Colby is pleased to announce the appointment of Kevin L. Smith as director of the Colby College Libraries. An authority on intellectual property, Smith currently serves as dean of libraries at the University of Kansas and director of the University Press of Kansas.
He will begin his work on Mayflower Hill Aug. 1.
“Kevin is a national expert on copyright law as it pertains to libraries, and we are thrilled to welcome him to Colby,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Margaret McFadden. “He has vast experience running major university libraries, he is an active scholar, and he is a wonderful supervisor—people love working with and for him.”
Smith is both a librarian and lawyer, with a specialty in scholarly communications. At the University of Kansas and over his distinguished career, Smith has helped reform how academic research is disseminated and shared and how that research is paid for. Prior to joining the University of Kansas in 2016, he was the first director of copyright and scholarly communications at Duke University Libraries, where he advised faculty, staff, and students about the impact of copyright, licensing, and the changing nature of scholarly publishing in higher education. Before that, Smith was director of the Pilgrim Library at Defiance College in Ohio, where he also taught constitutional law.
Smith holds a B.A. from Hamilton College, an M.A. from Yale Divinity School, an M.L.S. from Kent State University, and a J.D. from Capital University in Ohio. He did doctoral work in theology and literature at the University of Chicago and has been admitted to the bar in Ohio and North Carolina.
Smith said he was attracted to Colby for professional and personal reasons. He has family throughout Maine, and he believes strongly that a liberal arts education is fundamental to learning. “Colby is the gold standard,” he said. “Colby is the kind of place that somebody who is interested in the liberal arts dreams about. It is an institution that is ambitious and exciting and open to new ideas, and Colby has an extraordinary student body. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be at an institution where I will have much more direct contact with that extraordinarily talented student body.”
He also said he was inspired by the mission and vision statements of the Colby Libraries, which emphasize experimentation, invention, and curiosity. “It also talks about the freedom to wander, and I think that is the attitude a library should have. I think my own circuitous history is a sign of that commitment to the library as a place where people discover new directions, and even more important, where people discover themselves. People discover who they are, what they love, and where they come from in libraries.”
Smith’s academic journey reflects his belief that if the process of learning is exciting, then no subject is a departure. He began as an undergraduate at a small liberal arts college, studying literature and philosophy, then pursued his interests in religion and theology at graduate school. He began a Ph.D. program in theology and literature and shifted to library science when he recognized that research and the process of research were compelling and interesting to him. Early in his career as a librarian, he began to see how copyright law would impact libraries as they transitioned to digital. He went to law school to specialize in the subject of intellectual property, copyright, and related issues.
He has taught courses in theology, law, and library science and is the author of numerous articles on the impact of copyright law and the internet on scholarly research as well as libraries’ role in the academy. He has been a highly regarded blogger on these issues for many years, and in 2013 published Owning and Using Scholarship: An IP Handbook for Teachers and Researchers with the Association of College and Research Libraries.
At the University of Kansas, Smith emphasized professional development and empowerment for the library staff, supported efforts to offer students access to “open textbooks,” which are free in their digital formats, and helped advance initiatives related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
At Colby, he will supervise a staff of about 30 people, leading the team as it implements a newly developed strategic plan. “The library staff wanted a director who would help continue the work they already feel proud of, and Kevin is that person,” McFadden said. “Libraries are changing fast, and Kevin has his finger on the pulse of that change.”
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