While the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is currently undergoing extensive renovations, its leadership remains unchanged.
Last Wednesday, Yale University President Peter Salovey announced the reappointment of Edwin Schroeder as director of the Beinecke and associate University librarian. Schroeder, who is currently overseeing a multimillion-dollar renovation of the Beinecke, was first selected as the library’s director in 2010 following the death of Frank Turner GRD ’71, previous University librarian and Beinecke director. Since then, Schroeder has overseen the establishment of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes and more than doubled the amount of classes held in the library. His colleagues emphasized his spirit of collaboration as one of his greatest strengths. His second term will last five years, until July 2021.
“Being the director of the Beinecke is a great position to have,” Schroeder said. “The combination of the staff, resources that we have available and amazing collections makes it one of the most exciting jobs in the world to have.”
Since Schroeder took up the mantle of the directorship, the number of classes held annually in the Beinecke has risen from 200 to 500. After the renovations — which began in the summer of 2015 and are projected to cost between $50 million and $70 million by the time they conclude this fall — that number will grow even more, as classroom space in the Beinecke will double, leading to further academic and teaching opportunities. The library will have a total of four large classrooms, he said, in addition to four consulting rooms usable for small group work.
The renovations will also make possible a number of other changes, including an expansion of the research scholarship program for visiting scholars and support for weeklong seminars in the summer. When the library reopens, 20,000 maps will be moved from Sterling Memorial Library into the Beinecke, Schroeder said.
“We are scheduled to finish major construction by early June, and we will reopen the first of September,” Schroeder said. “Once it’s all done, we’ll all take a deep breath, relax and celebrate the finish.”
The renovations have been the largest project under Schroeder’s stewardship, but as director of the Beinecke, Schroeder is also responsible for engaging members of the Yale and New Haven communities with the library’s vast collections and resources. In his first term, he oversaw the development of the popular exhibit “Lux: Ideas Through Light,” when the library’s exterior became a canvas for digital art for several days last April. Additionally, during Schroeder’s tenure, the library has acquired numerous collections, such as the archives of playwright Paula Vogel and the papers of award-winning children’s author Mo Willems.
But Schroeder’s contributions have extended beyond just the Beinecke. Associate University Librarian for Arts and Humanities Allen Townsend said Schroeder has helped foster a unique collaboration between the Beinecke’s curators and specialist librarians at Sterling. The subject specialists concentrate in the areas of humanities, international studies and social sciences, and Schroeder, more than any director before him, has reached out to see how they can all work together, Townsend said.
“Schroeder has the absolute highest level of integrity, and the previous director with whom he worked, Frank Turner, spoke very highly of him,” Townsend said. “Frank was really impressed with his integrity and work ethic, and that has revealed more of itself over time when working together in the library executive committee.”
University Librarian Susan Gibbons said that during the last five years, she and Schroeder have partnered to think of ways for the central library and the Beinecke to work together. She also described Schroeder’s eye for innovation as a particular strength, noting how he has recently hired a digital archivist for the Beinecke. Schroeder also noted that more time and effort have been devoted to developing the Beinecke’s digital library during his tenure.
Beyond his professional accomplishments, perhaps one of Schroeder’s greatest attributes is his personality, Gibbons said.
“Often I have found that heads of rare books and manuscript libraries can be erudite and intimidating, and [Schroeder] is not that,” Gibbons said. “He is warm and approachable, and he is unique in his class and kind of librarian.”
Schroeder first began work as a catalog librarian at Sterling in 1989.