Why retire now?
The timing seems right. The new president will need to build the cabinet with people who can commit to a good number of
working years to help deliver the new and emerging goals of the university. It is also time for me to give priority to several writing projects, especially the biography of Robert Funk, the controversial biblical scholar who founded the Jesus Seminar and who taught at Drew early in his career.
What would you like your successor to know?
Drew has been my dream job. I hope it’s theirs, too. The new dean will inherit a talented Library staff and faculty.
What qualifications would you like to see in your successor?
The ability to discern between fads and substance in the ever-changing world of scholarly communication.
What Library developments have given you the most satisfaction?
Do we have all day? They would certainly include:
- Proposing the Thomas H. Kean Reading Room and seeing it come into being.
- Creating an ideal sealed microenvironment on the second floor of the Methodist Center for valuable and fragile material.
- Attracting new special collections and archives that have become invaluable resources for undergraduates and scholars alike.
- Seeing our librarians providing leadership for VALE’s VALID Project, which will create a new library system for the academic libraries of New Jersey.
- Seeing an Academic Commons begin to take shape in the Library.
- Expanding the roster of Library donors.
- Launching the Conversations on Collecting series.
What will you miss the most?
The Forest in all seasons, the Rose Window, the Mulligan Murals, and the key that grants me 24/7 access to Drew’s
You brag about your librarians and staff. Who was your best appointment?
Isn’t that akin to asking who among my children I love the most?
Your best day?
A day in early October 2001 when Finn Caspersen called to say that he was prepared to bid on a major cache of Willa Cather material that was coming to auction at Sotheby’s in London. The rest of the story is a remarkable chapter in Drew’s literary fortunes.
Your worst day?
November 3, 2008, when Professor Merrill Skaggs—Drew icon, friend of the Library, and remarkable colleague— passed away.
A mistake you’d like to correct?
Not fighting hard enough to continue the University Space Committee, a place where the ever-sensitive campus space
issues were resolved at the table—not under the table or away from the table.
- Deep cuts to the acquisition budget that have not been able to be restored.
- Not finding a way to provide space for students to study 24/7 in the Library throughout the academic year.
If you could invite four librarians to dinner, whom would you choose?
They could be from any era but not include colleagues from your own staff, past or present.
Decherd Turner (former director of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin),
James Fraser (former University Librarian, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, N.J.), Barbara Fister (crime-fiction author and librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, Minn.), and Henry Scrimgeour (book collector and a founder of the public library in Geneva at the time of John Calvin).
Will you stay engaged with Drew and the Library?
Yes, as much as the university deems appropriate. Maintaining close contact with our donors until the new dean is acclimated is essential. And, as a volunteer, I would like to process material in several of the special collections, especially the archives of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Westar Institute.
Will you continue to live in New Jersey?
Unfortunately not. New Jersey taxes will force us to leave our beloved state in the next few years. North Carolina is
a likely retirement address.
I’d like to postpone those for as long as possible. They will be the focus of my talk, “I Was a Butler in the House of
Books,” on March 20. (Note: A video of Dean Scrimgeour’s talk is now available on vimeo: https://vimeo.com/90691996
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Visions, the Drew Library Newsletter.