US West Coast Perspective on Lynne Brindley's Career

By Keller, Michael A. | Alexandria, December 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

US West Coast Perspective on Lynne Brindley's Career


Keller, Michael A., Alexandria


The major waypoints in the arc of Lynne Brindley's career proceed from undergraduate studies of music to major assignments as Librarian at the London School of Economics, various leadership posts at the University of Leeds (Librarian, Dean of Information Strategy, Pro-Vice-Chancellor), serving for a dozen years as the Chief Executive of the British Library, and now assuming the position of Master of Pembroke College, Oxford along with her non-executive board seat with Ofcom. In that one sentence, one can appreciate the enormously strong reputation she developed in each of those leadership assignments that made her so attractive to appointing officials at each step in her career. Each provided Lynne with opportunities to exercise and hone values of stewardship of assets, sound professional and scholarly sensibilities, fundamental business principles, and quiet - but steely - leadership skills. There is no institution in which she served that is not world's better at achieving its mission and goals for her presence. The profession of librarianship, the community of cultural organizations, and the historical clutch of truly brilliant leaders of major libraries around the world has been enriched, their practices improved, and their reputations burnished in the glow of Lynne's work, particularly at the British Library. Peering into some of the accomplishments in each of the waypoints provides insight into the realities driving the generalities just expressed.

While Librarian at the British Library for Political and Economic Science of the London School of Economics (LSE), Lynne secured funding from the European Commission and engineered recognition of the LSE Library as a large-scale facility (analogous to national science facilities) for the social sciences in Europe. Lynne also led the developments that resulted in the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences becoming a sustainable national service with foci on European social sciences, provided free to the whole of the UK academic community. LSE eventually charged Lynne with oversight of the converged services of Library, academic IT, and administrative systems, something rarely achieved in any academic institution even in two of the three constituent parts. It was at LSE that Lynne, through a dialogue with the brilliant Norman Foster, led the conversion of its library into a wonderful new research library environment. She also led the major fundraising effort necessary to implement the design she and Norman Foster had conceived. Seen from the US, where it is evident that there has been an obviously inadequate dialogue in one of America's major public libraries between the no less brilliant Norman Foster and that library's leadership and constituency, one might take the measure of this one of Lynne's good works.

At the University of Leeds, Lynne recast the Library's perspective and methods in order to ensure that its services and functions were directly linked to academic research and teaching priorities. She did that with a thorough, root-and-branch cultural change programme coupled with structural reforms of its organization so that subject specialists were integrated with faculty and were seen as part of the pedagogical and research processes.

These transformations at Leeds illustrate at a second major assignment the strength of Lynne's capabilities not just as an engineer of change based on deep comprehension of the necessity of tight, responsive linkage between library services and academic programmes, but also as an astute manager of change processes as well as effective senior executive interacting both with middle management and line staff as well as with colleague leaders in the university. The Leeds Vice-Chancellor knew that Lynne had the capacity to take on wider responsibilities and higher levels of leadership, so appointed her first as Dean of Information Strategy and then as Pro-Vice-Chancellor. At that time it was unusual in the UK for a library professional to take on a wider senior university role, in which she had oversight of faculties in addition to wider corporate responsibilities. …

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