By Brian C. Jones
Rhode Island Library Report
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Feb. 28, 2013) – Howard Boksenbaum, the state chief library officer who helped shepherd not only the state’s libraries but Rhode Island state government into the digital age, has announced he’ll retire on June 30.
Boksenbaum has headed the state Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS) since January, 2007, and has been part of state government for 25 years.
The announcement was posted on the OLIS Website Feb. 20. A voice mail message on Boksenbaum’s telephone extension today said he’ll be away from his office until April 4, and the Library Report was not immediately able to reach him for comment.
In his Website announcement, Boksenbaum said that he is retiring confident that “…. RI libraries will continue to find for every reader her or his book and for every book its reader, regardless of what it is we will be calling ‘books’ in the future.”
“I depart from the Office of Library and Information Services secure in the knowledge that I am leaving behind an extraordinary staff that will continue to point Rhode Island libraries in the direction of the future and the excitement that waits there,” he wrote.
Tom Viall, chair of the state Library Board, which advises the state on library policy, said this morning that Boksenbaum will “be greatly missed,” and that he leaves behind a “tremendous staff” at OLIS.
“He has done a remarkable job at a difficult time for libraries across Rhode Island,” because of tight budgets, Viall said, noting the temporary closing of the Central Falls library when that city entered bankruptcy and other strains on the public library system.
“He has really been an advocate and worked with the General Assembly in making sure that library services survived,” Viall said in a phone interview.
Viall said that Boksenbaum has had “a very, very clear vision of what the responsibility of OLIS is – to make sure that everyone in Rhode Island has access to superior library service.”
The Office of Library and Information Services, which distributes more than $10 million in state and federal aid to libraries annually, is within the Department of Administration, and Viall said the Library Board will ask DOA Director Richard Licht to allow the panel to have a role in selecting Boksenbaum’s successor.
Viall said he believes there will be a national search to fill the post.
When Boksenbaum was named chief library officer, a state announcement at the time said he was then assistant director for central information management services at the state Division of Information Technology.
“Mr. Boksenbaum had a major role in bringing state government online, including the creation of RI.gov and in establishing the statewide interoperable public safety communication network,” that announcement said.
He has a linguistics degree from Washington University in St. Louis and Waseda University in Tokyo, according to that earlier announcement. He has a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
In last week's Web posting, Boksenbaum said that “I am retiring to bloom in some other areas of life that my work in the library and information world has let me neglect. I suspect my departure will be less of a removal from the library world than a transition to library user and advocate. Thanks to all who have made my life in libraries a pleasure.”