As University Librarian, Mark Newton Will Lead Effort to Reimagine BU’s Library Program
Concrete changes not yet decided, he says, but print books will always be important
You can drop “interim” from Interim University Librarian Mark Newton’s title. He has been officially appointed to the position, effective immediately. As University Librarian, he will lead the BU libraries’ transition to 21st-century knowledge repositories.
Newton succeeds K. Matthew Dames, the University Librarian from 2018 to 2021.
“Our mission is to exceed the expectations of library users,” Newton says, “providing venues for deep study, collaborative work, engagement with primary resources, learning opportunities around technology, and more.…This is an exciting time to be working in libraries, especially at BU, where impactful research so often shapes our understanding of the world. I’m excited to see what we are going to build together.”
Newton came to BU in 2019 from Columbia University, where he’d been director of digital scholarship. He began his Charles River Campus tenure as associate University librarian for digital strategies and innovation; his duties included leading “Mugar Library’s efforts to provide continuity of service to faculty and students during the COVID pandemic,” Jean Morrison, BU provost and chief academic officer, wrote in a community email announcing the appointment earlier this month.
He also led a task force, she wrote, “to reimagine and renovate Mugar Library as a vibrant, modern hub for research,” per the University’s Strategic Plan, which outlines goals through 2030.
Newton says it’s too early to say what those changes will look like. “We know we need flexible and varied spaces for solo and group study, accessible information services that engage our users at all levels of expertise, and digital and physical collections that enrich the research and teaching activities across campus,” he says.
One thing won’t change in this digital age, Newton vows: “There will always be room for books in our library, and it is not always the case that a digitized work can fully replace the need for access to its print equivalent.
There will always be room for books in our library, and it is not always the case that a digitized work can fully replace the need for access to its print equivalent.
“The future is going to continue to be hybrid: our librarians will continue collecting in new digital formats while managing access to essential print materials where our disciplinary communities need them. While we maintain this balance, we can invest also in new pathways to online access and discovery of our unique and special collections.” He cites one initiative this summer and fall, Digital Ventures, which “will focus on developing new digital collections in partnership with BU scholars through digitization.”
Newton currently heads a Library Vision Steering Committee to assess Mugar’s current print and online holdings. The committee and the BU community, he says, “have been incredibly helpful in directing us toward collecting priorities that unlock additional potential: enhancing holdings and access to works in non-Anglophone languages for specialist research, identifying datasets that can be used in and out of the classroom, and assessing platforms for deep exploration of textual resources.”
“Mark is an experienced librarian with deep knowledge of the needs of BU’s Central Libraries,” says David Chard, chair of the search committee for the University Librarian position. “He also has strong relationships with BU leadership and will be able to effectively advocate for the resources to ensure that the libraries are a high priority at BU in the coming years.”
Chard, dean of BU’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, says his committee considered 22 applicants for the position. “Of course, University Librarian positions are at a level of leadership and knowledge that one would expect a very select group of individuals,” he says, adding that “the search committee is deeply committed to Mr. Newton’s success and the success of Mugar Library. We believe collectively that the library’s renovation will be critical to supporting BU to meet its goals laid out in the 2020-2030 Strategic Plan.”
In her announcement, Morrison lauded Newton as “an ideal leader to transform Mugar Library to better serve our digital-age University moving forward.
“Throughout his time at BU, Mark has developed an in-depth knowledge of the challenges the BU libraries face in modernizing its collections, spaces, and services. He has formed strong connections with BU leadership throughout his service on various committees.”
“I am excited to work with the library team and our larger community,” Newton says, “to ensure our libraries support the research and learning goals of everyone, regardless of their role at the University. As innovative technologies continue to inform the ways that BU scholars acquire and engage with information, the importance of a capable library system of resources and specialists grows in lockstep.”