Kelly led the Library’s research divisions for six transformative years, informed by and in partnership with the research community, overseeing landmark collection acquisitions and preservation, additions to our curatorial ranks and fellowships, and improving physical and digital access
Brent Reidy, the Library’s current Senior Director for Digital Research, will serve as interim Mellon Director as a nationwide search is conducted
William P. Kelly, The New York Public Library’s Mellon Director of the Research Libraries, is retiring after an extraordinary career as a scholar, teacher, leader, and innovative thinker. His last day at the Library, where he has spent the last six years, will be April 15, 2022.
Kelly has had a remarkable tenure at the Library, solidifying the institution’s relationship with the research community, overseeing critical partnerships, acquiring multiple landmark collections, and improving digital access to collections. A selection of specific accomplishments include:
- Strengthening the Library’s relationship with the research community, restoring the Rose Main Reading Room as a site for scholarship, research, and reading, creating the Center for Research in the Humanities at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, and overseeing the expansion of short-term fellowships for scholars.
- Negotiating several landmark acquisitions, including the archives of Harry Belafonte, Lou Reed, Sonny Rollins, Martha Graham, and Oliver Sacks, among many others.
- Buttressing the Library’s staff, including the addition of a Curator for Latin American, Iberian and Latino Studies Collections, and the appointment of a new Slavic and East European Collections curator.
- Enhancing the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP), jointly owned and operated by The New York Public Library (a founding partner), and Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard Universities, to include a “Shared Collection” that effectively doubled the number of volumes in the Library’s research collection from 11 million to 22 million. The Shared Collection gives NYPL researchers access to millions of volumes held by partner institutions in addition to the Library’s own holdings.
- Expanding state-of-the-art storage space for the Library’s research collections and better protecting the rare and unique items for use now and generations from now.
- Opening the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures, which has made the Library’s renowned research collection more visible and has sparked productive curiosity among its thousands of visitors.
- Laying a strong foundation for the Library’s future by launching a strategy for discovery and digital transformation at the Research Libraries, including greatly expanding collections digitization and digital infrastructure.
The Mellon Director leads the Library’s research centers—including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center; and the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street—as well as their over 400 staff members. Additionally, the Mellon Director is responsible for preserving and making accessible the Library’s approximately 45 million research items, as well as working to grow those collections.
“Always working collaboratively, offering a wise hand guided by firm commitment, Bill Kelly has been not just the steward of the most publicly used research collection on the planet, even doubling it in size (sic!), he has transformed its use in ways that ensure its centrality. He has invited in the research community for countless meetings and fellowships and exhibitions and programs, advised by a renewed cadre of great curators and colleagues to win new collections and protect and make usable all we have, in person and online. He protected what needed to be held dear, and innovated what needed to be carefully rethought,” said New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx. “We cannot thank Bill enough for his vision, commitment, work, and accomplishments, which will impact the Library for generations to come. He leaves the research libraries, and indeed all of NYPL, so much stronger to do what lies ahead. While he will be so sorely missed, we congratulate him and Sally on their wonderful retirement. We wish him the very best.”
Before his time at the Library, Kelly held the position of interim chancellor at CUNY, chairman of the Research Foundation of the City University of New York (a foundation that manages private and government-sponsored programs at CUNY), and president of the CUNY Graduate Center. He is also a trustee and former chairman of the board of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
“It was a privilege to lead one of the world’s premier research institutions, playing even a small part in its storied history, and ensuring that it continues to preserve the world’s knowledge and make it accessible to all,” said Kelly. “I am proud of what we have accomplished during my time here, and thank the staff for their support, their commitment, and their hard work.”
A nationwide search will be conducted for a new Library Mellon Director. In the interim, the position will be filled by Brent Reidy, the Library’s current Senior Director for Digital Research. Reidy began his NYPL career as the Deputy Director and later Interim Executive Director of the Library for the Performing Arts before taking the lead on new Digital Research initiatives, projects that were always critical to the Library’s future but took on additional significance during the pandemic, when research libraries were temporarily closed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Reidy helped lead the research libraries through this difficult chapter of rapid digital transformation with success.
“The Library’s research centers will be in good hands with Brent, whose respect for material archives and primary research is matched only by his innovative spirit and passion for finding new ways to connect researchers with the materials that they need,” said Kelly.
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