Chief Librarian Thistlethwaite Departs for CUNY Central

In March, after over 17 years of service at the CUNY Graduate Center, I will join the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs to head the Office of Library Services (OLS) as Interim University Dean for Library Services.

Polly Thistlethwaite

Polly Thistlethwaite     photo: Alex Irklievski

In this new role, and in conjunction with the CUNY Council of Chief Librarians, I will provide direction for University Libraries as they shape and reflect CUNY’s mission. I will head OLS in moving CUNY to a new library services platform, in acquiring e-resources shared by all CUNY libraries and in cataloging books for some, in managing state funding for Open Educational Resources, and in making CUNY scholarship open and widely available on CUNY Academic Works. The work at CUNY Central is closely related to library work at the Graduate Center.

In over nine years as Chief Librarian, I have delighted in working with CUNY graduate students, members of the doctoral faculty, and the magnificent Mina Rees Library faculty and staff.

The Graduate Center’s students are engaged with library life and have significant impact on it. Just as the library is core to student college experience, student engagement with library politics is crucial for academic library administration. GC student insight and feedback consistently improves the library’s website, catalogs, and e-resource connectivity. Students have lengthened loans and renewals, expanded library budgets for more books, e-resources, and interlibrary loan, and demanded that library expertise expand to support digital scholarship. Student and faculty zeal to make CUNY scholarship outward-facing has spurred growth of GC content on CUNY Academic Works. GC students and faculty have preserved library hours and expanded access to New York Public Library and metropolitan area research libraries.

The Mina Rees Library staff, as frequent library users know, is exceptional. This library is a CUNY hallmark of excellence. For such a small library to manage the volume of complicated inquiries, the requests for material from libraries the world over, the variety of e-resources synced up with multiple discovery mechanisms, the calls from students across disciplines for collaboration in research, teaching, and learning, and to do so with unfailing efficiency, competence, and enthusiasm, is extraordinary. This library is small and mighty, the networked hub of CUNY research and scholarship.

All CUNY libraries’ strengths lie in collaboration, in open scholarship, and in the dedication of multi-talented staff members. Strong library networks democratize access to library resources. A robust library consortium is essential for CUNY excellence.

I was appointed Chief Librarian in 2011 after joining the Graduate Center as Associate Librarian for Public Services in 2002. Prior to that I held reference and administrative positions at Colorado State University, Hunter College, New York University, and Yale University. I earned my Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois and a second Master’s in Liberal Studies from the Graduate Center (full bio).

A search will soon commence with the goal of hiring a permanent University Dean for Library Services for the 2020-2021 academic year. Plans for new Mina Rees Library leadership are underway.

About the Author

Prof. Polly Thistlethwaite is CUNY's Interim University Dean for Library Services.