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Whitehead Appointed New Head of Harvard Library

By Michael Gritzbach
By Alexandra A. Chaidez and Aidan F. Ryan, Crimson Staff Writers


Martha Whitehead, the vice provost for digital strategy and university librarian at Queen’s University in Ontario, has been named as the next leader of the Harvard University Library system, the University announced Tuesday.

Whitehead’s appointment comes months after former University Librarian Sarah E. Thomas announced her retirement last year. She led the system for five years.

“I am thrilled to be joining Harvard, where the library and the University’s mission are so interwoven, and where there is such a rich legacy to build upon,” Whitehead said in a press release. “I’m honored to be entrusted with leading the library forward during this complex period in the information realm.”

Her selection comes after an international search conducted by a committee comprising University faculty members, administrators, and library leaders. The search process also included two town-hall meetings.

University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay wrote in an email to University affiliates that they are “delighted” that Whitehead will take the helm of the Harvard Library.

“The library is one of Harvard’s greatest jewel,” Garber said in a separate press release. “Martha recognizes that it is a uniquely valuable resource to our students, researchers, other members of the Harvard community, and to the world. She is singularly qualified to take this institution to the next level.”

At Queen’s University, Whitehead led strategic planning initiatives and oversaw organizational changes, including fostering digital research infrastructure and implementing new information systems, according to the release.

Whitehead joins the Harvard Library system as several of the University’s 25 libraries are in the process of digitizing their collections and renovating their spaces.

Cabot Science Library reopened in 2017 after undergoing a complete renovation. Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute began renovations in November 2018 and will remain closed until September 2019. In January, the University announced plans to renovate Houghton Library, which houses Harvard’s rare manuscript and book collection, and in December Harvard announced an upcoming merger of Harvard Library and Grossman Library that will provide full Harvard Library access to all Harvard Extension School students.

Gay said in the press release that she is excited Whitehead will be heading the University library system.

“In the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, we are doubly grateful to have Martha joining Harvard,” Gay said. “Not only will we benefit from her exciting vision for the Harvard Library system, but in her role as the Roy E. Larsen Librarian she will be deeply embedded in our community and joined in our efforts to advance knowledge across the broadest spectrum of fields.”

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at alexandra.chaidez@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.
—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at aidan.ryan@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.

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