Colleagues salute retiring university librarian Anne Kenney


Anne R. Kenney, the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, was regaled with original haiku, a performance of a rewritten Doors song, gifts and a sustained standing ovation at her retirement party March 30.

University Library Anne Kenney with interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III.

Kenney, Cornell’s 11th university librarian, steps down March 31 and will retire after a six-month research leave. She has led Cornell University Library since 2008.

The hundreds of attendees at the party in the Physical Sciences Building’s Baker Portico included Interim President Hunter Rawlings, Provost Michael Kotlikoff, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Kathryn Boor, as well as faculty members, alumni and library staff past and present.

“After Anne Kenney had announced her upcoming retirement, she was asked what advice she would give her successor. She replied, ‘Honor Cornell’s tradition but also keep looking 10 years out, every day,’” Kotlikoff said. “That sentence beautifully encapsulates what Anne has done as Cornell’s university librarian.”

Kotlikoff and other speakers pointed to Kenney’s groundbreaking work in digitization, commitment to open access, her leadership in attracting highly qualified staff, and her focus on the needs of students and faculty among her achievements.

“I think our admiration for Anne began to shift to a bit of awe when we started thinking that we’d have to replace her,” said Barbara Lust, professor of human development and chair of the University Faculty Library Board. “As fiercely as we regret that we will lose you, we are consoled by knowing we have the wonderful infrastructure of knowledge that you have built for us.”

Though she is stepping down, Kenney will remain a regular presence in the library, at least in the short term; with Kornelia Tancheva, the departing associate university librarian for research and learning services, she is curating an exhibition in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections on the library’s witchcraft collection. That exhibition will open Oct. 31.

Kenney said she grew up in a military family, moving every few years. After 30 years, she said, Ithaca has become her hometown, and Cornell University Library her second home.

“I know the library will be in great hands, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds,” she said.

Beth Anderson ’80, a member of the Cornell University Library Advisory Council, and Nancy Sverdlik ’79, revised the song “Light my Fire” in Kenney’s honor, singing three verses with the refrain, “Come on Annie, let’s retire.”

Xin Li, associate university librarian for discovery, assessment and international engagement, presented Kenney with a bound copy of more than 350 “Take One” messages, mini-newsletters Kenney sent out to library staff on Monday mornings for the past nine years. Anne Sauer, director of RMC, gave her a framed print by Ithaca artist Alison Mason Kingsbury.

Boor praised Kenney’s focus on making sure faculty are connected to the library services and her innovation. She also noted Kenney’s love of international travel and mountain climbing.

“I’d like to pay tribute to Anne’s adventurous spirit by reading some original poetry,” Boor said. She then read three haiku she wrote, inspired by Kenney.

“On Machu Picchu/The view is heavenly but/no libraries here.”

“Slowly ascending/Kilimanjaro summit/Wish I brought a book.”

“Cornell Library/A legacy of knowledge/Thank you, Anne Kenney.”

Melanie Lefkowitz is a writer for Cornell University Library.

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