Azariah Smith Root Director of Libraries

Oberlin College and Conservatory
Oberlin, Ohio
Apr 07, 2021
Employment Type
Full Time
Institution Type
Four-Year Institution

Azariah Smith Root Director of Libraries


Oberlin College and Conservatory

Oberlin, OH


With charismatic and resourceful senior leadership and a bold program of curricular renewal and sustainability underway (, Oberlin College and Conservatory, the storied institution 35 miles west of Cleveland, seeks a new Director of Libraries.


An avatar of student access, intellectual rigor and progressive thinking, Oberlin uniquely combines a highly selective undergraduate college of arts and sciences and a pre-eminent professional school of music with one of the great college art museums in the country. The College of Arts and Sciences offers a rich and balanced curriculum in the humanities, social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music offers flexible programs to prepare students as professional musicians and teachers of music. Within that framework, Oberlin’s 2,846 students work closely with its 367 faculty members to design an educational path appropriate to their own particular interests, needs and long-term goals.


The new Director of Libraries will take up an appointment that historically has been a platform for national leadership in academic librarianship. The Director oversees a system of semi-autonomous libraries that is unusual among national liberal arts colleges in its complexity and the scope of its special collections and archives. Amidst upheaval in approaches to information literacy, knowledge discovery, research and pedagogy, the Oberlin Libraries have sustained their physical importance at the very center of teaching, learning and campus life. The constituent branches are hubs for research and individual study but also for interdisciplinary and community convenings, classroom instruction, student collaboration and social gathering.


The Oberlin Libraries encompass the recently named Mary Church Terrell (Oberlin 1884) Main Library housed in the 1974 Seeley G. Mudd Center (including the Terrell Special Collections and the Oberlin Archives), three physically separate branch libraries (the Clarence Ward Art Library, the Conservatory Library and the Science Library) and the Carnegie Stacks, a storage-only facility housed in Oberlin’s 1908 Carnegie Library building. Collections total approximately 1,379,578 catalogued books and periodical volumes, 135,687 sound recordings and 141,448 scores.


Recognized in 2002 by an ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award, Oberlin benefits from consortial relationships in which it is a leading member, including OhioLINK ( and the Five Colleges of Ohio ( The namesake Oberlin Group of Liberal Arts College Libraries ( originated in conferences that earlier Directors convened at the College beginning in 1985.


The Friends of the Oberlin Libraries, inaugurated in 1991, provides visible, significant programming, including an annual dinner and financial support for visiting lecturers, equipment and collection acquisitions and other special purposes. With some 600 Oberlin alumni working in professional librarianship, the Friends also fund an annual scholarship for an Oberlin graduate to attend library school. A Book Studies minor program provides pathways for students interested in books as communication, material culture and artistic media on a global scale. Oberlin’s Letterpress Studio, established in 2010 and housed in Mudd Center, affords opportunities to learn hand-composition of text using cold type, as well as supporting book-arts programming.


The Director supervises seven professional librarians and archivists (in addition to two OCOPE union staff) and a total staff of 53 FTEs. Reporting jointly to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Dean of the Conservatory of Music (who are Oberlin’s chief academic officers), the Director has a close working relationship with Oberlin’s Chief Information Technology Officer and the Director of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, which is often cited among the top five academic art museums in the United States. Although focused on undergraduate education, Oberlin is a “research college” and not merely a teaching institution. The new Director will support both a faculty whose scholarly agendas, publication record and creative production rank them at the front of their disciplines and students who have unsurpassed opportunities for undergraduate research.


The Director will sustain and enhance the Oberlin Libraries’ reputation as a model academic library in the vanguard of best practices in the acquisition, dissemination and preservation of knowledge. The Director will be an advocate for the Libraries, sustaining institutional support and communicating the value of librarianship expertise and the physical collections to non-librarian colleagues and the public. The Director will champion, mentor and diversify a highly professional and service-minded staff as experts in information literacy education and true partners with Oberlin faculty in curricular development and pedagogical innovation. The Director will be a promoter and visionary steward of the Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives, advancing their holdings as a resource for knowledge production and classroom instruction. The Director will collaborate with the Chief Information Technology Officer in charting the digital future of the collections and embracing online platforms for research and scholarly collaboration. The Director will lead collection development efforts and fundraising for the Libraries, stewarding major donors and regularly engaging the Friends’ group and the Oberlin College and town communities.


Qualifications: An ALA-accredited graduate degree in library and information studies is required; a PhD in an arts-and-sciences discipline is preferred. Candidates should be accomplished professional librarians with at least seven years of successful administrative experience, including significant management and supervisory responsibilities in an academic or research library. Candidates should evidence an understanding of emerging challenges facing academic librarianship, including managing the transition from print to born-digital materials, storage of and access to print collections, the librarian’s changing role in the research cycle and keeping pace with technological advances while inculcating information literacy to a born-digital generation. The ideal candidate will be a confident communicator and deft advocate, possessing the temperament and inclination for a public leadership role as an educator and administrator within a rigorous academic community. A successful record of fundraising and other library resource development is preferred. Candidates should manifest strong analytical, interpersonal and motivational skills; the ability to manage multiple projects concurrently; and a command of budgeting, professional development and mentorship. The successful candidate will have expertise in implementing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and in making such work a cornerstone of the Libraries’ culture. Supervisory experience in a complex organizational structure would be advantageous, given the mix of unionized and non-unionized staff across the Oberlin Libraries. The successful candidate will display the initiative, imagination and political savvy and social sophistication necessary to lead and pursue innovation within a confident, self-reflective, progressive academic institution.


Review of candidate materials will begin immediately and continue until the appointment is made. A complete application will include a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae or résumé and contact information for five professional referees who can speak about the candidate’s qualifications for this position. (Named referees will not be contacted without the candidate’s express prior consent.) Expressions of interest, nominations and inquiries should be directed to Oberlin’s search consultant, Mr. Chuck O’Boyle of C. V. O’Boyle, Jr., LLC, at [email protected], who will furnish a detailed specification upon request.


Oberlin College is committed to the creation and nurturing of a diverse community of individuals through inclusive excellence. Diversity involves recognizing the value of differences and the inclusion of all members of the community including those that experience discrimination or under representation. This is a core value of the organization as we strive for a culturally diverse student body, faculty and staff that reflect the multicultural nature of the nation and our world and bring unique strengths and abilities, which contribute to our institution.