John Cabot University Mourns Loss of Beloved Head Librarian Elisabetta Morani

The entire John Cabot University community mourns the loss of Head Librarian Elisabetta Morani, who passed away on November 27.

“Elisabetta was a first-class librarian of international stature, who expanded the Frohring Library into one of the most important and modern English language libraries in Italy. She was loved by all of us at JCU and we will sorely miss her. Our thoughts and prayers go to her family, especially her daughter Giulia,” said John Cabot University President Franco Pavoncello.

Elisabetta Morani

Elisabetta Morani

Born and raised in Rome, Elisabetta earned her Laurea degree in literature from La Sapienza University in Rome and a Diploma from the Vatican School of Library Sciences. After 15 years of experience working in Italian libraries, Elisabetta joined JCU in 2004. Especially well-versed in electronic resources, she was responsible for collection development, library management, and cataloging. She was also an active member of AMICAL, the consortium of American international liberal arts institutions, working together on common goals for libraries, technology, and learning.

One of the people who knew Elisabetta best is Reference Librarian Livia Piotto, who had worked with her since 2006. “Elisabetta was so much more than a boss for me; she was a sister, a friend, a mentor. She believed in me from the very beginning, pushing me to grow and see the world from different points of view, opening my eyes to what a library could be. She leaves a huge void, but she also leaves us her library, which she managed to grow, like only a great mind and a great librarian could do,” said Livia.

Together with her love of books, Elisabetta had a great passion for art. Says Livia, “Not everyone knows that Elisabetta’s great-grandfather was the renowned Italian painter Alessandro Morani, and that she was named after her great-grandmother Elisabetta Helbig, daughter of a Russian princess and the German archaeologist Wolfgang Helbig. I would say that art and culture were in Elisabetta’s DNA.”

Elisabetta was instrumental in the creation of the 4m2 Gallery, located in the Aurelian Wing of the Frohring Library. Launched in 2013, the 4m2 Gallery is the first art space at JCU and is entirely managed and curated by the student-led Art History Society.

This is just one example of the results that Elisabetta achieved by tirelessly seeking ways to create unique synergies within the University community. She had the habit of stopping professors and students in JCU’s Lemon Tree Courtyard in order to enquire about what she and her staff could do to facilitate teaching and learning. She truly wanted everyone to have a say in the evolution of the library.

The sad news of Elisabetta’s death brought an outpouring of loving messages from the many members of the JCU community who had come to appreciate her great generosity, intelligence, sharp wit, and dedication to the library and to the liberal arts mission of the University. Here are just a few:

Mary Merva, Vice President and Dean of Academics, Professor of Economics
Our Elisabetta was a force of nature whose enthusiasm to build the Frohring Library and connect it to the world was boundless.  She brought us along with her on this beautiful journey. We shall continue this journey so that her vision of the importance of a library in education will grow and thrive for generations to come. That is our tribute to a great librarian and a great woman. We will never forget Elisabetta Morani.

Shannon Russell, Associate Professor of English Literature
Elisabetta was the generous heart and soul of our community. She meant so much to us, but also to many others. I had the good fortune to attend a number of Amical conferences with Elisabetta and to see her honored by a global community of peers who respected and adored her.  How lucky we were to have her amongst us. And how sorely we will miss her.

Pamela Harris, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law
Elisabetta leaves behind a great legacy at JCU. She was brilliant, warm, worldly, and so farsighted. We will miss her dearly.

Alessandra Grego, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English Literature
My heartfelt condolences to her collaborators in the wonderful library that is the heart of JCU, where so many of us found support, stimulation, and real friendship. Elisabetta’s combination of tireless enthusiasm and great competence will be missed. It was a pleasure and privilege to know her and work with her. 

Cornelia Lauf, Visiting Professor of Art History
Elisabetta was a radical.  She curated books as ideas.  The selection of new books in the library was always a picture of her and her incredible team’s collective mind.  The selection expressed the highest values of a liberal arts education and its potential for application.

Carolyn Smyth, Professor of Art History
A Head Librarian is the soul of any university. We were so lucky to have such a soul. Isn’t this all some dreadful mistake – we still need and love her! Her generosity, animation, and spirit – a person who made you say, when you ran into her – oh, how fun, it’s Elisabetta! No one with her love of culture and books, her sense of humor and inimitable laugh, will ever fill her place. She was a sailor too, good heavens! May she ever sail on.

(Berenice Cocciolillo)

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