Former Georgetown University Provost Jim O’Donnell was named as Arizona State University’s librarian Monday. O’Donnell, who is currently a classics professor at Georgetown, will begin his new position in February after over 12 years at Georgetown.
According to University President John J. DeGioia, O’Donnell’s work as a professor and provost greatly propelled Georgetown forward in its academic pursuits.
“Jim has had an extraordinary career as a scholar, professor and university administrator, serving Georgetown with distinction as provost and professor of classics for more than a dozen years,” DeGioia wrote in a statement. “As provost, he oversaw our academic mission with unparalleled commitment to excellence during a time of significant progress for the university.”
DeGioia said that O’Donnell will be greatly missed but will also serve as a valuable asset for ASU.
“We are deeply grateful for all that Jim has contributed to our Georgetown community as an inspiring colleague, leader, teacher, scholar and friend,” DeGioia wrote. “I know that his experience and deep commitment to advancing scholarship will greatly benefit the ASU community as they have for Georgetown for so many years.”
As university librarian, O’Donnell will work to fit ASU’s libraries into the rapidly modernizing world.
“My job there will be to point the way forward, preserving what’s important about what we have but building the new as well,” O’Donnell wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We have a chance there to reinvent the spaces we work in, and that’s exciting, but also to reinvent ‘collecting’ books and other materials to take into account new technologies and new business models. It’s all exciting and scary, but ASU is also a very forward-looking and ambitious institution. I really like that.”
O’Donnell said that his experience as provost has helped prepare him for the job as a “soldier” in the academic world.
“Probably best to think of me as a soldier, engaged my whole career in the war on ignorance,” O’Donnell wrote. “Georgetown for me was a wonderful opportunity to lead a faculty of great, committed people to achieve more than we ever thought possible. The library world is different: We fight with different weapons in different ways, but it’s all the same war.”
During his tenure as provost, O’Donnell helped lead the President’s Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness. Additionally, he overhauled faculty compensation and helped to ensure a large increase in student financial aid.
This semester, O’Donnell is teaching a business administration course called “Learning to Think Globally,” as well as an Ignatius Seminar for freshmen in the College.
ASU Dean of Humanities George Justice was on the selection committee for the new head librarian, and said that O’Donnell stood out in the application pool. As provost at Georgetown from 2002 to 2012, chief information officer at the University of Pennsylvania and professor at a variety of institutions such as Cornell University and Bryn Mawr College, his vast experience in academia made him ASU’s top choice.
“Jim O’Donnell brings a vision for the future of information, a respect for the history and importance of libraries, and senior level executive experience to Arizona State University,” Justice wrote in an email to The Hoya. “No other candidate in our very deep pool had this very unusual set of talents and experiences.”
Justice said he hopes that O’Donnell will forge ASU’s libraries ahead into the technological age.
“I have very high hopes that he will have a direct impact on making our librarians even more useful to students, faculty and staff,” Justice wrote. “And beyond that, I believe his presence will invigorate research and education not only in his own area of the humanities but across the wide range of academic subjects that we pursue at ASU.”