Following the retirement of former Director of the Burns Library Robert O’Neill at the end of the 2013-14 academic year, Christian Dupont joined Boston College as the new John J. Burns Librarian and associate university librarian for special collections as of Sept. 2.
Internationally renowned for its extensive special collections, catalogue of University Archives, and breadth of primary sources for research, the Burns Library houses over 200,000 volumes and more than 700 manuscript collections—all which now falls under the direction of Dupont, who began his career in librarianship as a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame.
“It has been often said that special collections of rare books, manuscripts, and archives function as a sort of laboratory for research involving original documentary sources,” Dupont said in an email. “It is certainly true, and over the years a number of faculty members have brought their classes to Burns Library to expose their students to our unique holdings. Some professors have even involved their students in creating exhibits and digital humanities projects.”
Having served as a director for large academic special collections libraries at the University of Virginia and Syracuse University prior to joining BC, and as a curator and reference librarian at the University of Notre Dame before that, Dupont noted one of his goals as Burns Librarian includes improving resources for student research at BC.
“I want to greatly expand those opportunities and to partner with faculty in creating learning encounters aimed at developing and assessing targeted critical thinking skills such as artifactual literacy and archival intelligence,” Dupont said. “I also want to support more independent research, including senior theses and dissertation projects, as well as musical and dramatic performances and filmmaking.
“And I want to contribute to a social media environment through which students can share the discoveries, insights, and excitement that come from working with our materials and our talented staff,” he said.
Dupont’s own research specializes in the reception of Dante and Italian culture in America, and he currently serves as the secretary and librarian for the Dante Society of America—an academic focus he credits to his time as a graduate, and later pursuing his master’s of information science at Indiana University.
In addition to his focuses on Dante, Dupont said he also currently publishes on the reception of phenomenology in France—the subject of his dissertation research—and actively contributes to library management publications as well as helping shape international standards for the development of special collections libraries archives.
Having also worked with other companies such as Atlas Systems, a library software development company where he spent the past six years building out an online user access management system for special collections and archives called Aeon, Dupont said his experiences in adjusting to technology in the field of library management have prepared him for his new role at BC.
“These administrative experiences provide a strong foundation for the day-to-day responsibilities associated with my new role as Burns Librarian and associate university librarian for special collections,” Dupont said.
According to Dupont, Aeon has been implemented by more than 40 institutions—among them Harvard College and the Massachusetts Historical Society—and the library is currently seeking to hire a new associate director to head the University’s digital initiatives, which encompasses BC’s efforts to digitalize print sources and provide access to already-digital resources, such as email archives and other electronic media.
“The opportunities I have had to collaborate with colleagues at a wide range and scale of institutional types have greatly contributed to my understanding of how technology can be used to enhance library and archives services,” he said.
Among those new digitalization efforts, Dupont said, are efforts to collect research pertinent to the University’s Jesuit mission and Catholic identity.
“I will also want to explore new areas of collecting that relate to BC’s curricular strengths and unique character and mission,” Dupont said. “For instance, I envision opportunities to expand our acquisition of research materials pertaining to the labors of the worldwide Jesuit community in its pastoral, societal, and educational dimensions.”
Featured Image Courtesy Lee Pellegrini