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Mayor Walsh selects John Palfrey to chair Boston Public Library presidential search committee

September 15, 2015

Boston Public Library

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Today, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that John Palfrey, head of school at Phillips Academy, Andover, will serve as Chair of the Boston Public Library Presidential Search Committee. Palfrey is a scholar of new media and learning, and in 2015 authored BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google. Palfrey will work in the coming weeks to identify a broad and diverse group of individuals to serve with him on the BPL Presidential Search Committee. In addition, the City will be releasing an RFP in mid-September to identify a search firm to assist in the presidential search process.   

"The Boston Public Library is a highly esteemed institution that provides access to knowledge and opportunity," said Mayor Walsh. "I have full confidence in John's abilities to lead the Presidential Search Committee, and identify a strong and innovative leader for the Boston Public Library."   

"John is held in high regard in his industry, and has inspiring ideas about the importance of libraries in the digital age," said John Hailer, Interim Chair of the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees. "I'm thrilled he is taking a leadership role in our search for the next president of the Boston Public Library."  

 "I am honored to take on this role, and to work with the Committee in identifying and delivering the best candidate for the job to the people of Boston of and Massachusetts," said Palfrey. "The Boston Public Library is one of the world's most important cultural institutions.  It's critical we find a candidate who brings a forward looking vision to the library that is grounded in respect for this crucial institution."

Palfrey has served in many library capacities. He was the founding President of the Board of Directors of the Digital Public Library of America, housed at the Boston Public Library, and providing access for free to America's digitized libraries, archives, and museums. He has also served as the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School, leading a 100-person library. In addition, he served on the Harvard University Library Board, with responsibility for overseeing Harvard's integrated library system.  He also chairs the board of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a major national funder devoted to informing and engaging communities, including through libraries.

From 2002-2008 Palfrey served as the executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and has continued on as a faculty director since then. Prior to that he was at the law firm Ropes & Gray, where he worked on intellectual property, Internet law, and private equity transactions and served for three years at the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  


Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-four branches, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children's room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit