2023 Knight Foundation Library Leaders Gathering – Knight Foundation

2023 Knight Foundation Library Leaders Gathering

Knight Foundation and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) were pleased to welcome three dozen public library directors, civic and philanthropic leaders to Miami for a discussion on how these public institutions can be well positioned for the future.

Day 1 Welcome Address

Jorge Martinez, Knight Foundation, John S. Bracken, Digital Public Library of America

Libraries in this American Moment

Tracie Hall, American Library Association, The Hon. Crosby Kemper, IMLS, John Palfrey, MacArthur Foundation

Day 2 Introduction and Kick-off

Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation, Jorge Martinez, Knight Foundation, John S. Bracken, Digital Public Library of America

Libraries and the National Fabric

Brian Bannon, New York Public Library, Elaine Westbrooks, Cornell University, Felton Thomas, Cleveland Public Library (moderator)

Community, Connection and Content

Michael Blackwell, St. Mary’s County Library (Maryland), Jill Bourne, San José Library, John Willkin, Lyrasis Cindy Aden, University of Washington (moderator)

Pandemic Lessons: What’s Changed Since 2020?

Joy Bivins, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, invited, Vickery Bowles, Toronto Public Library, Melanie Huggins, Richland Library, John Szabo, Los Angeles Public Library, Kelvin Watson, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District

Views from the funders

Gene Cochrane, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation, Patricia Hswe, Mellon Foundation, Crosby Kemper, IMLS, Doron Weber, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Charles Thomas, Knight Foundation (moderator)

Closing Observations

Priscilla Suero, Free Library of Philadelphia, Kate Zwaard, Library of Congress, AXIOS’s Niala Boodhoo (moderator)


Cindy Altick Aden graduated from Stanford University with a degree in International Relations. Her focus was on languages, cultural communication and political science.

A year later Cindy completed a certification program from Stanford’s Mass Media Institute and became a reporter for the Palo Alto Weekly. She held subsequent newspaper jobs and freelanced stories for multiple weekly newspapers in the Northwest, serving as editor for two papers.

Cindy graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s in Library & Information Science and was recruited for the Library of Congress intern program where she started her library career serving Congress. She worked subsequently at the University of Washington as a reference librarian and as a collections selector at Suzzallo Library, as a reference librarian at Odegaard Undergraduate Library and as Head of Circulation at the Gallagher Law Library.

Cindy left academia to work for Kitsap Regional Library, a public library system, as Assistant Director in charge of Reference Services across the multi-branch system. After two years of commuting by ferry, Cindy was contacted by a start-up, Amazon.com, which was looking for a librarian. There she oversaw the cataloging and engineering teams and finally served as the program manager for all the product business sectors. Cindy was employee number 750, and she saw the company expand to 5 countries and over 10,000 employees by the time she left in 2004.

Cindy then worked for Corbis, Bill Gates’s image company, where she served as Head of Cataloging and addressed image management: discovery, metadata and preservation. OCLC then recruited Cindy for a position in Business Development, where she worked with Silicon Valley companies, like Google, Goodreads and Yelp, who wanted access to library data and to understand bibliographic metadata and discovery. Cindy served in that position for over 7 years, enhancing library discovery on the Internet.

Cindy became the Washington State Librarian in August, 2016. Issues like access to broadband, developing a statewide ebook platform, augmenting library catalog visibility, defending federal library funding and identifying new ebook models that benefit libraries and authors, have been some of her areas of focus.

In August, 2020 she became the third iSchool Distinguished Practitioner of Practice at the University of Washington. She is excited to bring together her experience with journalism, government, internet search and discovery and strategic partnerships, to guarantee libraries are always relevant to their communities.

Brian Bannon is The New York Public Library’s first-ever Merryl and James Tisch Director. He is the chief librarian responsible for directing NYPL’s 88 neighborhood branches as well as the Library’s educational strategy. His first day at NYPL was September 3, 2019.

Most recently, Bannon was commissioner and chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Library, serving as chief library officer for one of the largest urban public library systems in the world. Bannon came to NYPL in 2019 with 20 years of experience in developing and implementing educational programs and leading large-scale operations that maximize benefit for all citizens and contribute to a culture of learning, reading, and community education.

Before his successful tenure in Chicago, Bannon was chief information officer at the San Francisco Public Library and worked at the Seattle Public Library and for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has been recognized as an innovator throughout his career: among many other accolades, he has been named to Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” list and was named one of Chicago’s top 100 innovators by Blue Sky Innovation, a publication of the Chicago Tribune. Bannon received his master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Washington Information School.

During his time in Chicago, where he presided over an annual budget of $130 million, he implemented programs that were replicated in cities across the country with a focus on education. For example, family summer program attendance at Chicago Public Library has grown by 80 percent, and that attendance is linked to a 15 percent increase in reading and a 20 percent increase in math/science performance in school. Additionally, after adding free personalized online homework assistance and expanding in-person homework help, Chicago Public Library is now the largest provider of free homework help in Chicago. These results have incited new partnerships and investments from philanthropy, the business community, researchers, and the social sector.

Michael Blackwell is the director of St. Mary’s County Library (MD). He has been an advocate for a better library digital content experience for over a dozen years, having been involved since the early years of the ReadersFirst group. Michael has been a member of the American Library Association’s Digital Content Working Group and is past chair of the ALA CORE Ebooks Interest Group. He shares news of library digital content interest at https://www.readersfirst.org/news. He has frequently presented at conferences and written papers on the topic. When not engaged in library work and community engagement, Michael enjoys cycling and crews on a race-winning sailboat.

Joy Bivins is Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Before joining the Schomburg Center, Bivins served as the chief curator of the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. She provided content and design oversight for its inaugural exhibitions. Prior to the IAAM, she was the director of Curatorial Affairs at the Chicago History Museum, where she oversaw and managed its team of curators and historians. Bivins began her career as exhibition developer of Chicago History Museum’s Teen Chicago project.

Jill Bourne is the City Librarian in San José, California, serving a diverse community of more than one million residents.  As Director of the San José Public Library, she oversees the city’s main Martin Luther King, Jr., Library, in a unique partnership with the San José State University, and 22 branch libraries.  With a focus on knowledge access, public technology, and community learning, she is committed to enhancing the relevance and leveraging the value of public libraries in the communities they serve.  As an advocate for youth engagement, access equity, and experimental programs, Bourne is frequently involved in national and international initiatives.  As project director of an IMLS Digital Media and Learning initiative, she led the development of a digital maker center and citywide network of connected youth learning programs.   She spearheaded GreenStacks, an environmental public education strategy that was honored as a “Top Innovator” by the Urban Libraries Council for its success in strengthening the public library’s role in supporting sustainable communities.  Currently a member of the Urban Libraries Council Executive Board and ALA Committee on Literacy, Bourne has also been acknowledged as a Library Journal “Mover & Shaker” and a mentor in the International Network of Emerging Library Innovators, a program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Prior to her work in San José, Bourne was the Deputy City Librarian in San Francisco and the Assistant Director for Public Services at the Seattle Public Library.  Before libraries, she was a teaching assistant, a box-office manager, a cocktail waitress, and a guide at the Baseball Hall of Fame.  A resident of San Jose, Bourne holds a BA from New York University and an MLIS from the University of Washington.

Vickery Bowles is the City Librarian at Toronto Public Library (TPL), a large and busy 100 branch library system. Vickery believes passionately in the difference public libraries make in the lives of individuals, in communities and cities. She has worked in a number of leadership positions, spearheading policy and service development including with Toronto’s high needs and diverse communities to develop library-led solutions that support capacity building, civic engagement and settlement. Vickery is currently working to advance TPL’s new strategic plan and its digital strategies that support new service models, digital inclusion, mobility, e-learning, staff development and innovation.

John S. Bracken is the executive director of the Digital Public Library of America. He joined DPLA in December of 2017 after nearly two decades as a philanthropic investor in digital media, media policy and innovation. He most recently served as Vice President for Technology Innovation at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where he oversaw the Knight News Challenge, Knight’s Prototype Fund, and other efforts to improve the creation, curation, and accessibility of information. He previously managed civic innovation programs at the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. He has a master’s degree from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA from Pitzer College in Claremont, California. He serves on the board of the Illinois Humanities Council and resides in Chicago, Illinois.

Gene Cochrane is the former Interim President & CEO of the Council on Foundations. He is also a past member of the Council’s Board and the retired president of The Duke Endowment.

Gene’s career with The Duke Endowment spanned 36 years; first, as a Program Officer in their health care section, developing grants for non-profit hospitals and health care. He eventually became the Director of Higher Education where he directed the grant program area that supported Duke University, Davidson College, Furman University, and Johnson C. Smith University. For the last 11 years of his time at the Endowment, he served as President and made a lasting impact on one of the nation’s 30 largest private foundations.

Gene currently serves on the UNC University Press Advisory Board, the Charles Cannon Foundation Board, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation Board. He served on the Board of the Council of Foundations from 2012-2018, where he was the chair of the Finance and Investments Committee, and he has been an active leader in numerous county, state, and national organizations and boards, including the Kate B. Reynolds Trust and former board chair of Grantmakers In Health. He was board treasurer of the Southeastern Council of Foundations and a founding board member of the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers. He was also a visiting scholar at The Murdock Trust in Vancouver, Washington, in 2017.

Tracie Hall is Executive Director of the American Library Association. She previously served as Director, Culture Program at Chicago’s Joyce Foundation. As Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) for the City of Chicago where she oversaw the Arts and Creative Industries Division which included the Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Music Industry, and Farmers Market programs, as well as the Chicago Film Office, Chicago Artists Month and Lake FX Summit and Expo.

Prior to her work at DCASE, Hall served as Vice President of Strategy and Organization Development at Queens Library in New York City, one of the nation’s busiest libraries serving over 11 million users annually; at Boeing Company’s Global Corporate Citizenship Division where she worked as Community Investment Strategist for 9 US and 16 non-US sites and later as Chicago Community Investor; as Assistant Dean of Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science; as visiting professor at Catholic, Southern Connecticut State, and Wesleyan Universities and in non-profit and public sector posts across the country including work with Ocean Park Community Center in Santa Monica, CA where she began her career directing transitional shelters for homeless youth.

Deeply invested in the intersection of arts access, literacy, youth and economic development, Hall led the organization and founding of the NYC Early Learning Network; developed the Seattle-based SCRIBES program, which has become a long-running youth creative writing project; conceived and curated the NEH-funded Festival of Caribbean Literature with the Connecticut Center for the Book; served as author and principal investigator on three milestone Institute of Museum and Library Science (IMLS) grants; and in Chicago has worked on several initiatives positioning art at the intersection of workforce development and public safety.

A poet, fiction writer and playwright, Hall is a Cave Canem fellow and the recipient of various awards and residencies for her writing, creative and community work.

Holding degrees from the University of California, Yale University and the University of Washington, Hall was born and mostly raised in South Los Angeles. She is Founding Curator of experimental arts space, Rootwork Gallery and continues to make time to serve on various non-profit boards and committees.

Patricia Hswe is the program officer for Public Knowledge at the Foundation, which she joined in August 2016.  In this role she works on a range of grants and initiatives supporting libraries, archives, museums, universities, presses, and other institutions that further the world’s collective knowledge of the humanities.  Previously, Ms. Hswe was digital content strategist and co-department head of Publishing and Curation Services at Penn State University Libraries (2010–2016) and, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, program manager (2008–2009) for several digital preservation projects funded by the Library of Congress.  She began working in academic libraries as a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) postdoctoral fellow, also at the University of Illinois, in 2004, the year that CLIR launched the program.  Ms. Hswe has also served as an in-house editor (2001–2003) for Bruccoli Clark Layman, publisher of reference works in literary and social history, and has taught in the Russian department at Amherst College (1990–1994).

Originally a Russian literature scholar, Ms. Hswe received a PhD from Yale University in Slavic languages and literatures.  She also holds an AB in Russian language and literature from Mount Holyoke College and an MS in library and information science from the University of Illinois.  She is active in a variety of professional associations, including the Modern Language Association and the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Melanie Huggins is the executive director of Richland Library in Columbia, SC, which received the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor. Melanie has received recognition from several local and state entities. Her work is influenced by her belief that libraries are uniquely positioned to make communities more livable, resilient, and inclusive. She is a recognized leader and speaker in the library profession having held trustee positions with both the Urban Libraries Council and the Public Library Association, and has recently been named incoming President for PLA.

She is a Liberty Fellow, member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and a member of the Spring 2018 class of Furman University’s Riley Diversity Leaders Institute. Melanie has served as past Chair of the TogetherSC Board; past President of the University of South Carolina’s University Associates Board, and former City Center Partnership Board Member.

Crosby Kemper is the sixth director of Institute of Museum and Library Services. He was commissioned by the White House on January 24, 2020, following his confirmation by the United States Senate. IMLS, an independent government agency, is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s museums and libraries.

Kemper is a dedicated advocate for education and learning for people of all ages and backgrounds. He comes to IMLS from the Kansas City Public Library, where as director, he established the library as one of the city’s leading cultural destinations and a hub of community engagement.

Under his direction, the library made special event programming a high-profile focus, with more than half a million people attending its evening programs or visiting exhibits in the art galleries. During his tenure, the Kansas City Public Library received multiple awards, including IMLS’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2008.

Kemper also recently served as chair of the board of directors of the Schools, Health, & Libraries Broadband Coalition, which supports open, affordable broadband connections for local community organizations.

Kemper’s career began in banking; he most recently served as CEO of UMB Financial Corporation. Kemper has received the Difference Maker Award from the Urban League of Kansas City, the William F. Yates Medallion for Distinguished Service from William Jewell College, and the 2010 Harmony Humanitarian Hoffman Legacy Award. His board service has included the Kansas City Symphony, the Black Archives of Mid-America, Union Station Kansas City, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, the Rabbit hOle—a center promoting children’s books—and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which operates Monticello.

Kemper is the editor of and a contributor to Winston Churchill: Resolution, Defiance, Magnanimity, Good Will, published by the University of Missouri Press. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University.

Jorge Martinez joined Knight Foundation in June 1996 as manager of information technology. In March 2003, he was promoted to director of information systems and in December 2012 to vice president/chief technology officer. He leads the foundation’s information systems department, as well as its universal broadband access and libraries initiatives in its 26 communities.

Martinez has 25 years of experience in the IT field. Before joining the foundation, he worked in the advanced systems department of The Miami Herald Publishing Company. Prior to that, he was a systems engineer for MicroAge, whose clients included Dade-Baxter, Baptist Health Systems, Knight-Ridder and Ryder Systems.

Martinez is an alumnus of Leadership Miami. He is a board member and former chairman of the Technology Affinity Group (TAG) of the Council of Foundations. He is a board member of the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (N-TEN) and a member of the Foundation Information Systems Managers group.

He earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in information technology from Barry University and is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.

Felton Thomas, Jr. was appointed Director of the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) in January 2009. Since then, he has positioned CPL as a community deficit fighter and launched initiatives aimed at addressing community needs in the areas of technology, education, and economic development.

During Felton’s tenure, CPL has maintained its “Five Star” status and been named a “Top Innovator” by the Urban Libraries Council for its use of technology and data to inform decision making. Felton also has guided CPL through the worst recession in decades by actively seeking input from the community, and then reducing CPL’s budget by millions while still providing superior service and keeping all neighborhood branches open.

Felton’s vision for the Library is that of a strong leader in defining a more prosperous future for Cleveland by battling the digital divide, illiteracy, unemployment, and other community deficits with innovative programming and action at all branches. He has also launched a “Downtown Destination” campaign to reposition the Main Library for the 21st century and market its status as a major downtown attraction.

Felton is a native of Las Vegas, where, as a youth, he first developed his passion for libraries. At age 13, he became the youngest employee in Las Vegas-Clark County Library District history when a librarian noticed his enthusiasm and encouraged him to become a page. Thirty years later, the young page has move up the library ranks to become Director of one of the best libraries in the country.

Felton earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from The University of Nevada-Las Vegas and his Masters in Library Science from The University of Hawaii, and is currently pursuing his PhD in Managerial Leadership Management at Simmons College.

Felton lives in Shaker Heights with his wife and two daughters, is an accomplished musician, and has become a devoted Cleveland sports fan since his arrival on the shores of Lake Erie.

John Palfrey is President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropies with assets of approximately $7 billion, and offices in Chicago, New Delhi, and Abuja, Nigeria.

Palfrey is a well-respected educator, author, legal scholar, and innovator with expertise in how new media is changing learning, education, and other institutions. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a commitment to rigorous thinking, disruption, and creative solutions often made possible by technology, accessibility of information, and diversity and inclusion. Palfrey has extensive experience in social change spanning the education, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Palfrey served as Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover, the only school of its kind to maintain need-blind admissions. During his tenure, the number of faculty members of color doubled, and the student body grew more diverse. He oversaw the creation of the Tang Institute at Andover, which seeks to reform and democratize excellent teaching and learning.

Palfrey was the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School. In that role, he expanded the Library’s reach and services, finding innovative ways to use digital technologies to enhance the school’s scholarship and teaching.

From 2002 to 2008, Palfrey served as Executive Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, which seeks to explore and understand cyberspace. He is founding board chair of the Digital Public Library of America, and is the former board chair of LRNG, a nonprofit launched and supported by MacArthur.

Palfrey has published extensively on how young people learn in a digital era, as well as the effects of new technologies on society at large. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education. A revised and expanded version of his book Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age, which he co-authored with Urs Gasser, was issued in 2016.

Palfrey serves on the board of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Palfrey holds a JD from Harvard Law School, an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and an AB from Harvard College.

John F. Szabo is the City Librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library, which serves over four million people—the largest population of any public library in the United States. He oversees the Central Library and 72 branches. In 2015, the Library received the nation’s highest honor for library service, the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, for its success in meeting the needs of Angelenos and providing a level of social, educational and cultural services unmatched by any other public institution in the city.

Under his leadership, the Library’s major initiatives include those related to immigrant integration and citizenship, sustainability, civic engagement, digital inclusion and lifelong learning. He has expanded the library’s reach into the city’s diverse communities through partnerships with several community-based organizations.

He has more than 30 years of leadership experience in public libraries, previously serving as the director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, Clearwater (FL) Public Library System, Palm Harbor (FL) Public Library and Robinson (IL) Public Library District. Throughout his career, Szabo has championed innovative library services that address critical community needs in areas including health disparities, workforce development, adult literacy, school readiness and emergent literacy for preschoolers.

Szabo received his master’s degree in information and library studies at the University of Michigan and his bachelor’s degree in telecommunications from the University of Alabama. He completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also participated in a Group Study Exchange with Rotary International Foundation, visiting libraries and archives in Sicily and the Aeolian Islands.

He currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of OCLC and on the Board of Directors for the University of Southern California’s Center for Library Leadership and Management. He has previously served on the Executive Boards of the Urban Libraries Council and California Humanities and as president of the Florida Library Association.

As executive director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, Kelvin Watson oversees 25 branches run by 600+ employees, spanning 8,000 square miles, with a budget of $77 million and a collection of 3.2 million items. Kelvin has brought innovative, award-winning leadership to Nevada’s largest library system and his deep experience in fundraising, technology, program development, and demonstrated success in addressing the digital divide has brought a new era to this library system.

Regarded as one of the most highly respected thought leaders in the library industry, Kelvin is credited with expanding his customer base in multiple library management roles through outreach efforts to underserved and diverse populations. Two examples in Las Vegas are a partnership with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, which made digital access to the library available to bus riders, and in 2022 was recognized with three awards — the American Library Association Library (ALA) of the Future Award, the RUSA Best Emerging Technology Award, and the Urban Libraries Council Top Innovators Honorable Mention. In addition, the Library District’s many literacy programs for adults and children received the Crystal Bookmark Award from the Las Vegas Book Festival.

Kelvin joined the Library District from his role as the director of the Broward County Libraries Division, where he managed 38 locations in the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida region. During his tenure at Broward County Libraries, he brought transformative change through ambitious and groundbreaking initiatives, such as streamlining access to resources, introducing new technology, and developing new collaborative partnerships. He was named the 2021 winner of the Margaret E. Monroe Library Adult Services Award, sponsored by Novelist, for his dedication to implementing new and innovative ways to meet existing and new customers “where they are” with initiatives targeting non-traditional library users.

Under Kelvin’s leadership, the Florida Library Association (FLA) named Broward County Libraries as the 2020 Library of the Year. The FLA also named Kelvin the 2019 Librarian of the Year, and the American Library Association (ALA) named the Broward County Libraries the Library of the Future, all of which he credits to the work of his staff. Other awards during his career have included: the 2016 inaugural ALA Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession; the 2017 DEMCO/ALA Black Caucus Award for Excellence in Librarianship; and as the 2019 Community Service & Distinguished Achievement Honoree by the Friends of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center.

Previously, he served as COO/senior vice president for Queens Library, after rising through the leadership ranks of the organization from a distinguished background in technology. In his prior role as chief innovation & technology officer/vice president, information, technology, and development, he was instrumental in establishing several groundbreaking programs, and he developed and implemented digital divide strategies, which promoted equality and equity for all.

Kelvin started his career as a Commissioned Officer in the Active U.S. Army and Army Reserves. He transitioned into the private sector as a leader with Ingram Library Services, Borders Group, and The Library Corporation (TLC). These positions fueled his passion for the field of library science and he went on to join the USDA National Agricultural Library.

Throughout his career, he has remained active as a speaker and panelist at conferences and an author of articles in national library publications. He serves on the San Jose State University School of Information, Leadership, and Management Program Advisory Committee, co-chairs the American Library Association Digital Content Working Group, and serves on the American Library Association Business Advisory Group, REALM Project Steering Committee and on the Board of the Book Industry Study Group. He is a past president of Black Caucus of the American Library Association and past Public Library Association Board member.

Additionally, Kelvin has served in a diverse number of volunteer leadership roles: Member of 100 Black Men of Las Vegas; FLA Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility Task Force, bringing together young, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals to make their voices heard within the Florida Library Association; a member of the ALA Committee on Accreditation; New York State Regents Advisory Council on Libraries; Metropolitan New York Library Council Board of Trustees; Asian/Pacific Librarians Association Research and Travel Awards Committee; Coretta Scott King Book Award Juror; AASL Diversity Task Force member; Spectrum Scholarship Juror; Young Librarians ALA Presidential Task Force member; Legacy South Florida magazine’s 50 Most Influential and Powerful Black Professionals of 2020; Profiled in Black Issues Book Review Jan/Feb 2006 Issue as one of the “Influential African Americans in the Book Industry”; and Parkway Alumni Hall of Fame – Class of 2006. 

Kelvin earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Minor in Military Science from Lincoln University in Missouri. He earned his MLS Degree from North Carolina Central University. In 2019, he completed the MIT SLOAN School of Management Executive Program Certificate, Internet of Things: Business Implications and Opportunities and the MIT SLOAN School of Management Executive Program Certificate, Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy. In 2020, he completed the MIT SLOAN School of Management Executive Program Certificate, Cybersecurity, 2020. Kelvin is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and Beta Phi Mu Honor Society.

Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, helps the President oversee and improve all aspects of the Foundation’s programs and plays a leadership role in Sloan’s broader philanthropic efforts with the foundation community.

For more than 20 years, Mr. Weber has run the program for the Public Understanding of Science, Technology & Economics at Sloan, which uses diverse media—books, radio, television, film, theater, and new media—to bridge the “two cultures” of science and the humanities to give people a keener appreciation for the increasingly scientific and technological world in which we live and to convey some of the challenges and rewards of the scientific and technological enterprise. This seminal program has been recognized with many awards, including an award from WNYC “for providing transformative support for work at the intersection of science, technology, and the arts” and the National Science Board’s Public Service Award “for its innovative use of traditional media—books, radio, public television—and its pioneering efforts in theater and commercial television and films to advance public understanding of science and technology.”

Mr. Weber also directs the Foundation’s efforts to promote Universal Access to Knowledge through the Digital Information Technology program, which seeks to harness advances in digital information technology to facilitate the openness and accessibility of all knowledge in the digital age for the widest public benefit under fair and secure conditions. His grantmaking has helped to start the Digital Public Library of America, a consortium of over 4,000 research and public libraries, archives, and museums in 50 states, and to scale Wikipedia into the largest encyclopedia in human history and the fifth largest web site in the world.

Mr. Weber has been actively involved with the Science Philanthropy Alliance and its efforts to increase private support for basic research, including the 2016 Chan Zuckerberg Initiative that pledged $3 billion to basic science. His support for the Scholar Rescue Fund helps save endangered scientists in nations under siege such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Iran and transfers them to safe, academic posts.

Mr. Weber’s work at Sloan has been profiled in The New York TimesThe Boston GlobeFortuneThe Chronicle of Philanthropy, The New York ObserverAmerican Theatre, Filmmaker Magazine, and The American Way. Among his awards for foundation support, Mr. Weber has received the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, the Ebert Center Empathy for the Universe Award, the PBS Leadership Award, the Nielsen Impact Award from the Hollywood Reporter, and, the Communicator Award for “Sloan at 75,” a documentary about the Foundation’s history.

Prior to joining Sloan in 1995, Mr. Weber served as Director of Communications at The Rockefeller University and Director of Communications for the Society for the Right to Die. Earlier, he worked as a senior editor for The Reader’s Catalog, a speechwriter for the United Jewish Appeal, and a screenwriter for both television and film. He has also been a teacher, tutor, taxi driver, romance novelist, busboy, and boxer.

In 2012, Mr. Weber published Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir (Simon & Schuster), named one of the 50 Notable Works of Non-Fiction by The Washington Post, selected for Paperback Row by The New York Times, and voted an Amazon Best Book of the Month, an Indie NEXT List pick and a Chautauqua Circle winner. Mr. Weber has previously coauthored three nonfiction trade books: Safe Blood: Purifying the Nation’s Blood Supply in the Age of AIDS (Free Press), The Complete Guide to Living Wills (Bantam Books), and Final Passages: Positive Choices for the Dying and their Loved One (Simon & Schuster, Fireside). His articles and reviews have appeared in The New York TimesUSA TodayBarron’sScience Magazine, The Chronicle of PhilanthropyThe Baltimore SunThe Washington PostThe Village Voice Literary Supplement, and the Boston Review. His first novel, The Deserters, was excerpted in the fall 2003 issue of Kinder-Link.

Mr. Weber was educated at Brown University (BA), the Sorbonne, and Oxford University (MA), where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He also received a Fulbright. He served for ten years as secretary of the New York State Committee for the Rhodes Scholarships and in 2016 was appointed the first National Secretary for the new Israel Rhodes Scholarships. He currently also serves as President of The Writers Room Board of Trustees, Trustee of Shakespeare & Co, Director of the Jimmy Wales Foundation, Advisory Board Member of the Science and Entertainment Exchange, Mentor for 92nd Street Y Women in Power, and Board Visitor of the Wikimedia Foundation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, The National Association of Corporate Directors, U.S.A. Triathlon, and the Century Association.

Westbrooks has served as vice provost and university librarian at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill since 2017. Of all her accomplishments at UNC, she is proudest of her role in setting up the Sustainable Scholarship initiative, which sought to make scholarly publications more affordable, sustainable, transparent, and accessible, as well as launching the Reckoning initiative, which mobilized the university to address equity and inclusion while also infusing anti-racist practices into the library system.

Prior to her appointment at UNC, Westbrooks held leadership positions at the University of Michigan and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Before that, she led metadata services for Cornell University Library—this appointment marks a return to Cornell for her. Westbrooks holds a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and a master’s in library and information science from the University of Pittsburgh.

Westbrooks is active in the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). She is currently vice-chair of the ARL Scholars and Scholarship Committee, and has been a member of that committee since 2019. She served on the Advocacy and Public Policy Committee in 2017–2019 and the Assessment Visioning Task Force in 2017. She was a Leadership & Career Development Program (LCDP) fellow in 2007–2008 and an LCDP career coach in 2020–2021 and 2018–2019.

John comes to Lyrasis from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he served as Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, and brings deep experience in building community-driven programs with a focus on increasing access to knowledge, a core tenet of the Lyrasis mission. Wilkin played a key role in the creation of HathiTrust, a nonprofit collaborative digital library that preserves and provides access to 17+ million digitized items, serving as its first Executive Director. He has long been an advocate for open source and open access initiatives, developing pioneering digital library systems and spearheading open access to content such as Making of America. Wilkin was the recipient of the 2011 LITA/Library Hi Tech award for Outstanding Communication in Library and Information Technology and the 2019 Hugh Atkinson Memorial Award.


As gateways to knowledge and culture, libraries play a fundamental role in enhancing informed and engaged communities. Yet, debates over which books belong on the shelves have put them at the center of a bitter and widening culture war.

Join the Knight Foundation and a group of library executives and experts – in person – on February 20 and 21, 2023 to discuss this alarming trend and address the future of libraries in America.

This invitation-only event is in-person only and is not transferable. Plenary sessions will be recorded and available on kf.org after the conference concludes.

Together, we can ensure a strong and vibrant library system able to advance research and preserve the world’s cumulative knowledge for future generations.