Following the departure of former University Librarian Alice Prochaska last semester, the University has appointed her replacement for the next five years: Frank Turner GRD ’71, who has served as acting University Librarian since January.
The search committee to find Prochaska’s replacement considered more than 20 candidates and six finalists, all of who — except Turner — were from outside the University, said Pericles Lewis, professor of English and comparative literature and chair of the search committee. Lewis said the committee considered a number of criteria when choosing candidates, including the ability to work well with budgets, an understanding of new technologies such as digitization and an awareness of the importance of the Library’s special and international collections.
In the end, however, Turner’s “great energy, insight and managerial skill” were key in his selection, Lewis said in an e-mail. “He brings to the library an intimate acquaintance with Yale and a deep understanding of the value of our library’s resources to Yale’s faculty and students,” University President Richard Levin said. “While not himself a person of the digital generation, I think he’s someone who understands its importance, and will enhance the library’s operations in that area.”
Turner, who has been director of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library since 2003, is also John Jay Whitney Professor of History, specializing in the history of Victorian thought. For his part, he said he hopes to talk with a number of faculty and student focus groups in the near future to survey what they know of and expect from the Library, and to identify areas of improvement.
He said he will focus on making materials more quickly and reliably accessible to scholars by expanding digitization, enhancing electronic databases and improving interlibrary loan services such as Borrow Direct.
“We’re going to want to think about offering new services as well as improving the old ones,” he said.
In addition to better digital technologies, Turner also hopes to upgrade the Library’s physical spaces; the renovations of the Kline Science Library and other buildings are currently in the planning stages, he said. Turner also faces the job of moving volumes from Mudd Library, soon to be razed to make room for two new residential colleges, to the off-campus Library Shelving Facility, which he called “an enormously complicated task.”
From 1988 to 1992, Turner served as provost under University President Benno C. Schmidt, Jr. — an experience he said will help him to reach out across the University.
“I think I bring to the job an understanding of the library and the University budgets and the challenges that both face,” Turner said. “Because of holding that position, I have a lot of colleagues whom I can now call on.”
Despite a lack of formal training in library science, Turner said his tenure at the Beinecke and his time as a historian have given him an intimate knowledge of the University’s collections.
“Intellectual history as a discipline is very broad,” he said. “I’ve worked with books on science, religion, classics.”
Lloyd Suttle, deputy provost for academic resources, said he has worked closely with Turner during his time in the Provost’s Office and while formulating Library budgets, and looks forward to continuing that relationship.
“He’s a scholar first and foremost,” Suttle said. “We need someone who understands the faculty and the mission of teaching and learning at Yale. The library is largely humanities, and Frank understands that better than anyone.”
Turner will remain director of the Beinecke Library until a successor is named. Levin said in an e-mail to the University community that he will soon “communicate plans” for filling Turner’s position.