Peabody Essex Museum

PEM pic.jpg


Head Librarian, Phillips Library

Salem, MA

Application Deadline: Closed


The Peabody Essex Museum’s mission is to create transformative experiences that change lives through the exploration and celebration of creativity and culture in all its aspects. In its exhibitions, performances and programming, PEM is continually seeking new ways to introduce and engage visitors with works of art and culture of all kinds. Through an emphasis on innovation and neuroscience, PEM seeks to be a leader in the art-museum community in this process of engagement. The Phillips Library at PEM is an integral part of this mission, both in supplying primary material for exhibitions, events, publications and programming, and in supporting scholarship related to the Museum’s collecting areas.

For the Phillips Library, PEM seeks an inspiring, imaginative, and accomplished Head Librarian. Reporting to the Chief of Collection Services/Ann C. Pingree Phillips Library Director, the Head Librarian will help to oversee one of New England’s most venerable research libraries, enhancing scholarly access, visibility and reputation, strengthening collections and operations, and integrating the Library fully into one of North America’s largest and most distinctive museums.  Working with the Library Director, the Head Librarian will have a unique opportunity to transform a respected research library into an innovative and active intellectual hub supporting the overall mission and global scope of PEM.

Over the past 25 years PEM has worked to conceptually and physically integrate, interpret, and exhibit the full breadth of its collections, creating a richer experience for visitors by bringing art and culture together in new ways. Two expansions, one opening in 2003, and the other currently under construction, have made PEM’s facilities among the twenty largest art museums in the nation. The current expansion project also included the creation of a new off-site Collection Center, which opened in July to house both the Museum collections and the Phillips Library collections. The inclusion of the Phillips Library into the new Collection Center allows for better integration of the Library into the broader activities and mission of PEM.

Peabody Essex Museum's New Collection Center

Peabody Essex Museum's New Collection Center

Working closely with the Library Director, the successful candidate will make the Phillips Library an intellectual and research center that reinforces and complements the Museum’s strengths, integrates the Library into the overall fabric of the Museum, and advances the scholarly standing of the institution as a whole.  Together, the Library Director and the Head Librarian will develop a collecting plan and priorities for the Library that reinforce its most important holdings and support the Museum’s collecting and research interests. The Library Director and Head Librarian will work together to develop a staffing structure and digitization plan that will most effectively further these goals. S/he will also provide day-to-day leadership for a staff of 6 professional librarians.


The Phillips Library is the research and documentation division of the Peabody Essex Museum and a respected institution in its own right.  Like the Museum of which it is part, the Phillips Library is both old and new.  Its holdings represent the combined library collecting activities of the East India Marine Society, the Essex Historical Society, the Essex Institute, the Peabody Academy of Science, the Peabody Museum of Salem, and the Peabody Essex Museum.  Its current configuration is the result of the merger of the Essex Institute and the Peabody Museum that created the Peabody Essex Museum 25 years ago.

The Phillips Library's research collections are especially strong in 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century manuscripts.  These materials reflect the entire range of New England life and culture, including the seminal worldwide trade and exploration conducted from Salem and the region. The Library's best-known holdings are undoubtedly the records of the 1692 Salem Witchcraft Trials, which are on permanent deposit from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Library also has extensive material related to prominent New Englanders, and with documents supporting research in fields from maritime, literary, architectural and religious history to abolition, women's rights, medicine, music, and public and private philanthropy. The collections include ship logs, narratives and memoirs of professional sailors and missionaries, as well as shipping and trade documents. Other original Essex County documents reach back as early as the 1600s when the region first became a gateway to immigrants from around the world. Over 30% of the manuscripts, documents and publications in the collection is unique to the Phillips Library.

The Phillips Library is also known for its extensive holdings in Native American, Oceanic, and Asian art and culture, including the Herbert Offen Collection of books on Asian architecture and gardens. The Library houses the Frederick Townsend Ward China Collection, one of the world's outstanding collections of Western-language materials on Imperial China; the Edward Sylvester Morse Papers, a treasure trove of Japanese materials; and the Herwitz Library of books on Indian art (primarily contemporary), world contemporary art, and vernacular art. The documentation of Hawaiian life and culture is yet another of the Library's strengths. Nineteenth century volumes contain views of Hawaii and Hawaiians, and the Library holds an impressive collection of early Hawaiian imprints.

In addition to its historical strengths, the Phillips Library seeks to expand and improve through new acquisitions its holdings in areas that reflect current scholarship related to PEM’s collecting areas, as well as world arts and humanities. In order to better support PEM’s exhibitions, programming and publications, innovation, engagement, the neuroscience of the mind’s interaction with art should be increasingly reflected in the Phillips Library collection. The Phillips Library also seeks to be a source of new scholarship in these areas through initiatives, internships and programming.

The Phillips Library is improving and expanding its implementation of supporting technology.  The Library uses Voyager's cataloging module, customized as PHILCAT, and report functions. The Library is a member of Nelinet, which provides access to OCLC.  It is currently cataloging all its holdings through OCLC, with an emphasis on adding items unique to the Library's collections. The Library has partnered with Adam Matthew Digital in London on several digitization projects. Strategic digitization of the collections will be an important part of expanding access in the future. The new Head Librarian will play a pivotal role in developing a phased plan for future digitization.

In order to support acquisitions, new scholarship and initiatives, and a digitization plan, the Head Librarian will play an integral role in fundraising, grant writing, and identifying potential external patrons.


  • A Master’s degree in Library Science or Library and Information Science, or the equivalent training and experience.

  • At least seven years’ experience in a library or libraries that are collections in and of themselves, such as those holding rare books, manuscripts and archives.

  • Demonstrated administration and managerial competence.

  • Demonstrated knowledge of current library practices, especially in regard to art and historical research facilities.

  • A record of strategic thinking and developing collections plans.

  • Can bring ideas for new programming and on-line initiatives.

  • A record of community involvement.

  • Entrepreneurial leadership.

  • Skills in public relations and diplomacy; resilience; a constructive, uncontentious attitude.

  • Successful fundraising and grant-writing experience.

  • A lively intellect and a collaborative disposition.


PEM’s transformation from a well-respected but little-known collection of art and artifacts into a vibrant, internationally regarded cultural institution is a singular achievement. Growing at an average annual rate of 18%, PEM has expanded from a $3.5 million operation to $31 million per year.  It now has the fourth-largest art collection in North America and hosts a quarter of a million visitors each year.

At its foundation, this transformation involved rethinking the goals and context for interpreting and presenting the Museum’s collections. The merged collections of the Essex Institute and the Peabody Museum thus became much more than the sum of their parts.  They have taken on an entirely new identity, and in so doing have touched the lives of a much wider audience in a greater variety of ways.

The Phillips Library is in need of a similar transformation, a transformation into an intellectual and research center that complements the programs of PEM and advances the conceptual and scholarly standing of the institution as a whole.  Presently, the Library largely serves scholars and researchers. Over the last several years, the number of annual library users has averaged fewer than 1,000 people. Though scholars already come from around the world to conduct research at the Library, PEM’s goal is to expand the reach and impact of the Phillips Library through greater participation in PEM exhibitions and other programming, as well as through dynamic programming specific to the Phillips Library; and to increase the accessibility of its collections to scholarly researchers and the community, enhancing its reputation and impact. 

The position of Head Librarian is a new one, created to assist the Library Director in providing leadership for the Phillips Library. Under the direction of the Library Director, who is also Chief of Collection Services, overseeing Registration, Collections Management and Conservation at PEM, the new Head Librarian will work to transform the Library into an intellectual center that helps advance progressive ideas and dialogue in the fields of art and culture and that supports important scholarly research. 

Specifically, s/he will work with the Library Director to achieve these goals:

  • Develop and expand portions of the Library’s collection that reinforce and support its most important holdings and that support the Museum's collecting and research interests (for example, the Library should continue to strengthen holdings in the areas of contemporary Indian and Asian art, and Native American, Oceanic, and American art and architecture);

  • Increase investments in technology to make library resources more accessible to wider audiences off site through a phased digitization program.

  • Expand use of the Library's resources to make them a more integral part of interpretation of the Museum's collections;

  • Engage with the Salem and Essex County communities to increase opportunities for them to experience their foundational documents.

  • Work closely with PEM’s curators and interpretive and education staff to explore ways that the library collections can act as inspiration and starting points for exhibitions and programs.

  • Identify and sponsor targeted research initiatives and projects carried out by leading scholars in areas related to PEM’s diverse historical and contemporary interests.

  • Develop a preservation policy for the rare and special collections within the Library.

  • Create new funding opportunities for the Library.

  • Work together with the Library Director to develop and implement a flexible staffing structure which allows the professional library staff to work on all aspects of operating a successful research library.

  • Provide day-to-day leadership for the dedicated and professional staff of six librarians in the regular performance of their duties.

S/he will work to achieve these goals by:

  • Adding a new dimension of leadership to the Phillips Library.

  • Reinforcing PEM’s commitment to creativity and intellectual leadership.

  • Leveraging the most important facets of the Library's collections.

  • Monitoring current trends and best practices across the field of librarianship.

Overall, while the Library will continue to function as a research library, it will take on a new image and identity by adopting a more dynamic role within the Museum and within the wider library community. It is hoped that creating a new operational framework and mission for the Library as an intellectual center within the Museum will expand opportunities for advancement of the Phillips Library and the Museum.


Nominations are welcome. All applications and nominations are kept confidential. Email cover letter and résumé (Word documents preferred), salary requirement, and names of 3 references with contact information by September 24, 2018 to retained search firm: Marilyn Hoffman and Scott Stevens, Museum Search & Reference, References will not be contacted without prior permission of the applicant. PEM is committed to diversity among its employees and encourages qualified candidates from all backgrounds to apply.


The mission of the Peabody Essex Museum is to celebrate outstanding artistic and cultural creativity by collecting, stewarding and interpreting objects of art and culture in ways that increase knowledge, enrich the spirit, engage the mind and stimulate the senses. Through its exhibitions, programs, publications, media and related activities, PEM strives to create experiences that transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes, and knowledge of themselves and the wider world.

Founded in 1799, PEM is America’s oldest continuously operating museum.  The Museum’s founders were among America's first global entrepreneurs, traveling the world in search of trade. More than a decade ago, PEM began a comprehensive campaign to conceptually and physically integrate, interpret and exhibit the full breadth of museum collections for the first time in its 200-year history. The Museum also set out to greatly enrich and enhance all its programs. Today, PEM is one of the fastest-growing, most innovative museums in the nation.

PEM has emerged as a new and different kind of museum – one that creates a richer experience for visitors by bringing art and culture together in new ways, and by presenting art in the world in which it was made. PEM is now able to interpret its singular collections in ways that invite visitors to discover the inextricable connections that link artistic and cultural traditions, connections that have always influenced art and culture and that now characterize our lives in a global community. By presenting contemporary and historical work, the Museum can help link the past and the present.

PEM’s vast collections exceed one million works of art and culture.  It is one of the nation’s major museums for Asian art, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Indian art, along with the finest collection of Asian Export art extant, and nineteenth-century Asian photography. It presents the earliest collections of Native American, African and Oceanic art in the nation – all collections of exceptional standing. The historic houses and gardens and the American decorative art and maritime art collections provide an unrivaled spectrum of more than 300 years of New England's heritage. PEM’s collections also encompass twenty-four historic buildings, including four National Historic Landmarks, five National Register buildings, and its most recent addition of historic architecture, Yin Yu Tang, the only complete Qing Dynasty house located outside China.


Salem and Boston’s North Shore cities and towns are among the country’s oldest coastal communities, including Salem, Newburyport, and Marblehead. The region has a 300-year history of art and architecture, and maritime activities are still an important part of the regional culture. Salem and nearby Gloucester offer numerous museums, art galleries, historic homes, theaters, parks, restaurants, boutiques and antique shops.  Salem alone draws more than 1 million visitors a year. Boston is quickly accessible via a regular commuter train to North Station. New England’s bountiful outdoor recreational activities are quickly accessible, including sailing, hiking and skiing.

Boston is a world-class center for banking, health care and technology research. One of American’s leading intellectual centers, Boston boasts some of the most prestigious universities and medical centers in the world.

It is also steeped in 400 years of history, which it preserves and celebrates, while maintaining many distinct and historic neighborhoods. As a metropolis, it is home to numerous attractions including museums, theatres, musical events and robust restaurant opportunities. The suburbs have some of the nation’s top-rated school systems. Boston is served by a strong public transportation system and offers outdoor recreation along the Charles River and Atlantic Ocean.  Sports fans enjoy the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, as well as the soccer team, the Revolution.