Closing the Book: University Librarian Deborah Jakubs to Retire in 2022

Deborah Jakubs arrived at Duke University Libraries in 1983. She was appointed University Librarian in 2005.

Earlier this fall, Deborah Jakubs, the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs, announced that she will retire in May 2022, following nearly four decades of service at Duke University.

Jakubs, whose career at Duke began in 1983, was named University Librarian in 2005. During the last seventeen years, she has led Duke University Libraries through significant changes in the scholarly publishing environment, new trends in teaching and research, Duke’s increased emphasis on global engagement, and a broadening of the Libraries’ roles and partnerships across campus.

“The Duke Libraries are first and foremost a community of dedicated people committed to teaching, learning, and research,” said Jakubs. “I chose to spend my career at Duke thanks to the excellence of our staff, the collaborative partnerships we enjoy with the faculty, the students who come to regard our libraries as a second home, and the strong support of alumni who recall their time here with gratitude and fondness.”

The Libraries’ physical presence on campus has changed significantly during Jakubs’ tenure, including the dedication of Bostock Library and the von der Heyden Pavilion, the renovation of Perkins and Rubenstein Libraries, the construction of The Link and The Edge, and the expansion of the Library Service Center. Planning is now underway for the renovation and expansion of Lilly Library on East Campus.

“All of us at Duke are grateful for Deborah’s extraordinary service,” said Duke President Vincent E. Price. “In her time as University Librarian, she has overseen a transformation of Duke Libraries to make them more inclusive, innovative, and responsive to the needs of our students, faculty, staff, and neighbors. We can truly be proud of the Duke Libraries she leaves behind, which are more vibrant and vital than ever.”

Under Jakubs’ leadership, the Duke University Libraries have emerged as one of the top ten private research library systems in the country, recognized nationally for addressing pressing issues in scholarly communication, new forms of publications, collaborative collection building, assessment and user experience, and diversity and equity in services and recruitment.

“Deborah has led Duke Libraries through a period of remarkable growth and evolution in the role and function of university library systems,” Provost Sally Kornbluth said. “From her early efforts to expand services and resources supporting international scholarship, and throughout her tenure as University Librarian, she has ensured that Duke’s library resources and services are responsive to both user needs and new developments in the technologies and best practices for delivering scholarly support.”

Clockwise from far left: Deborah Jakubs speaking at the re-opening of the Rubenstein Library, 2015; with Duke Trustee Paula Burger, David Ferriero, and Duke President Richard H. Brodhead, 2013; with the Rubenstein Library Renovation Team, 2013; leading a trip to Chile and Argentina with the Duke Alumni Association, 2012; with Ariel Dorfman, Angélica Malinarich, and Josefina Tiryakian, 1993.

During her tenure, the Libraries have prioritized cultivating an inclusive community as one of the organization’s five guiding principles and have established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council (DivE-In) to provide leadership and engage staff to advance this work.

Jakubs has been a visible and active member of the Duke community in her work with various university councils and committees, including the President’s Campaign Cabinet; the Steering Committee for the Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation; the Provost’s Committee on Rethinking Doctoral Education; the Humanities Writ Large Steering Committee; and numerous others.

Beyond Duke, Jakubs has also taken leading roles in organizations and consortia that have benefited researchers locally, regionally, nationally, and worldwide. She has chaired and served on the board of directors of the Association of Research Libraries, the Center for Research Libraries, the Open Library Foundation, and the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries. In her role as chair of the Open Library Environment (OLE) Board of Directors, she has contributed to the development of FOLIO, an open-source, community-based library services platform in collaboration with research libraries in the United States, Europe, and China. She has also served on numerous external review committees at other universities.

Jakubs in 1995 with Richard Ekman of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (left) and Peter Lange (center), Professor of Political Science and Duke University Provost (1999-2014).

“Deborah has been the perfect leader for a library system in a rapidly changing world,” said Ann Q. Curry, Chairman and Chief Client Strategist at Coxe Curry and Associates and chair of the Duke Library Advisory Board. “She is both nimble and thoughtful; a builder of beautiful library spaces and a change agent for the space the library occupies in the university. She has constructed a strong, diverse staff, raising the library’s reputation nationally. And, along with all these scholarly accomplishments, she is, speaking as someone who traveled to Colombia with her, just plain fun.”

Jakubs earned her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1973; her M.A. from Stanford University in 1975; her M.L.I.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981; and her Ph.D. in Latin American History from Stanford in 1986.

Her first position at Duke in 1983 was as a General Bibliographer. She was named Librarian for Latin America and Iberia in 1986 and Head of Collection Development in 1990. In 1991, in response to an international turn in teaching and research at Duke, Jakubs created the Libraries’ International and Area Studies Department. She served as head of that department for eight years before being promoted to Associate University Librarian for Collections Services in 1998, then University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs in 2005.

As her retirement approaches, the Office of the Provost and a faculty-led search committee are overseeing the search for a new University Librarian. In the meantime, Jakubs is focusing her energies on finalizing plans and fundraising for the Lilly Project, which will cap off a long chapter of expansion and renewal in the history of the Duke University Libraries for which she will be remembered.