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Updated 10:00 AM January 15, 2007




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Courant is new University librarian

Former Provost Paul Courant, a longtime academic and supporter of university libraries, has been chosen as University librarian and dean of University Libraries, a position that oversees 19 libraries on the Ann Arbor campus. His appointment will be effective March 1, pending approval by the Board of Regents.
(Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

"Paul Courant possesses knowledge of and insight into the complexities of the academic environment of which the Library is an absolutely critical part," says Teresa Sullivan, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "His knowledge of copyright, digital course resources, research support and partnership between faculty and libraries will add to the quality of services the Library offers students and faculty."

Courant, provost from 2002-2005, currently is the Harold T. Shapiro Collegiate Professor of Public Policy in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, professor of economics in LSA and professor of information in the School of Information.

He also is a Distinguished Fellow at the Council on Library and Information Resources in Washington, D.C. His appointment as University librarian is for a term of five years.

Courant is enthusiastic about his new assignment.

"This is a tremendously exciting time for academic libraries in general and the University of Michigan Library in particular. We have been leaders in developing digital libraries and in digitization of library materials, while at the same time serving as stewards for some of country's greatest print collections and special collections," he says.

"We are uniquely positioned to take advantage of new technologies in the service of research and teaching, and to invent new methods of scholarship. Michigan's great tradition of collaborative and interdisciplinary work fits beautifully with capacities that are inherent in new information technologies, and the library should be the place that helps our faculty and students to put it all together."

Courant recently has been studying the economics of universities, the economics of libraries and archives, and the changes in the system of scholarly communication that derive from new information technologies. He has written that ideas must be made public to qualify as ideas just as art must take physical form in order to qualify as art, and has admonished scholars, saying, "If we can't retrieve what you have learned, you have violated your implicit scholarly oath."

Courant wrote in an Internet journal in June 2006: "Literally and metaphorically, universities are built around their libraries. They hold, catalog and curate expensive material that not everyone can afford to have, and yet they make it available to everyone. The fundamental requirement of an effective infrastructure for scholarship ... is that it puts ideas into the library and lets others get them out again, reliably, the same ones every time."

Deborah Ball, dean of the School of Education and the William H. Payne Collegiate Professor of Education, served as chair of the library's search committee.

"It was clear during the search that eyes around the world are on this University library. The University of Michigan is leading the way in what libraries are becoming and the roles they can play. Paul Courant brings to the helm of our work a unique combination of vision, wisdom and skill for the exciting possibilities and challenges that lie ahead for us here," Ball says.

"Paul's vision offers U-M the opportunity to lead the discussion about the role of university libraries for the next generation," Sullivan adds. "We expect he will play a pivotal role in the discussion, and that under his leadership the University Libraries and academic libraries more generally will be transformed for the future, while preserving their primary mission ... service to faculty and students."

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