Arts News: Passing the Leadership Baton at Linda Hall Library

Eric Dorfman (Linda Hall Library)

As the Linda Hall Library approaches the 80th anniversary of its founding in 1946, Eric Dorfman has assumed the library’s presidency, following a national search by its Board of Trustees. “He is a scientist, professor and author passionate about community engagement, education and conservation,” said Board of Trustees Chair Marilyn Bartlett Hebenstreit.

Dorfman succeeds Lisa Browar, who has retired after leading the library for the past 15 years.

He comes to Linda Hall from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, where he served as director and chief executive officer, and from the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University, where he continues to serve as an adjunct research professor.

Dorfman holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California San Diego, a master’s from San Jose State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney (Australia). His research interests are varied, but most recently include urban ecology, in particular the interactions of wetland birds with built landscapes.

Dorfman said he is “thrilled to join one of the most prestigious science institutions in the United States,” and credited “the long-standing vision of the Hall and Bartlett families to support the pursuit of knowledge, along with their investment in world-class collections (for creating) a truly remarkable resource locally and internationally.”

“The library acts as a beacon of science for the region,” he said, “and builds on Kansas City’s commitment to being an intersection of arts, culture, and innovation.”

Of his new home, Dorfman said he is “excited by Kansas City’s vibrant cultural life and national reputation for the arts, especially jazz,” and the opportunity “to interact with the library’s neighbor UMKC, as well as the many other excellent tertiary institutions in the city.”

He is “looking forward,” he added, “to continuing the legacy of President Lisa Browar” and praised her “knowledge and dedication to the library.” “It will be an honor,” he said, “to follow her in stewarding this nationally important institution.”

Lisa Browar (photo by Don Ipock)

Browar can point to many accomplishments during her tenure at Linda Hall, which have positioned the library as an international destination for advanced research and scholarship in the history of science, engineering and technology.

Browar made the difficult decision for the library to remain print-based, eschewing the acquisition of electronic resources, positioning the library as the “library of last resort” for scholars seeking print information in the subjects the library collects.

Browar established a competitive fellowship program that has provided financial support for more than 100 early career scholars from six continents, and during the pandemic, virtual fellowships for researchers. And she expanded the library’s outreach by moving beyond exclusive programming for professional scientists to include public programing on subjects related to the intersection of science, engineering and technology with contemporary life.

Browar recently reflected on her years at Linda Hall, noting, “Guiding this library through its transformation to become a research destination and a venue for public discourse about the importance of science and technology in modern life has been the most satisfying work of my career. I retire with pride for the institution and the dedicated staff who serve it.” She said she looks forward to continued involvement in Kansas City’s cultural community.

As to her successor, Browar recognizes Dorfman’s “impressive career both within and outside of academe.” “I am sure his experience will serve him well,” she said. “He has my every good wish for his success. Wonderful possibilities await him.”

For more about Linda Hall Library, www.lindahall.org

Bryan F. Le Beau

Bryan F. Le Beau is retired from the University of Saint Mary, where he served as Professor of History, Provost, and Vice President for Academic Affairs. He is the author of several books on American cultural and religious history.

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