work,” says Assessment and User Experience Librarian Mary Huissen, “was to remind me that: ‘We work in a library. In a garden.’"

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