Boston library taps interim leader Leonard for president

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BOSTON – It turns out the new Boston Public Library president has been doing the job for almost a year, taking over long before first choice Jill Bourne rejected the post.

Shortly after Bourne, the city librarian in San Jose, California, declined for personal reasons, the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees voted to offer the job to David Leonard. He has served as interim president since July 2015, following the departure of Amy Ryan.

“I am thrilled David Leonard is the new president of the Boston Public Library and look forward to seeing the BPL thrive under his continued leadership,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement from the library.

“Extensive knowledge of the institution – its successes and its challenges – and strong working relationships with staff and stakeholders should enable me to be an effective steward and leader,” Leonard said in the statement.

Ryan left under a cloud after two valuable etchings, one by Rembrandt, the other by Albrecht Durer, were reported missing from the library’s collection in April 2015. Both were found, misfiled in the print stacks, the day after Ryan left, according to Library Journal.

The search committee seeking to replace Ryan came down to Bourne and Leonard, and chose Bourne on May 21. But the committee said Friday that Bourne had declined to make the move.

David Leonard, president of the Boston Public Library (Photo courtesy of BPL)

David Leonard, president of the Boston Public Library (Photo courtesy of BPL)

During Leonard’s time as interim president he has overseen a $78 million renovation of the main library in Copley Square, which is due for completion next month, and branch improvement projects. One of those involves a major renovation of the Jamaica Plain branch, which has been closed while the work is done.

Leonard is also the library’s director of administration and technology, the job he held before taking on the interim appointment. He was first hired in 2009 as chief technology officer. Recently, he has begun studying for a doctorate in library information science at Simmons College in Boston.

“The board of trustees and I have full confidence that the Boston Public Library has a bright future ahead with David Leonard as president,” Bob Gallery, the head of the board, said in a statement. “His leadership capabilities and vision over the past year have kept this great institution evolving and innovating, and we know that will continue for years to come.”

Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library is made up of a central library with 24 branches, a map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. The institution has about 420 employees, spokeswoman Rosemary Lavery said by email. It had a budget of about $42 million in fiscal 2014, according to a 2015 consultant’s study.