May 20, 2022

University of Virginia: University Librarian Karin Wittenborg to Retire at End of 2014

From UVa News:

Karin Wittenborg, university librarian and dean of libraries at the University of Virginia, will retire in December after 21 years of service as leader of the University Library system.

“Karin is an extraordinary leader, collaborator and colleague,” Executive Vice President and Provost John D. Simon said. “Under her leadership, the U.Va. Library has become nationally known for its support of the scholarly enterprise, always done in a bold and creative way.”

Wittenborg has overseen the library system’s 12 facilities and staff of more than 230 since being recruited from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1993. Today the U.Va. Library has more than 4 million books and nearly 500,000 electronic books, 16.5 million manuscripts and archives, as well as databases, images, maps, musical scores, streaming video and more. Its endowment has grown from $9 million in 1993 to $63 million, and is expected to top $70 million when a recent multi-million dollar bequest is realized.

Martha Sites, currently the deputy university librarian, will serve as interim University Librarian after December. Simon will appoint a search committee to fill the post.


Some of her changes have been unconventional (aquariums in Clemons Library) and some have been temporarily unpopular (Google Books, which created digitized versions of 450,000 books in the library’s collection). Others have been wildly successful, such as the Scholars’ Lab, an internationally known incubator for digital humanities and methodological training of graduate students in the humanities, and the development of a staff known for its creativity and customer service.

Professional development of the library staff has always been paramount for Wittenborg. She started an endowment for staff development and instituted annual supplemental awards of $1,000 for development opportunities for every member of the staff (in addition to the University’s $2,000 education benefit). Wittenborg recognized early on that technology would dominate library operations and made staff development a priority so the library could be nimble amid rapid change.

She drove the fundraising to create a separate building for special collections (the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library and the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature, and Culture), and renovated the Charles L. Brown Science and Engineering Library with help from Brown’s widow, Ann Lee Brown, who provided a $5 million endowment.

During her time at U.Va., the Ivy Stacks, the library’s off-site, high-density shelving facility, opened on Old Ivy Road. In 2010, the University provided funds to retrofit the building with an automated shelving system. By 2012, the project was complete and the building’s capacity was doubled.

She has also collaborated with institutions worldwide to tackle the rapidly growing and expensive challenge of preservation. She was instrumental in securing major grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and, with former Vice President and University Chief Information Officer James Hilton, helped launch the Digital Preservation Network, a national collaboration of universities to create a robust, sustainable and scalable solution for preserving scholarly work. She also led the creation of the network’s regional hub, the Academic Preservation Trust.

Read the Complete Announcement For More on Karin Wittenborg’s Accomplishments

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.