Quinlan Installed as Dean of USC Libraries

New administrator pledges a commitment to being an innovative, inspiring and integral partner in scholarly achievements at USC.
By Dan Knapp
USC Libraries Dean Catherine Quinlan and President Steven B. Sample at the Oct. 2 installation ceremony

Photo/Steve Cohn
USC President Steven B. Sample installed Catherine Quinlan as the new dean of the USC Libraries on Oct. 2.

More than 190 USC trustees and administrators, donors and library faculty and staff joined Sample in welcoming Quinlan, who assumed leadership of the USC Libraries on Aug. 1.

Calling the libraries the “the very spirit of the place,” Sample described Quinlan as an “outstanding match” to the challenges of guiding USC’s vast library system.

“It was clear to me and to Provost Nikias that Catherine was the kind of person who likes to get things done, likes to move things forward. It was clear to me also that she is an optimist,” said Sample, a self-described optimist as well, in his introduction.

“To my mind, optimism is one of the greatest fuels for propelling vision, energy and positive, tangible impact.”

Encouraging the audience assembled in Doheny Memorial Library’s Younes and Soraya Nazarian Pavilion to think of libraries in new ways, Quinlan described a great library as one that actively participates in the creation of future scholarship.

In her address, Quinlan an internationally recognized authority on information access and digitization referenced the Biblical proverb carved in the limestone above the entrance to the pavilion and used it to illustrate the significance of libraries to higher education and the greater society while outlining her plans for supporting scholarship at USC.

“It says, simply, ‘Wise men lay up knowledge.’ Much more than an architectural detail, this proverb speaks directly to both the ideals and the practical value of libraries,” she noted.

“It acknowledges the ceaselessness of the creation of new knowledge, it declares the urgency of preservation and memory, and it underscores one of the most significant contributions a library can make to the advancement of society an appreciation of the value of past knowledge, in all its forms, and the library’s role in informing the scholarship of the future,” she explained.

Quinlan also cited a library’s ability to inspire its patrons.

“When you enter our libraries, use our collections in their many forms and take advantage of the many services we provide, I want you to experience the joys of pure wonder, the pleasures of discovery and a sense of awe at the knowledge of the universe that is available to you,” she said. “And that is why research libraries persist as institutions on our campuses and as inspirational symbols in our hearts and minds.”

Among Quinlan’s immediate goals is an increased synergy with other schools and units at USC.

“I’ve gotten to know Catherine fairly well in a short period of time, and she is an inspiration a strong, visionary leader and a terrific person,” said Howard Gillman, the newly installed dean of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, who attended the ceremony.

“We are already forging exciting collaborations that will greatly benefit the libraries, the College and the entire USC community. She’s an amazing asset for us, and we should all be very grateful that she has brought her considerable gifts to USC,” he added.

Quinlan said that collaboration must extend to organization beyond campus as well.

“We must partner with more historical, educational and arts organizations in Los Angeles, the region and the world,” she said. “Such partnerships enrich our collections as well as our stature as a cultural force on campus and beyond.”

Many Friends of the USC Libraries board members including Glenn Sonnenberg, USC trustee and Friends board president were on hand at the installation to reaffirm their support of the new dean.

“Catherine Quinlan brings a depth of experience and wealth of ideas that will continue moving our library system ahead as the center of research and learning at a world-class university,” Sonnenberg said.

“The Friends look forward to working with a leader of such vision, energy and good humor in the years to come,” he added.

Quinlan came to USC from the University of British Columbia, where she served as university librarian and managing director of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. Her work there resulted in the university securing a $30 million donation for the creation of the Centre, the largest capital gift ever for the university.

Sample said that Quinlan’s history of innovation and fund-raising excellence would be a valuable asset to the university.

“Under Dean Quinlan’s leadership, I have every confidence that this wellspring of scholarship and creativity our libraries will become the great research library at the heart of a great research university.”