Northeastern appoints new dean of libraries

Daniel J. Cohen, newly appointed dean of libraries and vice provost for information collaboration, poses for a portrait at Snell Library on Tuesday. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Northeastern University has appointed Daniel J. Cohen dean of libraries and vice provost for information collaboration, effective June 1, 2017.

Cohen joins Northeastern from the Digital Public Library of America in Boston, where he has served as founding executive director since 2013. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to make the treasures of America’s libraries, archives, and museums freely available to the world; it holds more than 16 million digital items from over 2,000 institutions.

To Northeastern, he brings extensive leadership and innovation in leveraging technology and digital tools to advance scholarship in humanities fields.

“I’m thrilled to join Northeastern, and to direct the library and collaborate with people across the university,” Cohen said. “Northeastern’s spirit of innovation is tremendously exciting, and I greatly look forward to expanding existing initiatives and partnering to envision and build new ones.”

Cohen is currently affiliate professor of history in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities and will transition into a new role as professor of history upon joining Northeastern. As dean, Cohen will succeed Amira Aaron, who has served as interim dean since December when Will Wakeling retired after eight years of leadership. Amira will return to her role as associate dean for scholarly resources upon Cohen’s arrival.

“Dan Cohen is a thought leader in the future of academic libraries and in digital humanities,” said James C. Bean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Under Dan’s leadership, Northeastern will expand on the innovations from Will Wakeling’s deanship to lead at an international level. We thank Amira Aaron for serving ably as interim dean for the past five months. Even better, Amira will continue as part of the fabulous leadership team we have in the libraries.”

Cohen previously served as professor of history and director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. As director of the multidisciplinary center—which develops a range of digital resources, collections and exhibits, and open-source software and training—he oversaw the creation of the September 11 Digital Archive as well as the development of PressForward for online content sharing and curation and an open-source software called Zotero for scholars to collect, organize, cite, and share research. He was also a teaching fellow and lecturer at Yale University.

Cohen has authored numerous books, book chapters, and articles, and has received a number of awards. He was an inaugural recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies’ Digital Innovation Fellowship; The Chronicle of Higher Education named him one of the top “tech innovators” in academia in 2012; and the American Library Association honored him in 2011 with the Frederick G. Kilgour Award for his work in digital humanities.

A historian by training, Cohen’s research and scholarship has focused on digital history and the intersection of abstract mathematics and spirituality in Victorian society. He has been the principal investigator on numerous projects with grant funding totaling more than $20 million; his current projects are supported by organizations including the Teagle Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Cohen received his bachelor’s degree in religion from Princeton University, his master’s degree in the history of religion in the Modern West from Harvard University, and his doctorate in history from Yale University.