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Dupont Takes Reins at John J. Burns Library

09/18/14
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Burns Librarian and Associate University Librarian for Special Collections Christian Dupont. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Sept. 18, 2014

Christian Dupont, who combines state-of-art expertise on library technology with a scholarly interest in Dante and French phenomenology, has joined Boston College as John J. Burns Librarian and associate university librarian for special collections.
Dupont succeeds Robert O’Neill, who retired during the 2013-14 academic year, as director of Burns Library and its widely acclaimed special collections of rare books and other materials related to Irish history, music and literature, British Catholic authors, and Jesuitica, among other subjects.

For the past six years, Dupont worked at Virginia-based library software company Atlas Systems, where he helped develop and promote Aeon, the premier online user request workflow management system for special collections and archives. Prior to Atlas, Dupont had extensive experience in the academic library field, serving as special collections director at Syracuse University and University of Virginia; he also held reference and curatorial positions at the University of Notre Dame Libraries.

“Christian brings an ideal blend of scholarship and special collections knowledge to the Burns Library,” said University Librarian Thomas Wall. “Under his leadership we expect to further integrate our distinctive collections into all areas of teaching and learning, while at the same time growing the collections commensurate with the Boston College mission and world class aspirations.”
For Dupont, joining BC represents both a welcome return to academia and the opportunity to help guide a distinguished institution’s progress in a rapidly evolving, technology-driven era of change.

“My heart is in academic librarianship: It’s where I started out, so it’s ‘home’ to me,” he explained. “But of course, there have been dramatic developments over the course of my career, and the biggest has been the growth of the Internet and the transformative impact it’s had on specialized research libraries like the Burns.

“A few decades ago, these libraries were more the province of scholars and specialized researchers. But now, thanks to the Internet and the access it provides, the audience includes many others, like undergraduates and professors – but not just at BC but over the world. Everyone has a stake now.

“And that’s the focus of our mission at Burns: How do we reach out to, and best serve, this wider audience?”

Working in the academic library field, Dupont said, brought an awareness of the Burns Library’s excellence, an appreciation strengthened through his occasional visits to BC.

 “My travels with Atlas and my research interests relating to the reception of Dante and the Divine Comedy have brought me frequently to Boston over the last several years,” said Dupont, who is secretary and librarian for the Dante Society of America. “I liked to take advantage of those opportunities to visit area libraries, including the Burns. The reception the Burns held for the opening of the Bobbie Hanvey photographic archives was a particularly memorable event.”

At the same time, Dupont said he formed a favorable impression of Boston College as a national university intent on fulfilling its Jesuit and Catholic legacy.

“Being at Notre Dame, I saw how the institution grew around its Catholic identity, which was fascinating to me. I see BC in much the same way: focused on preserving the Jesuit and Catholic identity, and using that as a means of moving forward. I think Burns can, and does, play a key role in that effort, and I am excited to be part of it.”

Dupont earned a bachelor of arts in theology from Andrews University in Michigan, and went on to pursue graduate studies at Notre Dame, where he received master of arts and doctoral degrees in the history of Christianity, his thesis focusing on phenomenology in French philosophy and religious thought. He also holds a master’s degree from the Indiana University School of Library and Information Science.

 He has been held leadership roles in several professional organizations, particularly the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. He also is a member of the Bibliographical Society of America, Society of the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, the American Printing History Association, and other academic and bibliophilic societies.