Jim Neal served as the Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia University during 2001-2014, providing leadership for university academic computing and a system of twenty-two libraries. His responsibilities included the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, the Copyright Advisory Office, and the Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research. Previously, he served as the Dean of University Libraries at Indiana University and Johns Hopkins University, and held administrative positions in the libraries at Penn State, Notre Dame, and the City University of New York.
Neal is a member of the OCLC Board of Trustees. He serves on the Council and Executive Board of the American Library Association, and recently completed a three-year term as ALA Treasurer. He has served on the Board and as President of the Association of Research Libraries, on the Board and as Chair of the Research Libraries Group (RLG), on the Board and as Chair of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), and on the Board of the Digital Preservation Network. He is on the Board and serves as Treasurer of the Freedom to Read Foundation, and on the Board and serves as Treasurer of the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). He has also participated on numerous international, national, and state professional committees, and is an active member of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). He is a member of the Library Advisory Board of the University of the People.
Neal is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences, consultant and published author, with focuses in the areas of scholarly communication, intellectual property, digital library programs, and library cooperation. He has served on the Scholarly Communication committees of ARL and ACRL and as Chair of the Steering Committee of SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. He has served on the university press boards at Columbia, John Hopkins and Indiana. He has represented the American library community in testimony on copyright matters before Congressional committees, was an advisor to the U.S. delegation at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) diplomatic conference on copyright, has worked on copyright policy and advisory groups for universities and for professional and higher education associations, and during 2005-08 was a member of the U.S. Copyright Office Section 108 Study Group. He is chair of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) 2017 National Conference, and is coordinating the fundraising for the IFLA 2016 scholarship program.
He was selected the 1997 Academic Librarian of the Year by the Association of College and Research Libraries and was the 2007 recipient of ALA’s Hugh Atkinson Memorial Award and the 2009 ALA Melvil Dewey Medal Award. In 2010, he received the honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Alberta. And in 2015, he received the ALA Joseph W. Lippincott Award for "distinguished service to the profession of librarianship", and the Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor Award.