Michael Barker, the current Director of Institutional Research and Assessment, will replace Elisabeth Tully as the new Director of Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), effective July 1, 2015. Although Barker will be the new Director of the OWHL, he will also be keeping his current job, which entails researching and analyzing data that the administration uses to make decisions.
“It’s a blending of both roles, and I think the combining of these two different positions is a great opportunity for [Andover] to create one big research hub where a faculty, staff or a student can come anytime to ask any questions they may have, whether it’s related to a library research project or analyzing data,” said Barker.
“I’m fascinated with what libraries can do for the community and how people, especially students, use the information they have access to. Google doesn’t necessarily get you all the way in the research process. There’s a great deal of information literacy and understanding how to find good research that I think factors into how kids grow and how they approach solving problems in the future,” he continued.
Barker said that one of the most important part of his job will be listen to the desires of members of the community.
“For example, a lot of people have different ideas on how to use community space or buildings and resources, and I’m interested in what everyone has to say. I love the analogy of the library as the heart of the campus, and I almost wonder if over time we can think of the library as the central nervous system of campus, where it receives a lot of different feedback and reports it back out to the community,” said Barker.
In an email to the Andover community, Head of School John Palfrey wrote, “I have every confidence that [Barker] will take on this new position with vigor and great skill. This position will encompass the duties of library director as well as matters of institutional research. It is my view that libraries have a greater, not lesser, role to play in communities in the era of digital technologies than in our analog past.”
“In this expansion of the duties of this position, and through [Barker’s] appointment, I expect that the role that the OWHL plays at the very center of our community life will continue to grow richer and yet more connected. [Barker] is just the person to build upon the great tradition of our library, on which Elisabeth Tully and others have built and to establish great new connections and pathways into the future,” he continued.
Barker said that the most exciting part of his new position will be combining the various skill sets required for his role.
“No other school is considering about how a library can work in this way. We are constantly thinking about what the library is today and how we can redefine it for the community,” said Barker.
This is not the first time Barker will be working at a library, as he served in a variety of significant leadership roles in the Harvard Library, both at the university level and as the manager of a major unit at the Harvard Law School Library, before his transition to Andover about a year and a half ago.
“There was a period two years ago where Harvard had a great big idea to rethink how libraries worked for the university. They asked me to be on a special team that rethought how the libraries would operate. In a way, it was an institutional research on libraries, how users used the library system in each school and what materials, resources they were using to run the whole system,” he said.
Since joining the Andover faculty in May 2013, Barker said that his experience at Andover has exceeded his expectations.
“My time here has been absolutely fantastic. It’s a campus that talks a lot about important issues such as class, gender, race. I think it’s really healthy and I take a little personal pride in being part of that discussion and facilitating it through various methods such as the school-wide survey we implemented last year,” he said.
Barker looks forward to interacting with students in discussions on how to improve using library space in the future, as well as including them in analyzing data.
“If you look around the library at night, it’s over 300 students looking for a seat, not adults. I hope I can work with the students and think about ways we can bring various disciplines together, such as [Independent Projects],” said Barker.
Barker will be working closely with the Dean of Students, librarians and the Tang Institute in his new position.
The search committee for the new position included Trish Russell, LaShonda Long, Erik Morales, Mary Mulligan and Nancy Jeton.