Michael Ryan Appointed Director of Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library

NEW YORK, February 2, 2006 - Michael T. Ryan, current Director of the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania, has been appointed the new Director of Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, effective May 1, 2006.


Ryan has a distinguished career in special collections at the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University and the University of Chicago, and has taught and published widely on European history and literature, the history of the book, utopian thought, and autobiography in the early modern period.

“Michael Ryan is an accomplished and innovative scholar and special collections professional who will bring extraordinary experience, expertise and vision to Columbia’s rare book and manuscript programs,” said James G. Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia.

Jean Ashton retired as Director of Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library in December 2005, after more than 12 years of service marked by sustained commitment to the collections, substantial library renovations, and innovative experimentation with technology. During the next four months Janet Gertz, Director of the Columbia Libraries Preservation Division, will serve as acting Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Ryan earned a Ph.D. in History from New York University and completed his undergraduate studies at Stanford University. Since 1992, Ryan has directed the Annenberg Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania; since 1996, he has also been head of the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Image & Text, which he founded to make digital facsimiles of rare books and manuscripts in the University of Pennsylvania Library’s collections widely available to scholars and researchers.

“Columbia’s commitment to its rich and diverse special collections is profound and impressive,” Ryan said this week. “Making those collections more visible and accessible to the Columbia community and to scholars around the world must be our first and abiding priority.”

Previously, Ryan worked as Director of Library Collections and as the Charles and Frances Field Curator of Special Collections at Stanford University Libraries and as Assistant Curator of Special Collections at The University of Chicago. Ryan has also taught courses in the history departments of the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago, and served as a lecturer for humanities programs at Stanford and Chicago. Ryan’s recent publications include edited collections on the history of education in Pennsylvania and on the 250-year history of the University of Pennsylvania’s Library, as well as articles on book collecting and the future of library special collections. He has served as President of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries and speaks frequently at library and book-related events, including a recent symposium at Columbia in honor of Jean Ashton.

As Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Ryan will oversee one of Columbia’s and New York City’s greatest archival resources. The range of the library’s holdings span more than 4,000 years, from cylinder seals created in Mesopotamia to artists’ books on which the ink is barely dry. In addition to printed and manuscript resources, the library contains cuneiform tablets, papyri, ostraca, astronomical and mathematical instruments, maps, works of art, photographs, posters, early printing presses and papermaking equipment, type specimens, sound and moving image recordings, theater set models, puppets, masks, ephemera and memorabilia. The library houses major collections in American History, including papers from John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, Dewitt Clinton, Hubert Harrison and Frances Perkins; American literature, including correspondence and literary manuscripts of Hart Crane, Stephen Crane, Lionel Trilling, Allen Ginsberg, Dawn Powell, Tennessee Williams, and John Howard Griffin; and substantial collections related to human rights and social services organizations, including the papers of Lillian Wald, Varian Fry, Robert Merton, Paul Lazarsfeld, Whitney M. Young, Jr., Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, the Community Service Society, the American Bureau for Medical Aid to China, and the Spanish Refugee and Relief Organization.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library owns over 600,000 rare books in some 30 book collections and almost 28 million manuscripts in nearly 3,000 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children's literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive. For additional information about the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, please call 212-854-5153.