Jim Neal is University Librarian Emeritus at Columbia University. He 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 was 2017-18 President of the American Library Association. He has served on the Council and Executive Board, and was ALA Treasurer during 2010-13. He was a member of the OCLC Board of Trustees 2010-2021. 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 is the Treasurer of the Freedom to Read Foundation, and is on the Board and has served as Treasurer of the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). He has also participated on numerous international, national, and state professional committees, and has been 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. Within ALA, he is currently serving on the ALA Council and as chair of its Committee on Organization. He was a member of the Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness (SCOE), and served on the ALA Executive Director Search Committee. He serves on the IMLS Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums Executive Project Steering Committee (REALM). He served on the ALA Forward Together Resolutions Task Force and is a member of the ALA Business Advisory Group. He is the current chair of the International Relations Round Table. He is a member of the ALA Endowment Trustees.
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, Johns 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 was chair of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) 2017 National Conference, and coordinated the fundraising for the IFLA 2016 scholarship program. In 2019, he was appointed a Senior Policy Fellow at the American Library Association, with a focus on copyright and licensing, and working with the ALA Policy Corps and the National Advocacy Network.
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. 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. In 2016, he was awarded the Scroll of Appreciation by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). And he is the recipient of the 2020 Miles Conrad Award from the National Information Standards Organization and the National Federation of Advanced Information Services. He received the 2020 Intellectual Freedom Award from the New York Library Association.
In 2022, he was elected to honorary membership in the American Library Association the ALA's highest honor, in recognition of outstanding contributions of lasting importance to libraries and librarianship. Also in 2022, he was selected as the winner of the L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award, which recognizes contributions of an individual or group that pursues and supports the Constitutional purpose of the U.S. Copyright Law, fair use and the public domain.