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Meeting of the Board of Regents | October 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 - 8:00am

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Jeffrey Cannell, Deputy Commissioner 


Appointment to the Position of Assistant Commissioner for Libraries and NYS Librarian


October 20, 2008






Issue for Decision


Appointment of Bernard A. Margolis to the position of Assistant Commissioner for Libraries and New York State Librarian.

Reason(s) for Consideration


Following the retirement of Janet M. Welch in June a national search for a successor was launched.  The importance of New York’s leadership for shaping policy nationally is well known, and the resulting pool of applicants for the job was strong in number and quality.  To ensure diversity in the pool of applicants, efforts included telephone, electronic mail and letter solicitation of organizations, postings to websites of library associations, colleges and university, and individuals in a position to make recommendations, as well as follow-up phone calls to each nominee to encourage his/her candidacy.  The search committee, chaired by Elizabeth Hood, Director, Office of Educational Television and Public Broadcasting, included individuals representing a school library system, an academic library, a library council (one of the "3Rs"), the NY Library Association, and a library system. NYSED representatives came from the Offices of Operations and Management Services, Professions, Archives, Educational Television & Public Broadcasting, Research Library, Library Development, and the Museum. In addition, the two major employee unions, PEF and CSEA, were also represented.   The committee’s recommendation was based on probing interviews and thorough background checks.  After additional interviews and reference checks, we enthusiastically recommend Bernard A. Margolis for the position of Assistant Commissioner for Libraries and State Librarian.


Background Information


Bernard A. Margolis served as the President of Boston Public Library (BPL), Boston, Massachusetts, from 1997 to 2008. BPL is the oldest municipal public library in the country, with 27 neighborhood branches. The Library’s collections of over 34 million items include the library of President John Adams, Shakespeare’s first folio, Gutenberg’s Catholicon, and many other unique and rare materials. BPL is a member of the Association of Research Libraries.


Mr. Margolis’s significant achievements as BPL president include expansion of branch library hours; appointment of a children’s librarian in every branch; creation of a nationally recognized Homework Assistance Program and on-line tutoring program; implementation of Reading Readiness to prepare preschoolers for school success; creation of local history centers in eight branch libraries; creation of the award-winning Norman B. Leventhal Map Center; development of a collection conservation program; and growth of the BPL’s trust funds from $37 million to $55 million. Under Mr. Margolis’s leadership, BPL secured $7 million of direct grants and $18 million in federal funds for technology improvements and many foundation grants, designated gift funds, and major bequests.


Mr. Margolis led the effort to restore and renovate the historic central library building, securing funding from a number of sources. He worked with the City of Boston to establish a critical repair fund, allowing BPL to address building and equipment repairs in a timely manner. BPL collaborated with other cultural institutions and more than 4,500 different community groups and organizations.


Mr. Margolis holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in Librarianship, both from the University of Denver.  His library experience includes management and executive positions in libraries and library systems in Colorado and Michigan. Just prior to moving to Boston, he served as Director/CEO of the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs (from 1988 to 1997).


Mr. Margolis’s stature in the library field is demonstrated by a number of elected positions within the American Library Association, leadership in the Association of Research Libraries, service as a professional delegate to the White House Conference on Libraries, and service on the boards of library organizations in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Michigan. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Library Administration and Bottom Line: The Magazine of Library Financial Management. He has contributed to several books and has published articles in American Libraries, Pub­lic Libraries, and Library Journal.


Mr. Margolis is known for his intelligence, innovation, advocacy skills, integrity and humanity. He has a clear vision for libraries, a successful record of securing re­sources, and a proven ability to manage change.




We are very pleased to recommend Bernard A. Margolis to the Board for its consideration.

Timetable for Implementation


Appointment of Bernard A. Margolis as Assistant Commissioner for Libraries and State Librarian be approved, effective on a date to be determined in January 2009.