Queen’s librarian heading to Harvard

Martha Whitehead appointed as vice-president, university librarian for Harvard library 

Whitehead has been at Queen’s for 15 years. 
Credit: 
Supplied by Martha Whitehead

After 15 years working at Queen’s libraries, Martha Whitehead will pack her bags and head for Harvard library this June.

Whitehead, who will serve as Harvard library’s vice-president and University librarian, said she’s “really excited” about her recent appointment. 

“Harvard is such an attractive place,” she said in an interview with The Journal. “I’m excited about the academic world that’s there—it’s incredibly rich.” 

As well as serving as the Roy E. Larsen librarian for Harvard’s faculty of Arts and Science, Whitehead will be in charge of running 25 libraries and leading more than 700 staff members. 

“It’ll be a big change,” she said. “I’ll miss Kingston, I really love [it], I love the whole walkability of it. There’s just so many great places and things to do here, but I think I’ll enjoy that whole area around Harvard as well.”

Over the past several years, Whitehead has advanced Queen’s libraries into the digital landscape by making resources accessible online. She also helped increase the amount of services available across all libraries, and improved publishing and copyright advisory programs. 

She cited the Inquiry at Queen’s undergraduate research conference as one of her proudest achievements. 

“Keeping the library at the centre of the academic and research mission has been something I’m proud of,” she said. However, she’ll miss the people the most.

“We have great people working across the library system,” she said. “They’re all really dedicated to working with our students and faculty. That’s the favourite thing.” 

Whitehead added she’ll also miss the student atmosphere. 

“I’ve worked with so many great students,” she said. “There’s a real energy and community spirit. I hope I’ll find something similar at Harvard, but it’s definitely the feeling of the Queen’s community as well as my colleagues.” 

At Harvard, however, Whitehead will be able to interact with all of the school’s faculties and collaborate with other universities like Yale and Columbia.

“I’ve just been thrilled by the breadth and the depth of that academic world,” she said. “It’s just incredibly rich. Working in the library world as I do, you get to interact with all the different disciplines, and I find that really exciting.”

Whitehead also plans to continue the “critical role” Harvard plays in the global digitization of library materials.

“The thing that’s really interesting and attractive about the Harvard library is they have these extraordinary collections that are really the pride and joy of the academic community,” she said. “It’s just vast, and I’m looking forward to continuing to really celebrate and care for those collections.”

Before Whitehead leaves in the summer, she will spend time transitioning Michael Vandenburg, who’s currently an associate university librarian, into the University librarian position. 

Vandenburg will serve as Queen’s interim University librarian while the University searches for Whitehead’s replacement. 

Whitehead, despite taking off for a new life in America, said she hopes to keep in touch.

“I will really miss Queen’s,” she said. “I wasn’t looking for a new opportunity. They knocked on my door, and I was thrilled [...] but I really, really enjoyed my time at Queen’s and all the people I worked with.” 

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