MIT appoints new director of libraries

StudyingThe league of schools within which MIT, Stanford, and others like them exist is an exclusive one to be sure. It represents the upper echelon of traditional academia. Part of the challenge of maintaining this image means hiring nothing but the best staff and faculty to ensure that the institution continues to move forward and upward. This past Friday, MIT took that step in appointing a new director of its massive library system.

Chris Bourg, who has been named the woman for the job, comes from an associate director role at Stanford already, and is no stranger to the large systems experience such libraries require. In fact, Stanford’s libraries that Bourg currently holds watch over contain more than four million volumes within its library walls.

A large part of this move comes from the much-discussed evolution of the modern library. Bourg, say officials, is no stranger to the digital evolution of libraries. In fact, one reason she was chosen for the position includes her ability to move libraries forward and leverage new technologies. More and more, students are looking to ebooks and web resources to complete assignments. When one can simply search a journal database article for relevant keywords online, libraries that only allow for traditional book and print research may actually slow students down as the capabilities of modern research lead professors to set shorter and shorter deadlines.

Another of Bourg’s responsibility is MIT’s press, which is currently one of the largest presses at a university in the entire world. The university prints a wide range of academic journals, textbooks, and all kinds of scholarly work throughout the year to be used by both its own students and those all over the world.

On a sadder note, the appointment follows upon the heels of the death of MIT’s former director, Ann Wolpert. She passed away last year at the age of 70, leaving behind a 17 year legacy as the university’s library director. The successful conclusion of the search to find her a successor has taken an entire year.

Bourg actually attended Duke University, another highly regarded institution in the U.S., before moving on to complete a Masters at the University of Maryland, and finally a PhD in sociology from Stanford. She also spent 10 years serving in the U.S. army, part of which involved teaching at the prestigious Westpoint Academy.

She would go on to spend 12 years in various library roles at Stanford, each with increasing responsibilities until she found herself directing the largest (six-branch) system there. In her MIT role, Bourg is slated to keep watch over roughly 280 employees, not a small undertaking, to be sure. MIT’s system includes five physical locations. The libraries hold everything from audiobooks to textbooks to journal subscriptions to images and beyond. With changing technology, this assortment continues to change and evolve. The faculty at the university is optimistic and hopeful that Bourg can add another successful chapter to her already impressive career.