May 19, 2022

Arizona State University Names James J. O’Donnell as University Librarian

Note From Gary: “Congratulations to Jim O’Donnell and his wife (a longtime and important member of our profession and someone I consider both a mentor and friend, Ann Okerson) on the appointment to lead the ASU Library.

From Arizona State University:

Libraries have always bridged past and present, preserving and innovating. To lead ASU’s libraries in a transformative time, Arizona State University has today named James J. O’Donnell, former Georgetown provost, classicist and pioneer in emerging digital technologies, to the post of university librarian.

O’Donnell will fill the position vacated by Sherrie Schmidt, who retired as university librarian on June 30, after 20 years of leadership. O’Donnell will also be a professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His appointment takes effect Feb. 3, 2015.


“Institutions whose libraries see beyond themselves will be immensely the stronger for it,” O’Donnell said. “We need to cherish, care for and make alive and accessible all that we’ve inherited, as well as stimulate, animate and support the adventures of students, researchers and faculty working to add to or transcend that inheritance.”

O’Donnell received his bachelor of arts degree at Princeton and doctorate from Yale. He served as provost and professor of classics at Georgetown University for a decade, after a career at Bryn Mawr, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and served as president of the American Philological Association. He now chairs the board of directors of the American Council of Learned Societies. He was a pioneer in the scholarly study of late antiquity, including “Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace” (1998), “Augustine: A New Biography” (2005), and “The Ruin of the Roman Empire” (2008). His new book, “Pagans,” will be published by HarperCollins in 2015.

O’Donnell has also been engaged in digital innovation for almost 25 years, starting with the establishment of the oldest online open access journal in the humanities, “Bryn Mawr Classical Review.” He taught the first MOOC in 1994, introducing 500 students around the world to the work and thought of St. Augustine. He served from 1996-2002 as the chief information officer of the University of Pennsylvania.


“The future of libraries is now ours for the making,” agreed O’Donnell. “ASU is a place where exciting futures are made all the time, and I’m delighted to be joining this extraordinary community.”

See Also: Summary of a Harvard Library Strategic Conversation on “The Future of the Book”
Jim O’Donnell was a speaker at this event.

See Also: UbiLib: When the Library is Everywhere
A 2011 IFLA conference paper by Jim O’Donnell.

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.