Library Leadership in a Digital Age

Earlier this year in March, I had the opportunity to attend the Library Leadership in a Digital Age institute, sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This institute, which included about 100 participants from across the United States and around the world truly offered participants much insight into this fascinating and critical topic. Presenters, for example, included:

  • Lawrence Bacow – 12th president of Tufts University, from 2001-2011, and a current member of the Harvard Corporation, as well as, President-in-Residence in the Higher Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
  • Chris Dede – The Timothy E. Worth Professor in Learning Technologies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
  • David Ferriero – The 10th Archivist of the United States and previous director of the New York Public Library and director of the Duke University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology libraries.
  • John Palfrey – Current Head of School at Phillips Academy and a former tenured law professor, as well as, library director at the Harvard Law School. He, also, currently chairs the Steering Committee of the Digital Public Library of America.
  • Maureen Sullivan – A library consultant and currently president of the American Library Association. She is also the current Interim Dean of the Simmons College Graduate School of library and Information Science and a past president of the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Additionally, these presenters discussed topics such as:

  • The challenges facing colleges and universities (and librarians) in the Digital Age.
  • New technology-based developments in teaching/learning and implications for librarians.
  • Future competencies for librarians.
  • Principles of the Digital Age.
  • What is effective library leadership in the Digital Age?

On top of all this, this institute served as a kind of coming out party for the Digital Public Library of America, a project being guided by John Palfrey. Furthermore, this emerging resource, which contains scanned materials from the Harvard University library, as well as other leading partners including the New York Public Library, the Boston Public Library, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian Institution, and which includes funding from the Sloan Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and others, proudly proclaims on its website that, “The Digital Public Library of America brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world.” (DPLA, 2013)

In conclusion, after listening to these presenters, and with the benefit of additional reflection and hindsight, it has become abundantly clear to me, that we, as educators, must take full advantage of these new digital resources which include projects such as the DPLA, as well as other related initiatives such as online education, so that we might best serve our communities (communities which have sadly often been neglected in the past) and, thereby, truly lead them into the Digital Age.


Bacow, Lawrence, Bowen, William, Guthrie, Kevin, Lack, Kelly and Matthew Long. “Barriers to Adoption of Online Learning Systems in US Higher Education.”  ITHAKA S & R, May 1, 2012.

Digital Public Library of America. About. Retrieved (May 2013) from


Written by Patrick Byrnes

Mr. Patrick Byrnes is the library director at Florida National University. He has Master’s Degrees from the University of South Florida and Boston College and also studied in Jerusalem, Israel.