The Library Company of Philadelphia seeks an outgoing, visionary Librarian, a respected scholar and skilled administrator with a deep commitment to facilitating and sharing research, to serve as a partner with the Executive Director leading a new era of growth and change in a pioneering American research library.
- Become immersed in and further develop a world-class collection in a library with a storied history that remains a vital part of American life.
- Play a key role in partnership with the Executive Director and a talented, dedicated team shaping the future of this renowned institution.
- Help the Library pursue a strategy to magnify its impact in public and academic spheres within its core capacities as a research library.
- Facilitate experimentation to create new means of public engagement with history and expand concepts of scholarship.
- Collaborate with professional peers at educational and cultural institutions in a city steeped in history, and beyond.
- Accelerate recent progress toward diversity and inclusion within the organization and among the people it serves.
- Influence academia in generating and disseminating knowledge.
- Facilitate research and publication by a wide variety of scholars.
- Enjoy life in a historic city with outstanding cultural and recreational resources, situated near other great cities.
- Succeeding a highly regarded, long-tenured person and becoming steeped in the collection as quickly as possible.
- Helping find solutions to an urgent need for more stack space.
- Helping the Executive Director update and modernize an organization steeped in tradition while retaining its strengths. Effecting change will require diplomacy, patience, and steady effort.
- Drawing new patrons and fostering new means of scholarship and dissemination of knowledge.
- Continuing to broaden the scope of the collection to draw more diverse audiences and finding new areas of specialization that anticipate directions in American historical scholarship.
- Completing documentation of the collection and bringing accessibility up to current standards.
The Librarian will be a person prepared and eager to take these challenges.
ABOUT THE LIBRARY
The Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library concentrating on American society and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Its mission is “to foster a learning community grounded in our historic collections that contributes to and amplifies knowledge of American culture and society and works for the benefit of all.“ The Library stewards what is widely regarded as one of the best Early American collections in the world, with extensive holdings of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs, artifacts, and works of art.
The Library connects premier collections, expert staff, an engaged public, and an exciting array of scholars, who together generate new scholarship. It has a superb reputation for the quality of its research services. Staff members are welcoming and generous with their deep knowledge about the rich collections. The Library’s volume of activity in relation to staff resources is high compared to peer independent research libraries.
Materials by and about women and African Americans have been focal points at the Library Company for decades, and the collections have always illuminated the stories of everyday life in early America. Exhibitions and educational programs have begun drawing new audiences. Enrichment programs for K-12 teachers have proven valuable and popular. The Library’s fellowship program brings 50 scholars annually, many in the process of earning advanced degrees, who find new ways to mine and interpret the deep collections.
In 1731 Benjamin Franklin was part of a discussion group of ambitious young men of modest means. They styled their informal association “the Junto”. The group decided to start a collection of books to inform their regular conversations about philosophy, history, economics, and politics. They devised a library by subscription, with its resources freely available to subscribers and on a more limited basis to the public. It was the first subscription library in the Colonies and became one of the best in the early Republic. The collection started as books, but scientific instruments, a pump, and Roman coins were donated over time. The Library Company of Philadelphia moved its growing collection from private homes to more publicly available spaces, first in the State House (now Independence Hall) and later to Carpenters’ Hall.
Members of the first and second Continental Congresses met in the Library Company’s space and were granted membership privileges. From the Revolutionary War to 1800, when the national government was in Philadelphia, the Library Company also served as the Library of Congress. The Library Company opened its own building in 1793. Until the 1850s it was the largest public library in America. It moved to a new building in 1880 and for many years divided its collection between that and a donated building on another site. In 1965, the Library Company opened the building out of which it now operates, constructed next to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
In the 1960s, the Library Company became a research library. Librarian Edwin Wolf presciently led the organization in acquiring materials fleshing out its holdings documenting African American history, and the Library Company now has one of the best such collections. The National Endowment for the Humanities made a significant grant to the successful campaign endowing that program. More recently, the Library Company created and endowed collections and programs on women’s history. The Company’s fellows program was begun in 1987. It offers 50 month-long fellowships for research-in-residence each academic year, with the Company’s Cassatt House next door serving as the residence for some fellows.
Today, the Library Company offers exhibits, lectures, symposia, conferences, gallery talks, and other programs in order to make the collections accessible to the widest-possible audience. Exhibitions highlight various strengths of the collection in engaging ways. Program topics range widely, and most events are free and open to the public. A variety of programs are available on-line to those unable to visit the Library Company in person.
The Library has unusual staff retention; some people have been there 18, 30, and nearly 40 years. The staff is growing more diverse through recent additions.
Almost all of the books the Library Company acquired over more than two and a half centuries through purchases and remarkable gifts are still on its shelves. It is a collection built by a community of people. It was the first public library to serve the community; its shareholders continue to uphold its remarkable traditions.
- A respected scholar dedicated to facilitating and enriching other scholars’ research. Demonstrates intellectual generosity. Service-oriented.
- Well versed in rare books and printing history in America.
- Someone with the desire and skills to lead, to pull a team together. Has the diplomacy and steadiness to overcome inertia and establish guidelines, to “get people riding the same bus.”
- Inclusive but decisive; seeks and considers staff opinions then makes clear decisions and follows through consistently.
- An experienced manager able to deal empathetically and effectively with self-motivated professionals.
- An open communicator with both leadership and staff.
- A networker and collaborator within and outside the organization.
- An engaging public speaker, also comfortable in front of a camera.
- An outward-facing person with strong people skills.
- Aware of and sensitive to issues of gender, gender identity, and race.
- Has extensive connections in the world of historic printed materials – research libraries, collectors and dealers, and in American historical scholarship.
- Stay abreast of the needs of the collection and the collection staff, and represent them effectively to the Executive Director, board, and supporters.
- Seek the most efficient organization of staff and operational modes to ensure effective means of continuing the Library Company’s tradition of stellar service to patrons.
- Actively manage the budgets and operating procedures for five departments to maintain fiscal control.
- Foster communication and collaboration among departments to guide them in a common direction fulfilling strategic plan goals.
- Work with staff and collections committees to align collections’ policies across departments.
- Manage continuing improvement of collection accessibility using 21st-century research methods.
- Develop a plan for a digital humanities program.
- Help oversee public programs, exhibitions, and teacher training to ensure quality, effectiveness, and alignment with strategic goals.
- Assist the Executive Director and the Chief Development Officer with cultivation of donors.
- Lead efforts to gain the best possible understanding of patrons’ and fellows’ natures and needs.
- Help spread awareness of the Library in a complex modern environment.
- Bachelor’s degree in American studies, American history or American literature or a related field. Advanced degree preferred. MLIS advantageous.
- Deep knowledge of rare books archives, and the history of printing.
- Thorough grounding in and commitment to current library practices and philosophy attained through advanced study and/or experience.
- Record of success managing museum or library staff, budgets, and operations.
- A constant learner who relishes being part of a learning community, fostering learning in other staff, researchers, and the public.
HOW TO APPLY
Nominations welcome. Apply in confidence: Email cover letter, résumé or CV (Word documents preferred), salary requirement, and names of 3 references with contact information by October 30, 2020 to retained search firm: Scott Stevens, Senior Search Consultant, Museum Search & Reference/Marilyn Hoffman, SearchandRef@museum-search.com. References will not be contacted without prior permission of the applicant. EOE.
Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Districts with narrow streets lined with architectural gems and the world-renowned historic sites testify to its colonial beginnings and its role as a cradle of liberty during the Revolution and the Early National Period. Museums such as National Constitution Center, the Museum of the American Revolution, the Philadelphia History Museum, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, offer abundant opportunities to explore the past.
The city’s art museums include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the world’s largest, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Rodin Museum. Several theater companies, an opera company and the Philadelphia Orchestra are vital elements of cultural life. Universities underpin the city’s intellectual life, including Temple, Drexel, Lasalle, and UPenn. All the major-league sports teams are present.
Philadelphia is truly a livable city, a city of neighborhoods in which one can find community. Housing is more affordable than in other prominent cities. There is one of best urban park systems in the country. It is a walkable city also good for cycling. One does not have to have a car, but driving is easier than in other urban environments. Some Library staff walk to work. There is public transportation from the attractive suburbs of Philadelphia, making commuting relatively quick. Washington, DC, and New York City are within two hours. In an hour, one can get to the beaches of the Jersey Shore, or the beautiful natural areas to the west.
The immediate area of the Library has revitalized in recent decades. There are many good restaurants, bars and boutiques. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is next door; the two share a wall as well as collections and collaborations.