Librarians of note

There have been two interesting appointments (or proposed appointments) in the world of librarians recently, one at the Library of Congress and one at the University of Virginia. Interestingly, both appointments revolve around the transformation of libraries from physical to digital.

First, UVA’s selection of John Unsworth as the next University Librarian and Dean of Libraries (UVA Today, Cavalier Daily). Unsworth’s selection makes sense on a number of levels. Back when I was an undergraduate, he was a founder of digital library sciences and the use of digital technologies in research at UVa with the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. More recently, as the dean of libraries at Brandeis he oversaw a large library system. Interestingly, from the CD article, it seems he’s stepping into a student-led debate over the role of libraries and the transition from physical to digital, with students protesting the sending of books from the stacks to long-term storage. I can’t think of too many other people I’d like to have thinking through the considerations in that debate.

Second, President Obama’s nominee for Librarian of Congress, Carla D. Hayden, got her Senate hearing yesterday (New York Times, Washington Post). As expected, the nominee’s bona fides as both a librarian and her capabilities in extending libraries into the digital future went unchallenged by the committee, though the relationship of the Copyright Office to the LOC was raised as a possible issue. Her smooth hearing was a nice update to her previous history in 2004 with the federal government, when in her role as head of the ALA she went toe to toe with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft over the library records provision in Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. In fact, aside from the usual partisan carping in right wing blog circles, there seems to be remarkably little argument with the position that Dr. Hayden is precisely the right candidate for the job.

Why do issues of digital literacy and concerns about transitioning to digital humanities figure so largely in both these selections? I’d argue that they are the right questions for all libraries and other professions which rely on data, which these days includes just about … everyone.

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