From student worker to associate dean, Cunetto’s career with ĢƵ Libraries spans more than three decades

Stephen Cunetto rings cowbell into retirement
Stephen Cunetto, associate dean for ĢƵ Libraries, celebrates his retirement after a long career with ĢƵ. (Submitted photo) 

Contact: Pattye Archer

STARKVILLE, Miss.—When Stephen Cunetto walked into Mitchell Memorial Library at ĢƵ for his first day on the job, he was just a college student. More than 35 years later, he is retiring as associate dean for ĢƵ Libraries.

Cunetto leaves an impact not only on ĢƵ Libraries, but on libraries across the state. Through his work and leadership with the Mississippi Library Partnership, patrons from 66 member libraries now have access to extensive resources.

“Stephen Cunetto has provided invaluable leadership and countless dedicated hours of labor for ĢƵ Libraries for more than 30 years. His expertise in the field of librarianship and his commitment to ĢƵ are nothing short of inspirational. He will be sorely missed by the entire campus community,” said Dean of Libraries Lis Pankl.

Cunetto’s full-time career began as systems supervisor in 1991. With technological expansions on the horizons, he helped transform ĢƵ Libraries into the technology and information hub it is today.

“When I began, there were only two or three computers in the building and no automated catalog,” Cunetto said.

Today there are computers on every desk, at every service point, two computer classrooms, two computer labs and multiple study rooms equipped with advanced technology.

Stephen Cunetto speaking during the Gatsby Gala.
Stephen Cunetto speaks during the 2019 Gatsby Gala. (OPA photo)

After several years, he was promoted to administrator of systems. In this role, he co-founded the Mississippi Academic Library Consortium and launched the Mississippi Library Partnership, formerly known as the Golden Triangle Regional Consortium. Cunetto helped both programs grow, and his impact will be felt for years to come.

“Stephen expanded the Mississippi Library Partnership from the founding two libraries, ĢƵ and Mississippi University for Women, to a formidable consortia of 12 library systems with over 66 branches,” said Anita Winger, associate professor and systems and innovation librarian. “Without Stephen’s leadership, mentorship and attention to detail, in addition to his love for libraries, this partnership would not be where it is today.

“We owe Stephen a huge thank you for his insight to creating this partnership to expand the resources of our community and libraries.”

Cunetto’s work on MAGNOLIA—Mississippi Alliance for Gaining New Opportunities through Library Information Access—granted student access to key resources that would otherwise not have been available.

“It is extremely gratifying to think about the reach these two projects have on our state and the impact they are making to improve access to trusted information resources and to advance our educational systems,” Cunetto said. 

He also co-founded the Charles H. Templeton Ragtime & Jazz Festival, which celebrated its 18th successful event this year.

In 2016, Cunetto was promoted to associate dean, providing leadership for various programs and departments, including Access Services (Circulation, Course Reserves, InterLibrary Loan); Charles H. Templeton Sr. Music Museum; Digital Initiative and Web Services; Digital Preservation and Access Unit; MaxxSouth Digital Media Center, or DMC; and Systems.

He was instrumental in the expansion, renovation and enhancement of the DMC which resulted in the naming donation from MaxxSouth Broadband and the creation of a state-of-the-art television studio, as well as a makerspace and virtual reality and gaming studio.

“Stephen was instrumental in ushering in the Digital Media Center from infancy to fruition. It was exciting to see that happen,” said Terry Likes, professor and head of the ĢƵ Department of Communication. “The DMC has been a vital resource for communication faculty and students, and I am thankful for all Stephen and the Libraries have done to support us.”

For the last few years, Cunetto has served as associate dean for Community Relations and Strategic Initiatives. He used his years of experience and community relationships to promote the Libraries and shape this university system’s future by serving as chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. He and fellow committee members crafted a plan that details the Libraries’ vision, mission, strategic directions and values. Approved by the Libraries’ faculty, staff and administrators, this document serves as a roadmap for the next five years.

Cunetto served in numerous leadership positions for professional organizations, published papers, presented at countless conferences and received multiple awards, including MAGNOLIA Steering Committee chair, Mississippi Library Association president, chair of the Mississippi Library Commission Board of Commissioners and Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Directors Strategic Planning Committee.

Of his accomplishments, Cunetto said he is most proud of the development of the Mississippi Library Partnership, the statewide MAGNOLIA project, the MaxxSouth Digital Media Center and the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library.

“There have been so many wonderful experiences over the years that it is hard to pinpoint one. Certainly at the top of the list is the opening of the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and the Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana Gallery,” he said. “This event was years in the making and brought hundreds of people to the library.”

But with all the accomplishments, promotions, awards and accolades, what makes Cunetto’s career mean the most is simple.

“The people are what make the Libraries special,” he said. “We have such a caring and dedicated staff. It has been an honor to work with them to advance the Libraries.”