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Director of John Cotton Dana Library, Lynn Mullins, retires

Photo by Shelley Kusnetz.

When she retires June 30 as director of the John Cotton Dana Library on the Rutgers-Newark campus, Lynn Mullins will leave behind a library that truly is the "living, interacting" center she had envisioned when she first arrived 20 years ago. The lifelong Manhattan resident has successfully built Dana into a great learning and teaching resource, a cultural center for the campus and the surrounding Newark community, an art gallery, a multimedia center, and an inviting oasis for students.

Through it all, the focus has been Dana Library, not its unassuming director. Mullins didn't consciously choose librarianship as her career; it seems to have chosen her, a natural evolution shaped by her innate love of books and reading, and the countless hours spent in her home away from home, the main branch of the New York Public Library. She came to the Dana Library from a position at Marymount Manhattan College.

A stroll through the Dana Library reveals the second great love of Mullins' life: Art. Over the years at Dana she acquired enough sculptures, paintings, and prints to create a permanent art collection in the library, while also creating a gallery space on the building's fourth floor. That gallery, along with exhibition space on the first floor and the walls of the Dana Room, houses a series of temporary exhibitions all year long, prompting the university's alumni magazine in 2006 to dub Mullins "the librarian who turned a library into an art gallery."

But Mullins hasn't limited herself, or Dana, to visual arts. She has worked to "integrate the library and all of its services into the life of the campus." The Dana Room on the fourth floor has hosted scores of concerts, talks and an annual book arts festival, and welcomed not only members of the Rutgers community but people of all ages from throughout the communities and school systems of the Greater Newark/Essex County area. This eclectic mix ensures that days at the library are rarely dull, notes Mullins. "One day," she recalls, "we had a group of young, exotic-looking performers sitting on rugs in the Dana Room, playing fusion music and drinking tea during a lunchtime concert," Mullins notes. "A couple of hours later, an author had a book-signing, and the subjects of the book – high-achieving black women from the Newark area – were socializing in the same room – but without the rugs."

Other major accomplishments include moving the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies -- the largest jazz archives in the world -- into Dana facilities specially designed to protect its invaluable documents, musical scores and instruments, records and other delicate materials, and strengthening its archival and preservation programs. Mullins also helped shepherd Dana's transition into the digital information age. The Digital Jazz Greats and the Dana Digital Arts series are examples of how the Dana Library highlights digital audio and video, as part of a reconfiguration of the book in the digital era. The many web-based guides and the Library's extensive information literacy program are other examples of the way the Library focused on working with the digital, integrating these and other initiatives into its services. Mullins also was the force behind creation of the library's fourth-floor multimedia center, and made Dana the home to the first North American Language Center operated by Portugal's Camões Institute.

The next phase of Mullins' life will, not surprisingly, involve her two great passions: books and art. The late sculptor Stella Waitzkin considered Mullins a good friend, and Mullins will take on the role of Waitzkin's archivist, as well as create a catalogue raisonne. She also plans to write an introductory book about Waitzkin's artwork, a book that might, some day, find a home on the shelves of her beloved Dana Library.

Posted May 25, 2007