Committee searches for new Univ. Librarian

For the second time in a year, the search for a new University Librarian is underway.

Two months after the death of University Librarian and former Beinecke Rare Books & Manuscripts Library Director Frank Turner GRD ’71, President Richard Levin announced the creation of a 14-member committee charged with finding a new University Librarian in an e-mail to the Yale community Tuesday. Four committees have searched for new University and Beinecke librarians in the last year alone, and current committee member and computer science professor Holly Rushmeier said there were no “crisp lines between committees starting and ending.”

Pericles Lewis
Yale University
Pericles Lewis

But while many of the committee members — some of whom recommended new Beinecke head librarian E.C. Schroeder just last month — have search experience, two said finding a permanent replacement for Turner will be a challenge.

Libraries the size of Yale’s are rare: it is the second-largest university library in the country, said search committee chair Pericles Lewis, also a professor of English and comparative literature. Few librarians possess the experience necessary to direct such a large organization, he added. The search comes as the library profession undergoes a generational shift. With the advent of e-readers and the Apple iPad, the library profession is changing rapidly, Lewis said, and experienced librarians active in the 1960s and ’70s are retiring.

“There are probably only 20 people in the world who’ve run a library that big,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the new librarian will need to direct the library’s response to changes in technology and digital materials and have experience in managing international and special collections. From an administrative perspective, he said, the new librarian will manage budget issues, maintain a staff and advocate for the library in the University.

Rushmeier said a leader will be hard to find because the job requires such a diverse skill set. The committee, Rushmeier said, “look[s] for everything” in a candidate, and there are “a relatively small number of people in the world qualified for this.”

Still, Acting University Librarian Jon Butler said, “there are many talented people who would welcome the challenge and could perform superbly.”

In his e-mail, Levin asked members of the Yale community to contribute candidate suggestions directly to the search committee. Lewis said the committee will consider both internal and external candidates, and is open to prospective leaders from other nations.

Lewis said the committee will attempt to name a librarian before the end of the academic year. He added that he is unsure whether a new acting librarian will be named to replace Butler — who postponed his academic leave to fill the post after Turner’s death — should the committee fail to name a new librarian who can start working by the beginning of the fall semester.

Butler said he hopes the new librarian will assume his or her duty between July 1 and Sept. 1, adding that he looks forward to resuming his leave.

“I think that’s always a challenge to find the right person for this particular position,” Butler said. “But in the past Yale has very much been able to do that, because it’s also a tremendous opportunity for anyone in the professional library world.”

The committee will convene for its first official meeting Thursday.

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