Jeffrey Horrell, Harvard’s former associate librarian for collections, returned to Dartmouth today to officially assume his post as dean of libraries. Horrell led the Sherman Art Library for five years beginning in 1981.
In an interview with The Dartmouth, Horrell said his first order of business is to familiarize himself with the College library system, acknowledging the many changes to the library in the past 20 years.
Among those changes is Dartmouth’s increasing reliance on digital resources. Horrell said that during his tenure he hopes to develop an infrastructure to support digital information at the College. While he pointed to his predecessor Richard Lucier’s success in building Dartmouth’s Digital Library program, Horrell expressed the challenge of digital media archival.
“It was fairly easy with paper, but digital information is not as easy to store,” Horrell said. “It’s something the entire library world is engaging in.”
Horrell offered the Rauner Special Collections Library as an example of the benefits of electronic archives.
By digitizing the College’s special collections, Horrell said, “Dartmouth can contribute to the intellectual capital of the world.”
Despite the prospects of the emerging digital library frontier, Horrell gave equal emphasis to maintaining the traditional integrity of the library.
“There are so many areas of the world still creating information in print and not digitally,” Horrell said. “A place like Dartmouth will continue to collect print for a long time.”
Horrell said that it is difficult to predict when a “dramatic shift” will affect America’s research libraries. In the face of this uncertainty, he praised the Berry library addition for being “a space that can change over time.”
Horrell said he believes that increasing circulation numbers in research libraries are proof that modern libraries are not on a path toward extinction. On the contrary, Horrell noted that electronic information actually encourages researchers to delve deeper and consequently libraries continue to thrive.
“Library spaces continue to remain very important,” Horrell said.
Where Dartmouth’s library will mark the fiscal divide between increasing its print collections and digital collections is a question Horrell said he couldn’t answer yet.
“You have to understand what users need and want,” Horrell said. “It’s not science, it’s not a formula. There’s more art to it — it’s much more subjective.”
While Horrell will serve as the 18th librarian of the College, he will be only the second dean of libraries. The deanship was created for the College’s 15th librarian, Edward Connery Lathem ’51, now counselor to President James Wright. The search that delivered Horrell was the first to advertise the deanship since Lathem’s tenure. Horrell said he is pleased that the College chose to reinstate the Librarian’s dean-level status.
“I think the College saw the value in having this position be a dean-level position to be able to integrate it in the conversations and discussions that happen at that level across the College,” Horrell said. “If the library is not part of that, the library cannot be as effective as it potentially could be.”