Vice Provost and University Librarian Arnold Hirshon to retire—and new gift endows position for future

Gift creates the vice provost and Lindseth Family University Librarian position as national search for Hirshon’s successor begins

Photo of Arnold Hirshon
Arnold Hirshon

After more than a decade as Case Western Reserve’s vice provost and university librarian, Arnold Hirshon will retire at the end of 2021. And in recognition of his impact on the university and Kelvin Smith Library—and to help ensure Hirshon’s leading-edge work continues with his successor—Jon Lindseth and the Lindseth family have endowed the position of vice provost and Lindseth Family University Librarian, which Hirshon will hold until his retirement.

As the university begins a national search to fill the position, Hirshon—whose achievements and advancements at the university’s main library have strengthened its reputation as a hub of scholarly learning and innovation—said he is “deeply humbled” to hold the endowed position created by the Lindseth family.

Made as a lasting tribute to the philanthropic commitment of their father and grandfather, Elmer Lindseth (CIT ’25), the collective gift is from:

  • Jon, his wife, Virginia (Ginny) (GRS ’80, MGT ’87), and their children, Steven, Andrew, Peter and Karen Lindseth Parker; 
  • Jon’s sister Marta Lindseth Jack, her husband Donald Jack, and their children, Craig and Douglas; and 
  • the family of Jon’s late sister, Jo Ellen Lindseth Busser—her husband, Robert Busser, and children, Andrew, Jonathan (Jock) and Duncan.

Elmer Lindseth was president of Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and served as chairman of Case Institute of Technology’s Board of Trustees at the time of the federation with Western Reserve University. He continued on as a member and, later, an honorary trustee of Case Western Reserve.

“The library is the heart and soul of our institution and a meeting place for discovery, understanding and greater thought,” said Ben Vinson III, provost and executive vice president of Case Western Reserve. “I’m incredibly grateful to the Lindseth family for their wonderful contribution that will forever institutionalize and elevate the position of the university librarian at Case Western Reserve.”

Embracing change: from digitization to game nights

During his tenure, Hirshon has embraced new technologies and responded to the ever-evolving needs of library users. In 2019, the Association of College & Research Libraries recognized Kelvin Smith Library with its Excellence in Academic Libraries Award, noting exemplary services and resources. 

Under Hirshon’s guidance, the library has seen the vast expansion of areas, such as:

  • The Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship, which was one of the first such centers in the country and has doubled in size over the past decade.
  • Its digitization program, including the launch of Digital Case, an online source of curated content about Case Western Reserve, including photographs and audio recordings from University Archives, digital copies of rare books, manuscripts and current research data, and the intellectual output of faculty, staff and students.
  • Special Collections and Archives, which now includes resources from partnerships with community and business organizations, including Cleveland Play House, Museum of Contemporary Art, SPACES gallery and EY (Ernst and Young).
  • The rare books collection, supported through gifts from Thomas Peterson, Bob Jackson and Jon Lindseth. 
  • Its history of science and technology collection—including the 2016 purchase of the Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, published in 1566—thanks to endowment funds.
  • The Personal Librarian program for first-year undergraduate students, one of the earliest and most successful of its kind.

But the achievement of which Hirshon is perhaps most proud is making the library a more engaged learning environment. Responding directly to student suggestions, Hirshon and his staff replaced stationary and uncomfortable furniture with more modern and modular choices, covered white wall space with art, added game nights and exhibits, opened Cramelot cafeteria, improved signage throughout the building, and added spaces more conducive to conversation while maintaining quiet study areas.

Jon and Ginny Lindseth
Jon and Ginny Lindseth

“I’ve always believed in planning, experimenting, creative visioning and assessment. Everything emanates from there,” Hirshon said. “Nothing could have been accomplished without the staff’s incredible openness and dedication. This is an extraordinary group.”

“Arnold embraces what it means to encourage exploration, embody collaboration and exude innovation,” added Vinson. “His leadership has encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit in our library system, continuously reimagining who we are.”

A history in academia

Prior to coming to Case Western Reserve in 2010, Hirshon served as the executive director of NELINET (a library consortium in New England) and chief strategist and executive consultant at LYRASIS after its merger with NELINET, chief information officer and vice provost at Lehigh University, university librarian at Wright State University, associate director of libraries at Virginia Commonwealth University, and in library administrative posts at Duke University and Wayne State University. He is chair of the management board for EIFL, a nonprofit that works with libraries in developing and transition economy countries.

Hirshon has regularly presented at conferences on library administration, and also publishes scholarly work regularly. 

In fact, Jon Lindseth and Hirshon developed a mutual respect as members of the Grolier Club, considered to be the foremost club of bibliophiles in North America. They also share a scholarly interest in the Alice works of Lewis Carroll. In 2015, Lindseth was the editor and moving force behind Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece, a three-volume set comprising over 2,600 pages including translated excerpts in 174 languages. Hirshon and Lindseth are collaborating on a companion work, Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The English Language Editions of the Four Alice Books, which is due out in 2021.

“Arnold is a leading authority on the illustrations of Alice,” Jon Lindseth said. “He is a great scholar and an outstanding university librarian.” 

For all his achievements, the capstone of Hirshon’s career, he said, is being named the inaugural recipient of the Lindseth Family University Librarian position. “Professionally, this endowment position will serve as a lasting testament to the tremendous magnanimity of the Lindseth family, a generous act that will enable us to achieve—not only today, but for my successors in the decades to come—a powerful future for the library,” Hirshon said.