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Ken Carpenter Retires After 35 Years

As Ken Carpenter, Assistant Director for Research Resources in the Harvard University Library and the Harvard College Library, stepped down on December 31, he could count 35 years of service to Harvard's library collections. A distinguished librarian and editor, Ken is a pioneer in the world of archival microfilm and a champion of the need to bring coherence and high standards to Harvard's microfilming efforts.

"Ken's knowledge of the University's collections is formidable. He brings a unique perspective to many issues, and we value his contributions to the University Library. His fine and expansive work in his tenure as editor of the Harvard Library Bulletin is particularly noteworthy, as is his enormous support for librarians and the profession," said Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library.

Ken's first position at Harvard—as an assistant in Houghton Library—led him to Simmons College and his MSLS in 1963. After working as a reference librarian at his alma mater, Bowdoin College, he returned to Harvard to work on the Houghton Library's Bibliography of American Literature. Moving across the river in 1968, Ken became Curator of the Kress Library of Business and Economics—now part of Baker Library at the Harvard Business School (HBS). His 12-year tenure at HBS is noteworthy for the expansion in size and scope of the collection through the acquisition of non-traditional resources and through the addition of foreign-language materials.

In 1980, he was appointed Research and Publications Librarian in the Harvard University Library (HUL) by Professor Oscar Handlin, HUL's Director Emeritus. Ken is also known for his editorship of the Harvard Library Bulletin and for his tireless efforts in initiating and managing large-scale book and microform publishing and preservation projects for HUL.

Since 1993, Ken has had an instrumental role in the complex effort in Widener Library to select materials for transfer to the Harvard Depository in Southborough. This has involved devising a process for the selection and transfer of materials while ensuring that faculty and library patrons were educated and informed about the process. During this time, he also served on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Library Committee.

According to Jeffrey Horrell, Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collections, "Ken took on the responsibility for the selection process in the very early days when sending materials from the seriously overcrowded Widener collection was a new and not well-accepted fact of life at Harvard. He collaborated with faculty, graduate students, and library colleagues in making decisions about what should remain on campus and what could be transferred with the least impact on the collection and those using it. All of us appreciate the work and contributions he has made."

He is a founding member of the Librarians' Assembly, and he has helped to shape the agenda and scope of the Assembly throughout its 25-year history. He continues to reach out to new librarians, encouraging them to utilize this venue for the discussion of professional issues.

Ken's professional affiliations include the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association; the International Group of Publishing Libraries; the Antiquarian Society; the Bibliographical Society of America; and the rare books and manuscripts section of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Between 1979 and 1981 he served on the executive committee of the History of Economics Society. He is a member of the Grolier Club.

Ken Carpenter is well-known for his research on the history of libraries and librarianship. Under the auspices of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, he is about to embark with Wayne Weigand and Thomas August on a collaborative history of libraries in America. Another planned project is a comprehensive, online database of American libraries that will include name, founding date, library type, collection scope, and size. He is already working on a German translation of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. In addition to his extensive community service activities, Ken Carpenter will continue to teach at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science of the University of Rhode Island.

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Last modified on Thursday, April 18, 2002.