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Mark Robertson Named ARL Visiting Program Officer for Innovation Lab

mark-robertson
Mark Robertson

ARL has appointed Mark Robertson as a visiting program officer (VPO) for the Innovation Lab initiative from June 2015 to May 2016. Robertson, a recent graduate of ARL’s Leadership Fellows program, is the associate university librarian (AUL) for information services at York University.

The Innovation Lab initiative is one of five components in ARL’s Strategic Framework 2015+. The Innovation Lab will be an incubator for new ideas and the seeds of change in the research library environment. A fluid, multi-institutional enterprise, the Innovation Lab will take the form of coordinated, collective activity that supports principled opportunism regarding new developments. ARL, through its coordinating role, may secure new capital and use investment to spur innovation. The partnering institutions will seek ways to organize their collective capital, funding projects that, when collected and curated, are greater than the sum of their parts. Strategies for the Innovation Lab may include: events addressing cutting-edge questions and technology; documenting best practices, advising institutions with regard to projects; supporting impromptu innovation labs and experiments; gathering, holding, and disbursing funding for new ventures in publishing and archiving; and scouting to keep abreast of new innovation or best practices.

In his role as VPO for the Innovation Lab, Robertson will engage actively with the initiative’s design team, support the chair of the team, and serve as a liaison between the team and ARL staff. The Innovation Lab Design Team is charged with accomplishing the following goals by May 2016:

  • Develop a scope and contextual framework for the initiative, incorporating input from the ARL Board of Directors, other stakeholders, and content experts.
  • Define the breadth, focus, and type of projects or structures that could fall within the initiative’s framework.
  • Identify and solicit projects and activities—from within and without the ARL community—that fit within the framework and that would promote critical aspects of the initiative.
  • Establish criteria for review and approval of projects.
  • Create a process (or processes) for supporting the implementation of projects in the first year.

As the AUL for information services at York, Robertson’s portfolio includes oversight of teaching and learning initiatives, leadership of York’s Learning Commons, public services, development of learning spaces, and student liaison. He recently published a study of Canadian provosts’ perspectives of academic libraries in the May 2015 issue of College & Research Libraries. In addition to an MISt from the University of Toronto, Robertson holds an MA in philosophy from McMaster University and a BA in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.

Chair of the Innovation Lab Design Team and university librarian at Boston College, Tom Wall, said, “The design team is enthusiastic for Mark Robertson’s appointment as the ARL visiting program officer for the Innovation Lab. His work shows leadership in developing new ways for research libraries to support their constituencies, especially in teaching and learning.”

Catherine Davidson, interim university librarian at York, said, “This is a terrific opportunity for Mark, for York University Libraries, and for ARL to serve as catalysts in the creation of a culture of innovation, which is so essential in advancing a new era of creative R&D in our research libraries. Mark will be a tremendous asset to this group and I can’t wait to see what emerges from the Innovation Lab Design Team.”

“I am thrilled to be working with ARL to help develop a framework for the Innovation Lab,” said Robertson. “I found ARL’s Strategic Thinking & Design process exciting, and this particular component of ARL’s System of Action is of special interest, since it is an area so ripe for creative thinking and new approaches.”

The ARL VPO program provides opportunities for outstanding staff members at ARL member libraries to contribute to special projects and programs, either in whole or in part, in order to advance the agenda of the Association. Visit the ARL website for more information about ARL’s Visiting Program Officer program.


The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.

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