GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 14, 2009

Beverly native gets Obama's nod for US archivist

By Cate Lecuyer

BEVERLY — David Ferriero, a Beverly native, is positioned to become the man in charge of some of the country's most important historical documents — from the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, to presidential e-mail exchanges and perhaps future Twitter posts from the White House.

Last week, he was nominated by President Obama to become the next U.S. archivist. He will become the 10th person to head the National Archives and Records Administration since Franklin Roosevelt established the program in 1934.

The Senate is expected to confirm his nomination next month, and until then the White House has him holding off on interviews.

As the director of the New York Public Library since 2004, it's clear Ferriero still checks in on his hometown from time to time.

Last year, he read an article in The Salem News about 10-year-old Jonathan Marrero's door-to-door campaign to raise thousands of dollars to save Salem school librarians and sent him a personal letter commending his efforts and inviting him to "visit my library here in New York City."

"I will roll out the red carpet for you!" Ferriero wrote.

He graduated in 1974 from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and the dean, Michele Cloonan, described his nomination as one of the highest positions someone in the librarian field can hold.

"Unless we have a librarian that becomes president," she joked.

She described Ferriero as a people person.

"He's a wonderful collaborator," she said. "He's the kind of person who brings things together. He's a savvy administrator and has worked in universities for much of his career."

He got his start as a junior library assistant at the MIT Libraries and left as the co-director 31 years later for a job as vice provost for library affairs at Duke University. He also worked as the chief executive of New York Public Library's Research Libraries before taking the director position.

"David's leadership has helped advance the library and expand the vast publics it serves in an era of rapidly evolving information needs," New York Public Library President Paul LeClerc said in a written statement.

Indeed, Cloonan said he's always involved in new ideas and technology, which is becoming a growing role of maintaining archives in an electronic and digital age.

"What we preserve is changing," Cloonan said. "Archivists of the future are going to have to look at what gets preserved differently than in the past."

In an era of ever-expanding information, Ferriero will play a key role in determining what to keep and what to throw away. He'll also be responsible for holding public records and releasing government documents, including presidential papers.

Archiving, Cloonan said, is the type of thing people take for granted until something goes wrong.

"It's the bedrock of democracy," she said. "If you don't have the records, you can't run a country. It's how you do business."

She compares it to a hospital losing your birth certificate, which proves you're a citizen.

"That's a personal example," she said. "But what would happen to the government if it lost its record keeping?"

Thanks to Ferriero, we won't have to find out.

Staff writer Cate Lecuyer can be reached at clecuyer@gloucestertimes.com.