University begins search for library dean

By Giacomo Bologna, Staff Reporter
Published October 2, 2012

The University has launched a search effort to hire a new Dean of Libraries.

Paul Courant, the current dean of libraries, will step down on Aug. 31, 2013, and the University announced Monday that Provost Philip Hanlon has assembled a search committee of administrators, faculty, staff and students to find Courant’s replacement.

Physics Prof. August Evrard, head of the 17-member search committee, said as the libraries have progressed into the digital age, the new dean will need to be dedicated to the ongoing process of digitizing its collections.

“The University of Michigan library has been out in front in effort to digitize its collection of print material,” he said. “That’s not with the intent of getting rid of print material, that’s with the intent of improving access for students who may be off campus, for example.”

Under Evrard, the University Library became involved in the HathiTrust Digital Library — a collaborative venture between the University and 52 other libraries around the world to digitize works and make them accessible to the public — as well as the Google Books Library project, which is digitizing millions of books for use online and in e-readers.

Evrard said the committee was formed in July, and will start evaluating candidates next month. He added that postings about the job, which will have an initial term of five years, were also made public on Monday.

Official recommendations won’t be sent until the winter 2013 term, he said, and Provost Philip Hanlon will review the recommendations and make a final recommendation to the University’s Board of Regents, noting that Hanlon isn’t necessarily required to choose from the committee-provided list.

Evrard said every field of study is equally pertinent to University libraries and in the search for a new dean.

“It’s not surprising that a professor of any subject matter in the University who has had strong ties to the library over their career could certainly be able to manage this search,” he said. “The library to me is part of the central nervous system of the whole place.”

In addition to maneuvering the libraries through a new digital age, Evrard said the new dean will need to be able to manage day-to-day operations of the library.

While there are associate University librarians who work on the business side of the operation, Evrard said it’s essential that the new dean is business savvy.

“The library is a … $50 million operation with over 500 employees,” he said. “So it’s a good-sized business to run so there’s just managerial aspects.”

In an email sent to Library faculty and staff, Provost Hanlon wrote that Courant spurred significant innovation while at the helm of the University Library.

“With Paul’s guidance, the library has become an international leader in areas beyond digitization,” Hanlon wrote. “His wide-ranging expertise … has positioned the library to engage some of the most pressing issues in academia today, among them the impact of current copyright law on research, scholarship, and learning; the future of scholarly communication; and the integration of technology into teaching and learning.”

Courant is among four deans — including Law School Dean Evan Caminker, Dentistry School Dean Peter Polverini and LSA Dean Terrence McDonald — who will leave the University after this school year.