Dr. Paul LeClerc to Retire as President of The New York Public Library

November 18, 2009, New York, NY—Dr. Paul LeClerc, the French literature scholar who has guided The New York Public Library into the digital age—one of the most dramatic transitions in its history—has announced that he will retire from his position as President in the summer of 2011. 

At a meeting of its Board of Trustees today, Dr. LeClerc said he is “both astonished and pleased at how much our library system has changed” in his 16 years at the helm.

Today  the Library is open at its 89 sites more hours than at any time in the last 35 years.  Dr. LeClerc has overseen the merging of the branch and research library systems, over $500 million in capital projects, the creation of notable programs and exhibitions, and a more than twofold increase in the Library’s endowment. Users pay 18 million physical visits to the Library each year, in addition to more than 26 million global visits online.

"I'm more enthusiastic about the Library's mission and service to its public than ever before, and look forward to all we will accomplish during the remainder of my tenure,” said Dr. LeClerc.  “The present momentum behind the Library, with the number of users depending on us at record levels, is a source of great pride for me, the Trustees, and all the staff.  I am excited about the strength of the organization that my successor will inherit, and am pleased to be working with the Board of Trustees to ensure a sound transition with the participation of all the Library's constituents.  Serving as the President of The New York Public Library, with the chance to work with so many to transform it in wonderful and important ways, is the highest honor I’ve ever been given."

“With intellect, determination, creativity, and a passionate belief in our mission, Paul LeClerc has led the Library to unprecedented levels of accomplishment,” said Catherine Marron, Chairman of the Library’s Board of Trustees. “Through years filled with opportunity and challenge Paul has been driven to provide the best possible services to the public. By expanding access to the Library through digital technology, building major new libraries, acquiring important collections, expanding hours, hiring stellar staff, and developing plans to strengthen the Library in the years ahead, he has built a legacy woven into every corner of the organization, which will continue to grow far into the future.”

A committee headed by Mrs. Marron and Vice Chairman Joshua L. Steiner will begin the search for a new Library President.  “With today’s announcement Paul has provided us with the opportunity to ensure a smooth transition in leadership, giving us ample time to conduct a thorough search to fill this unique leadership position,” said Mrs. Marron.

Dr. LeClerc came to The New York Public Library in 1993 from Hunter College where he had been President since 1988.  He spearheaded the creation of a digital library, launching the first NYPL.org website—and continues to oversee the digitization of the Library’s catalog; its 700,000 image Digital Gallery; and the vastly growing field of downloadable e-books, videos, and music.  The Library, which recently created an integrated catalog of research and circulating materials representing 14 million items, has also entered into new partnerships with Google, Flickr, Apple (iTunes U), Kirtas Technologies, and numerous others that provide expanded access to the Library’s resources.  All of the Library’s branches now provide free wireless access to the Internet, and the Library  offers 3,600 free public-access computers, with training for those new to computers.

A priority for Dr. LeClerc has been to make major improvements to the Library’s physical resources. He oversaw the creation of six new libraries, including the 78,000-square-foot Bronx Library Center, and facilitated the renovation of the Library’s glittering Deborah, Jonathan F.P., Samuel Priest, and Adam Raphael Rose Main Reading Room in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.  Other large-scale renovations have included The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the current restoration of the monumental façade of the Stephen A. Schwarzman building.

During his years at the Library Dr. LeClerc has also helped bring numerous major new collections to its research divisions, including the archives of Merce Cunningham; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Malcolm X (on deposit for 75 years); Jack Kerouac; Henry Miller; Jerome Robbins; and The New York Times—as well as the film and video archives of Rudolf Nureyev. He also established the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and LIVE from the NYPL—featuring acclaimed writers, artists, and thinkers.

Dr. LeClerc is currently working with the Library’s Board of Trustees and staff to implement new strategies establishing the “Library for the Future” as a leader in growing New York City’s human and intellectual capital—offering tailored services to fulfill diverse user needs, developing its leading online presence, and adapting the organization to provide seamless and efficient service through a single system of 89 libraries.  The strategies include a bold new plan to create a central library with combined research and circulating collections in the landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.  Dr. LeClerc has also overseen two highly successful fundraising campaigns.  The Library is now securing the funding for a $1.2 billion transformation project.

Today, the Trustees and Dr. LeClerc are steering the Library through one of the most difficult economic climates since the Great Depression.  Visits and circulation have risen substantially as New Yorkers turn to the Library for help.  By maintaining funding and implementing managerial and operational strategies, the Library has dramatically  increased its hours of operation—becoming a critical resource for job seekers and other users relying upon the variety of free services it offers.


Dr. Paul LeClerc

Paul LeClerc was born in Lebanon, New Hampshire, the grandchild of French Canadian immigrants.  French was spoken in his childhood home and formed the basis of his later interest in French language and culture. Raised in Queens, he attended parochial schools there. LeClerc graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1963 and spent the next academic year studying at the Sorbonne.  He completed a Ph.D. in French literature with distinction at Columbia University, writing a dissertation on Voltaire.

Dr. LeClerc was a member of the faculty of Union College in Schenectady, New York, from 1966 through 1979, where he chaired the Department of Modern Languages and the Division of Humanities.  In 1979 he joined the central administration of The City University of New York, the nation's largest urban university system, as University Dean for Academic Affairs, later becoming Acting Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.  In 1984 he was appointed Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs of Baruch College, CUNY, home of the largest business school in America. 

In 1988, Dr. LeClerc was appointed President of Hunter College, the largest public institution of higher education in New York City.  Under Dr. LeClerc's leadership, Hunter, which provides an education from kindergarten through to the Ph.D., adopted the nation's most comprehensive and diverse undergraduate requirements and moved into 12th place nationally in awarding degrees to minority students.

David Remnick described Dr. LeClerc in The New Yorker as “an unassumingly brilliant administrator and Voltaire scholar.”  LeClerc is the author or co-editor of five scholarly volumes on writers of the French Enlightenment and his contributions to French culture earned him the Order of the Academic Palms (Officier) in 1989 and the French Legion of Honor (Chevalier) in 1996.

Dr. LeClerc has received honorary doctorates from Oxford University, the University of Paris III-La Nouvelle Sorbonne, and Brown University, among others, and he is currently a Trustee of The New York Public Library, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Union College, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the American Academy in Rome, the National Book Foundation, and the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation.  President Clinton appointed him to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is also a member of the American Philosophical Society.

Dr. LeClerc has been married for 29 years to Judith Ginsberg, Executive Director of the Nash Family Foundation in New York City.

The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library operates 89 libraries (including research and branch libraries) in the boroughs of the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island.  It is one of the world’s most recognized and respected library systems with collections of more than 50 million items, staff of 2,700 and an annual budget of $254 million. It serves an immensely diverse range of users, from pre-school children to adults needing basic literacy skills in English or help in bridging the digital divide, to world-class writers and scholars. The Library currently receives 18 million visits annually by users to its physical sites and more than 26 million visits by those who use its resources via the Internet.

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