Northern Illinois University

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Arthur Young
Arthur Young

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

April 18, 2006

Library dean closing the book on illustrious career

DeKalb, Ill. — Arthur Young is writing the final chapter on his career as dean of University Libraries.

Young, who led substantial growth and major advances in the library system at Northern Illinois University, will retire June 1. A reception in his honor will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday, April 28, at the Barsema Alumni & Visitors Center.

“It's been a distinct pleasure for me to work with Art,” said NIU Provost Ivan Legg. “The library plays such a central role in university life, and Art does an excellent job making library services available and easily accessible to the university community.

“In addition, he's a scholar himself who has published many articles and is very active in professional associations, often in leadership roles,” Legg added. “We've been lucky to have him.”

Young is concluding a 42-year career as an academic librarian, library administrator and teacher of library science and history. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and headed libraries at the University of South Carolina at Columbia and the University of Rhode Island before coming to NIU in 1993, when he was appointed library director.

Six years later, he was named as NIU's first library dean in a move meant to accentuate the importance of library services on campus.

“The one question he has asked me most often is, ‘How will it affect our users?' He always puts our patrons first,” said Mary Munroe, associate dean of University Libraries. She will serve as interim dean upon Young's retirement.

“Art has many accomplishments, but he also is a very supportive colleague,” she added. “He's been a good mentor to me.”

University Libraries operates Founders Memorial Library and a number of branches, including the libraries at NIU campuses in Naperville, Rockford and Hoffman Estates.

Last year, University Libraries celebrated the acquisition of its 2 millionth volume, placing it in the top 3 percent of academic libraries nationwide. In addition to growing in size and stature, the library has experienced other enhancements under Young's watch. Highlights include:

  • The introduction of Document Express Service, which provides interlibrary loan-article delivery within four days from anywhere in the world.
  • Technology enhancements for improved database access and digitization projects.
  • Expansion of the American popular culture collection, which has included acquisition of the world's best Horatio Alger and Edward Stratemeyer collections. (Young himself is an Alger scholar.)
  • Expansion of the Donn V. Hart Collection of Southeast Asian materials, recognized as being among the top five Southeast Asian collections nationwide.
  • The addition of a $5 million compact-storage facility in the basement of Founders Memorial Library. The facility has capacity for 750,000 volumes.
  • Revitalization of fundraising efforts that have brought in $3 million in grants and donations.

Young also piloted development of University Libraries' nationally-recognized digitization unit. It has won numerous grants to digitize scholarly materials for the Web on Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and various episodes of Illinois history.

“Dean Young is clearly responsible for the founding and growth of the digitization unit,” said Drew VandeCreek, the unit's director. “He led a big push to bring the Lincoln Project to NIU and has used library resources to support our work. I believe that we are the only operation of our kind in the world.”

Over the course of his career, Young has amassed more than 200 publications, including eight books. He serves on the editorial boards of three scholarly journals. He also has chaired many statewide library committees and is a past president of the Illinois Library Association, which named him Illinois Academic Librarian of the Year in 2001.

Young said he is most proud, however, of presiding over University Libraries' smooth transition into the 21 st century. “The electronic resources have just mushroomed over the last 13 years,” he said. “It's been a real privilege to be directing a library during this momentous change in the information landscape.”

Originally from Boston, Young said he plans to return to the area. He has purchased a home in the university town of Durham, New Hampshire.

“The thing I'll miss most about NIU is the good friends I've made here and the really pleasant environment of working at the university,” Young said. “I've never had an unhappy day, not one, working at NIU. And it's nice to say that at the end of the trail.”

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