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Dean of Libraries Sarah Pritchard plans to retire in 2022

Longtime dean led transformation of library services

Sarah Pritchard, Northwestern University’s Dean of Libraries and Charles Deering McCormick University Librarian for the past 15 years, will retire in 2022 after a venerable 45-year career in research and academic libraries, Provost Kathleen Hagerty announced today.

Sarah Pritchard
Sarah Pritchard

During her time at Northwestern, Pritchard has led a strategic transformation of library facilities and services that put the evolving needs of students and faculty at the forefront through new and innovative partnerships. Northwestern’s libraries have also expanded their collections during Pritchard’s tenure, particularly in digital, unique archival and rare holdings.

As dean, Pritchard manages the University Library, Deering Library, Seeley G. Mudd Library, the Schaffner Library on the Chicago campus, and the Oak Grove Library Center in Waukegan. She also oversees the Northwestern University Press and manages shared services with the law, medical and NU-Qatar libraries. Pritchard will continue as dean through the academic year and will step down Aug. 31, 2022. The University will name a committee to launch a global search for her successor soon, Hagerty said.

“Northwestern is home to some of the world’s great thinkers and researchers,” Hagerty said. “Dean Pritchard has ensured Northwestern’s libraries have met the needs of our community of scholars, even as the methods by which we gather and share information have rapidly changed.”

Pritchard led a number of major facilities initiatives, including the construction of the Oak Grove Library Center, the transformation of Mudd Library, the restoration of the Deering Library west lobby and entry plaza, and the redesign of the first floor of University Library to expand student collaborative space. The libraries raised more than $78 million as part of Northwestern’s recently completed “We Will” Campaign, attracting donor support for collections, technologies, public programming and future renovations.

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Dean Pritchard has ensured Northwestern’s libraries have met the needs of our community of scholars, even as the methods by which we gather and share information have rapidly changed.

Provost Kathleen Hagerty

She enhanced campus collaborations with academic departments, student groups, Information Technology, The Block Museum of Art and other units. Pritchard also strengthened and integrated diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility initiatives in the libraries, establishing formal leadership and allocating resources for these efforts. Collaborations also helped to expand support for Black and Native American studies at Northwestern. Pritchard hired two successful directors for the Northwestern University Press, revamping budget models and editorial strategies that significantly improved its stability.

Pritchard noted that these accomplishments were possible only because of an outstanding team of staff and librarians who also collectively rose to the challenge of ensuring library services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

A prolific academic writer and international speaker who is fluent in French, Pritchard is known for her early initiatives in the emerging field of women’s studies librarianship and for research on assessment of library technologies. Pritchard promotes a consortial approach to library resources, notably through the Big Ten Academic Alliance, the Center for Research Libraries and the Chicago Collections Consortium. She currently serves on the board of the Association of Research Libraries and has held leadership roles in other national and state-level groups.

Before coming to Northwestern, Pritchard worked as the university librarian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and as director of libraries at Smith College. She also served as associate executive director at the Association of Research Libraries and held several positions in reference and collection development at the Library of Congress, including as its first subject specialist in women’s studies. Pritchard received the American Library Association Equality Award and the Association of College & Research Libraries Career Achievement Award for her work in women’s studies and workplace equity.