Judith Nadler to retire after nearly five-decade career at University of Chicago Library

After a distinguished 48-year career, Library Director and University Librarian Judith Nadler, who oversaw the planning and construction of the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, will retire on June 30, 2014. A national search is underway to identify her successor.

Under Nadler’s leadership, the University of Chicago Library flourished as a prized and effective research tool for students and faculty. With its 11.9 million volumes, noted collections in fields ranging from sociology to the history of science, rich selection of non-English holdings and commitment to keeping its collection on campus, the Library has become a destination for scholars and a model for other institutions worldwide.   

A frequently consulted expert on library science, Nadler is known for her broad expertise, unlimited energy, conceptual acuity and deep devotion to both the Library and the University of Chicago.

“Judi has tirelessly pursued new opportunities, enhanced every aspect of the Library and demonstrated continuously expert and nimble leadership,” Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum wrote in a message to faculty on March 17. “We are indebted to Judi for her keen judgment and generosity of spirit while she served as the Library’s guide, administrator and strategic planner.”

“I feel deeply privileged to have served the University and the Library for almost five decades and grateful for the opportunities given to me to serve it well. I cannot think of an environment that is more inspirational and more conducive to enabling success,” Nadler said.

“Among the achievements I am most proud of are the lasting impact of the Mansueto Library, the sustained confidence and support of the faculty, and the evidenced quality and achievements of the library staff. More than what we have done in the past, it’s about what we have built for the future, and that is what I would like to be remembered for,” she added.

The Mansueto Library, one of the crowning achievements of Nadler’s two terms as director, houses cutting-edge facilities for book preservation and digitization, as well as a high-density underground storage system with the capacity to hold 3.5 million volume equivalents. The library was designed to fulfill scholars’ needs for easy access to print resources at a time when many other research universities are moving their collections to off-site storage.

The library is named in honor of Joe Mansueto, AB’78, and MBA’80, and Rika Yoshida, AB’91, who gave a $25 million gift to the University in 2008. Architect Helmut Jahn designed the facility’s iconic glass dome, which encloses a light-filled reading room and an underground storage system that descends 50 feet below ground.

'nationally recognized and locally treasured'

Andrew Abbott, the Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology, worked closely with Nadler during the planning process for Mansueto. He described working with Nadler as “one of the greatest pleasures of my career. Her breadth of expertise, her commitment to the life of the mind, her ability to innovate boldly while maintaining traditional library values and practices: These unique qualities have led to the creation of a research library unmatched in the world. It has been an honor to work with her as a colleague and a friend.”

During her 10 years as director, Nadler also maintained six on-site libraries, built collections, explored and implemented digitization techniques, amassed electronic assets and automating services to optimize the preservation and access of vital resource materials, while cultivating a robust relationship between the Library and University faculty.

Diane Lauderdale, professor of Health Studies and chair of the Library’s faculty board, praised Nadler’s leadership and vision for the Library.

“Judi’s retirement is an occasion to celebrate her achievements and the health of the University’s library,” Lauderdale said. “Her wise leadership and understanding of research libraries are nationally recognized and locally treasured. Judi has expertly navigated the Library through changes that ensure its continued centrality to the intellectual life of the University by strengthening its staff, collections and physical environment.”

Nadler joined UChicago in 1966 as a cataloger in the Foreign Language Section of the Library’s Cataloging Department. She was successively promoted to head of the Social Sciences Section, head of the Cataloging Department, assistant director for Technical Services and then associate director of the Library.

In addition to her duties as director, Nadler currently serves as chief selector for the Library’s Judaica Collection, having raised much of the funding to build this collection.

Nadler studied history and comparative linguistics at the University of Cluj in Romania, earned an undergraduate degree in English and Romance Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a master’s degree in library science from the Israel Graduate School and pursued graduate studies in comparative literature at Hebrew University.

The search committee is chaired by Deputy Provost for Research Roy Weiss and includes Andrew Abbott, Elizabeth Asmis, Michael Geyer, Klara Jelinkova, Garrett Kiely, Diane Lauderdale, Randal Picker and James Vaughan.

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Judith Nadler

Judith Nadler

Photo by Dan Dry

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