Virginia Steel became UCLA university librarian on July 15, 2013. In 2016 UCLA alumnus Norman Powell endowed the position, which is now known as the Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian.
Throughout her career Steel has focused on understanding the information needs of faculty, students, and staff and enhancing and building services and collections to meet those needs. She has established and fostered strategic partnerships with campus organizations, philanthropists, corporations, and foundations to improve services and support for students and faculty and to provide physical and virtual spaces that foster creativity, engagement, and a wide range of intellectual pursuits.
Steel came to UCLA after eight years as university librarian at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during which she oversaw a $100 million expansion and renovation of the largest library on campus. She was also instrumental in bringing the Grateful Dead Archive to UC Santa Cruz.
In her role at UCSC, Steel was actively engaged on a number of systemwide committees. She chaired the UC Council of University Librarians and played a lead role in the development of a systemwide strategic plan for the UC libraries. She also serves on the Systemwide Library and Scholarly Information Advisory Committee and the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication, and she was a member of the Online Education Pilot Project Advisory Board (2011-12) and the California Digital Library External Review Committee (2010-11).
From 2001 to 2005 Steel served as director of libraries at Washington State University, where she oversaw the libraries on the Pullman campus and coordinated library services across the four university campuses. Earlier in her career she served as associate director for public services at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1997-2001) and in various positions at UC San Diego (1988-97) and Arizona State University (1981-87).
While at UC San Diego, Steel was selected for a Council on Library Resources academic library management internship and spent a year at Brown University working closely with senior library and campus administrators.
Steel is active in the American Library Association and other professional organizations. She was president of the Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA) in 2004-05 and has served on the boards of LAMA and the Greater Western Library Alliance. Her professional contributions include editorships, articles, invited papers, numerous presentations, and a video production. She holds a BA from the University of Rochester and an MA from the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago.
Steel succeeded Gary E. Strong, who announced his retirement in March 2012. Strong had served as university librarian at UCLA since 2003 and continues in the role of university librarian emeritus.