Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger today announced his appointment of Ann D. Thornton as the next University Librarian and Vice Provost. Thornton comes to Columbia after almost two decades at the New York Public Libraries, where she is the Andrew W. Mellon Director. The appointment is effective June 1.
“Columbia’s library system is a dynamic academic resource that is at the very core of our teaching and research missions,” Bollinger said. “Ann’s broad experience is ideally suited to the task of harnessing both digital technology and intellectual vision to expand our collections and enhance their long-term value not only to our university, but also to our society.”
Thornton has held a series of senior leadership positions at the New York Public Libraries, spanning the sciences, business, the humanities and social sciences. She has been responsible for collecting, preserving and presenting the institution’s vast collections. She has also helped lead in the areas of electronic resources, reference and research services and public training. Before coming to New York, she was a systems librarian with the University of Houston Libraries.
“Columbia’s libraries are among the finest in the world,” Thornton said. “I am truly honored by the opportunity to lead such a talented and dedicated staff and look forward to collaborating with faculty, students and the entire Columbia community to ensure the vitality of library collections and services into the future.”
With direction and guidance from University Provost John Coatsworth and the faculty, Thornton will help integrate the priorities of Columbia’s academic units with the activities of the University libraries. Strengthening channels for student input also will be a focus of their collective efforts.
“Ann is a superb leader and communicator,” Coatsworth said. “She is ideally suited to work with students and faculty, and especially with the newly revived advisory committee of senior faculty to chart the future of Columbia Libraries in a rapidly changing academic and digital environment.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Thornton received her master’s degree in information studies from Florida State University. She has published and spoken widely on the nexus of research, teaching, learning and leadership.
Her tenure at the New York Public Libraries is especially relevant since Columbia and NYPL have well-established partnerships. These include the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium together with Princeton, the country’s largest offsite library shelving facility jointly owned and operated by the three institutions; and book-sharing programs that allow researchers to access the resources of both libraries, as well as that of New York University.
“I want to thank the committee led by Provost Coatsworth that conducted the search to fill this important post and recognize Associate University Librarian Damon Jaggars for serving so ably as Interim University Librarian during this period since Jim Neal’s retirement,” Bollinger said. “We look forward to welcoming Ann and working with her to further enhance the leadership of Columbia’s libraries not only as essential resources for our students and scholars, but as centers of cultural memory for our society.”
Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.
About Columbia University
Among the world’s leading research universities, Columbia University in the City of New York continuously seeks to advance the frontiers of scholarship and foster a campus community deeply engaged in the complex issues of our time through teaching, research, patient care and public service. The University is comprised of 16 undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, and four affiliated colleges and seminaries in Manhattan, and a wide array of research institutes and global centers around the world. More than 40,000 students, award-winning faculty and professional staff define the University’s underlying values and commitment to pursuing new knowledge and educating informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.