DPLA Welcomes Denise Stephens and Mary Minow to Board, Honors Departing Paul Courant and Laura DeBonis

Posted by Dan Cohen in July 12, 2016.

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On July 1, 2016, the Digital Public Library of America had several transitions on its Board of Directors. Two of our original board members rotated off the board at the end of their second terms, and two new board members joined in their stead. We wish to salute the critical roles that Paul Courant and Laura DeBonis played in our young organization, and give a warm welcome to Denise Stephens and Mary Minow as we continue to mature.

Paul Courant

Paul Courant was at the first meeting that conceptualized DPLA in the fall of 2010 at the Radcliffe Institute, and he has been instrumental in DPLA’s inception and growth ever since. Paul led the creation of one of our founding hubs, HathiTrust, and, with his wide-ranging administrative experience as a provost and university librarian at the University of Michigan and his deep economic knowledge, he has been a tremendous resource to DPLA. With HathiTrust, Paul crystallized the importance of nonprofit institutions holding, preserving, and making accessible digital copies of books (and later, other documents). HathiTrust’s model of large-scale collaboration was also an inspiration for DPLA.

Paul has long been a vocal and effective advocate for open access and for sharing the holdings of our cultural heritage institutions as widely as possible with the global public. His shrewd vision of the national and international landscape for libraries was tremendously influential as we formed, launched, and expanded over the last six years. Paul’s very good humor will also be greatly missed.

Paul Courant

Paul N. Courant previously served as the University Librarian and Dean of Libraries, Harold T. Shapiro Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Professor of Economics and Professor of Information at the University of Michigan. From 2002-2005 he served as Provost and Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs, the chief academic officer and the chief budget officer of the University. He has also served as the Associate Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs, Chair of the Department of Economics and Director of the Institute of Public Policy Studies (which is now the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy). In 1979 and 1980 he was a Senior Staff Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers. Paul has authored half a dozen books, and over seventy papers covering a broad range of topics in economics and public policy, including tax policy, state and local economic development, gender differences in pay, housing, radon and public health, relationships between economic growth and environmental policy, and university budgeting systems. More recently, his academic work has considered the economics of universities, the economics of libraries and archives, and the effects of new information technologies and other disruptions on scholarship, scholarly publication, and academic libraries. Paul holds a BA in History from Swarthmore College, an MA in Economics from Princeton University, and a PhD in Economics from Princeton University.

Laura DeBonis

Laura DeBonis’s background is very different from Paul’s, but she brought an equal measure of economic and business expertise, and a similar passion to seeing how technology can help the general public. Her early and leading involvement with Google Books, and her ability to establish partnerships across multiple domains, was incredibly helpful to DPLA. Laura’s knowledge of digitization and sense of the power of computational technology—as well as her understanding of where its limits lie and where human activity and collaboration must step in—were enormously useful as we set up DPLA’s distributed national system. In recent years, her savvy understanding of the ebook ecosystem has helped us plan our work in this area, and impacted the Open eBook Initiative. Laura was constantly available to staff, and always ready with well-considered, thoughtful advice. We wish her well and plan to stay in touch.


Laura DeBonis currently works as a consultant to education companies and non-profits. In addition to the DPLA, she also serves on the Public Interest Declassification Board at the National Archives. Laura previously worked at Google in a variety of positions including Director of Library Partnerships for Book Search, Google’s initiative to make all the world’s books discoverable and searchable online. Laura started her career in documentary film and multimedia and in strategy consulting for internet businesses.  She is a graduate of Harvard College and has a MBA from Harvard Business School.

Denise Stephens

Denise Stephens, the University Librarian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, begins her first term on the board this month. We have been particularly impressed with the way that Denise has combined a deep understanding of libraries, physical and digital, with a public spirit and sense of community. The recently renovated library at UCSB, with both analog and digital resources oriented toward the many needs of students, teachers, and the public, is itself a model for DPLA. Her many years of experience and passion for libraries and public service will be greatly appreciated at DPLA.

Denise Stephens

Denise Stephens has served as University Librarian at UCSB since 2011. Her background includes a broad range of leadership and management roles related to the intersection of evolving information resource strategies and scholarship in the academic environment. She has actively participated in implementing digital library initiatives and service programs in research university libraries for 20 years. In addition to her current position, she has held campus-wide library and information technology executive leadership roles at Syracuse University (as Associate and Acting University Librarian) and the University of Kansas, where she served as Vice Provost and Chief Information Officer. Early in her career, she helped to launch transformative spatial data services among emerging digital library programs at the University of Virginia. Ms. Stephens has also contributed to efforts promoting transformed scholarly communications and persistent accessibility of information resources as a member of the BioOne Board of Directors and the Depository Library Council of the Federal Depository Library Program. Ms. Stephens has a BA in Political Science and a Master of Library and Information Studies from the University of Oklahoma.

Mary Minow

Mary Minow is one of the foremost legal scholars on issues that impact libraries, including copyright and fair use. She has been very active in the library community, serving on boards and committees that span a range of interests and communities. Her thoughtful discourses on the nature and role of libraries, the importance of access to culture and the need for intellectual freedom, fits beautifully into our work, and we look forward to her inspiring words and advice. She has worked as both a librarian and a lawyer, and will help us bridge these worlds as well.

Mary MinowMary Minow is an advanced leadership initiative fellow at Harvard University and is a Presidential Appointee to the board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. She has also worked as a consultant with libraries in California and across the country on copyright, privacy, free speech and related legal issues. She most recently was counsel to Califa, a consortium of California libraries that set up its own statewide ebook lending service. Previously she was the Follett Chair at Dominican University’s School of Library and Information Science. Current and past board memberships include the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Freedom to Read Foundation and the California Association of Trustees and Commissioners (Past Chair).  She is the recipient of the first Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom award and also received a WISE (Web-based Information Science Education) award for excellence in online education when she taught part time at San Jose State University.