Lynne Thomas to Lead RBML

Lynne Thomas
Photo courtesy of NIU Media Services

Lynne M. Thomas has been named head of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She assumes the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book & Manuscript Library Professorship, a tribute to Library Friends Robert and Juanita Simpson, who generously supported the University Library for more than 20 years.

Thomas, who will begin her new appointment September 1, is a four-time Hugo Award winner, and has served as curator of rare books and special collections at Northern Illinois University since 2004, and as head of distinctive collections there since 2014.

“After an extended search, we are thrilled to welcome not only a well-respected leader from the special collections community, but one of its own. As a graduate from the University of Illinois, Lynne represents the best of what Illinois produces—a scholar, a dedicated contributor to her professional community, and a collaborative leader,” said Thomas Teper, associate dean for collections and technical services.

Thomas will be developing and leading projects involving rare books and special collections collaboratively within the campus community and beyond. She will work toward making the collections known, accessible, and used through print, exhibition, and digital means, and engage in and promote scholarship on materials in the collections. Her responsibilities will include establishing a continuing mission and strategic direction for a preeminent rare book and manuscript program and leading rich instructional and public outreach efforts.

“It is a delight and an honor to be returning to the University of Illinois as the head of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Just about twenty years ago, I began my first day there as a graduate assistant,” said Thomas. “These collections, and the people who care for them, shaped the librarian I have become today. I’m thrilled to be coming back to my alma mater to continue the tradition of excellent stewardship of this library’s renowned collections.”

Thomas is the co-editor-in-chief and publisher of Uncanny Magazine with her husband Michael Damian Thomas. The former editor-in-chief of Apex Magazine (2011-2013), she co-edited the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords , as well as Whedonistas and Chicks Dig Comics . She moderated the Hugo-Award winning SF Squeecast and contributes to the Verity! Podcast . At Northern Illinois University, Thomas was responsible for popular culture special collections, including the literary papers of more than 75 science fiction and fantasy authors, and the official archives of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She co-authored Special Collections 2.0 (2009), and co-edited New Directions for Special Collections (2016), both with Beth Whittaker of the University of Kansas, and is a founding member of the Digital POWRR project.

In addition to a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature and French Literature from Smith College, Thomas earned a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Arts in English and American Literature from Northern Illinois University.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Illinois is one of the largest repositories for rare books and manuscripts in the United States. The collections—nearly half a million volumes and three kilometers of manuscript material—are strong in the broad areas of literature, history, art, theology, philosophy, technology, and the natural sciences.

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