Director of Special Collections

The University of Chicago Library seeks to recruit a forward-thinking leader as Director of the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), the principal repository of rare books, manuscripts, and archives in the University of Chicago Library. Reporting to the Deputy University Librarian, the Director will provide strategic vision, leadership, and program development for the University of Chicago Library’s special collections.

The Director will work with stakeholders from within and outside of the Library to articulate an inclusive and compelling vision for activating and stewarding the special collections and the research center – a vision that aligns, supports and enhances the strategic vision for the library as a whole. They will lead a strong team of over 16 librarians, archivists, and library staff who implement programs supporting knowledge creation and preservation; transformative teaching and learning; and broad-ranging community engagement. Within the Library’s leadership team, the Director will shape stewardship of special collections through cross-Library collaboration including emerging programs in digital collections and digital scholarship. The Director will lead the department toward advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of special collections work. In collaboration with the Library’s leadership team, the Director will strengthen and build local, consortial, and professional connections that extend SCRC’s impact beyond the campus.

The Director will leverage their extensive knowledge of current professional best practices to create and foster initiatives that advance the impact of distinctive research collections in higher education. Additionally, the Director collaborates with the Library’s Development Office, and will play a significant role in donor relationship activities. The Director is expected to maintain a high level of engagement with professional organizations in the rare book, archives, and higher education fields.

About the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center

The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center is the principal repository for, and steward of, the Library's rare books, manuscripts, University Archives, and the Chicago Jazz Archives. Its mission is to provide and preserve a diverse range of primary source research materials to stimulate, enrich, and support research, teaching, learning, and the administration at the University of Chicago. The Exhibition Gallery offers a secure and preservation worthy space ready-made for exhibits from the collection. The Director plays a key role in the exhibits programs of the Library.

The Rare Book Collection consists of approximately 350,000 volumes ranging in date from the fifteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Areas of strength include the history of science and medicine, English and American literature, history, economics, contemporary poetry, historical children’s books, Jewish life and culture, theology, Renaissance humanism, book arts, and the printed works of Frederick Chopin.

The University Archives documents the history of the University of Chicago, the work of its faculty, staff, and students, and the life of the academic community. Collections include records of the University administration, academic units, and campus organizations. Professional papers of faculty, trustees, administrators, and alumni are a particular strength of the University Archives and document ground-breaking scholarship in many fields, and include the papers of more than twenty Nobel Prize laureates. Records of student organizations, publications, activities, and activism reflect more than 120 years of student life and scholarship. The current extent of the University Archives collections is approximately 60,000 linear feet.

Early and modern manuscript collections are developed to support research and teaching at the University of Chicago and include manuscripts from the ancient, medieval, and Renaissance periods to the present. Collection strengths include New Testament texts, modern poetry, atomic science and policy, Cold War intellectual politics, the history of medicine, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era, Chicago jazz, and the history of the Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Woodlawn neighborhoods. The current extent of the manuscript collections is more than 12,000 linear feet.

Essential Functions:

Leadership and Management

  • Articulates a compelling strategic vision for the value of special collections materials in supporting research, knowledge creation, transformative teaching and learning, and broader community engagement
  • Engages with and provides leadership in the organizational programs to manifest diverse, equitable and inclusive values in both the culture and work of the Special Collections Research Center and the Library
  • Responsible for the leadership and administrative coordination of all SCRC services, programs and personnel, including strategic planning to rebuild the department and facilitate change where indicated; create a culture of support and development for all staff
  • Develops and nurtures collaborations and partnerships within the Library, with faculty, academic departments, campus administrative units, and other user groups; contributes to building comprehensive collections and services that serve as a broad platform for all form of scholarship, and develops the singular role of the SCRC within those services
  • Engages the department in participating and supporting the work of research consortia such as the Black Metropolis Research Center, Chicago Collections, the Big Ten Academic Alliance, Ivy Plus Libraries, and regional, national, and international library and research organizations such as ARL, ALA, RBMS, and SAA

Donor Development and Fundraising

  • With the Dean of the Library and the Library’s Director of Development, actively participates in developing strategic opportunities to attract external funding, including philanthropic donations, institutional, and in-kind gifts.
  • Supports the Library’s Director of Development by helping to cultivate donor relationships to advance library and department initiatives, build endowments and fund collection development, processing work, physical spaces, and research and teaching programs
  • Plays a key leadership role in coordinated donor relations activities with colleagues in SCRC, the Library’s Development Office, and the University’s central Alumni Relations and Development Office.

Library and Professional Engagement

  • Participates in Library and/or University committees
  • Engages with professional and scholarly associations on at the local, state, regional, national, and/or international level through membership, committee appointments, presentations, and publications
  • Maintains up-to-date professional knowledge and skills in areas related to the position



  • Masters degree in Library, Information, or Archival Sciences from an ALA-accredited program (or international equivalent); museum studies; or another appropriate field
  • Minimum five years of progressively responsible professional experience in special collections or related area
  • Minimum of three years' management, supervision and mentoring staff experience
  • Experience developing, implementing, and assessing services and programs in a special collections, archival, or research setting
  • Extensive knowledge of professional theory and best practices in managing, collecting, and preserving archival and special collections
  • Demonstrated understanding of the role of special collections in research & teaching
  • Demonstrated understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion issues and scholarship in special collections and/or archives work
  • Demonstrated record of professional engagement and service through publications, committee work, or leadership initiatives with rare book, archives, special collections, and/or academic research professional associations
  • Demonstrated understanding of legal governance and compliance issues related to archives and special collections
  • Demonstrated knowledge of professional best practices for one or more areas of SCRC’s collecting focus (University Archives, rare books, early and modern manuscripts) with articulated interest in the other areas


  • Additional graduate degree in a relevant subject area
  • Broad understanding of the history of the book, manuscript studies, and rare book trade
  • Experience developing internal and external partnerships and collaborations
  • Experience in applying new and emerging information and library technologies to special collections & archives, including digital scholarship initiatives
  • Experience in fundraising, including grant writing, grant management, and donor relations/cultivation

Application Instructions

To Apply: Submit cover letter, curriculum vitae, and reference contact information online through the University of Chicago's Academic Recruiting website: Review of applications will begin after December 16, 2023. Screening of applications will continue until the position is filled or the search is closed.

Salary and Benefits: Appointment salary based on qualifications and experience. Benefits include retirement plan, insurance, and paid time off.

Questions: Contact University of Chicago Library Human Resources,

Equal Employment Opportunity Statement

All University departments and institutes are charged with building a faculty from a diversity of backgrounds and with diverse viewpoints; with cultivating an inclusive community that values freedom of expression; and with welcoming and supporting all their members.

We seek a diverse pool of applicants who wish to join an academic community that places the highest value on rigorous inquiry and encourages diverse perspectives, experiences, groups of individuals, and ideas to inform and stimulate intellectual challenge, engagement, and exchange. The University’s Statements on Diversity are at

The University of Chicago is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity/Disabled/Veterans Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law. For additional information please see the University's Notice of Nondiscrimination.

Job seekers in need of a reasonable accommodation to complete the application process should call 773-834-3988 or email with their request.