From Archivist to Director

Miranda Mims will be providing the vision for the department’s future.
Author: Cook, Matthew
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Miranda Mims inventories boxes of Louise Slaughters official Congressional papers

On top of the unprecedented challenges everyone in academia is currently facing, the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation (RBSCP) has been looking for a new leader. They found one in Miranda Mims. 

Since 2017, Mims has served the River Campus Libraries (RCL) as the special collections archivist for discovery and access, as well as curator of modern literature and publishers, human rights and social justice, local LGBTQ history and culture, and the Kodak historical records. On June 1, Mims will assume the role of the Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer Director of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. 

“Miranda is at the perfect point in her career to take on this role,” says Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries, who lauded Mims’ professionalism, enthusiasm, and dedication. “Her vision, values-based leadership, and collaborative spirit will allow her to unleash her team’s creative power, nurture and develop key relationships, and find new ways to use our rare and unique materials to support scholarship and advance teaching.” 

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Miranda Mims
Miranda Mims

Before joining the University, Mims was the archivist and collection manager at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research library of the New York Public Library. Anna Siebach-Larsen, director of the Rossell Hope Robbins Library & Koller-Collins Center for English Studies, feels Mims has already done a lot with the little time she’s been at Rochester.

“She's done extraordinary things in terms of organizing both our physical and digital collections,” says Siebach-Larsen, who has been serving as the interim Lambert and Schleifer director. “Most people don’t realize the transformation because they can’t see it, and they are unaware of our workflows and the way that we store materials and retrieve materials.”

Siebach-Larsen sees access to the collection—how and for whom—as one of the more significant challenges Mims will face. Here too, the interim director believes Mims offers a way forward. “She has an amazing ability to see the big picture,” she says. “Her vision is really expansive and forward-thinking. She understands our collections are here for the students, faculty, and staff, but that we also have responsibilities to the City of Rochester and those who have entrusted their collections to us.”

Mims offered a glimpse of her vision during the interview process in a presentation entitled “Archival-Futurism: Creating Spaces of Belonging.” In her talk, she asserted that a clear, focused mission and the ability to articulate it are integral to the RBSCP’s continued success and advancement. 

A native of Rochester, Mims came to the University with a deep appreciation for the relationships the institution has with the community. She is bringing that and her passion for collections in this new role.

“The department is sort of at a crossroads,” says Mims. “I’m excited to carry it forward and create an environment where everyone can see their research, their interests, and themselves. And I would like for us to build this on principles of openness, inclusivity, and belonging.”

Mims is the third Lambert and Schleifer Director of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. The position was endowed by a gift from Joseph Lambert ʼ59 and RCL National Council member Harold Schleifer, both of whom participated in the search process, as did fellow council member Mark Zaid ʼ89.

"It is an absolute delight to know that Miranda was selected,” said Zaid. “She brings archivist experience to the position and, perhaps more importantly, intense energy and love for history that will undoubtedly breathe the kind of life into our collections that even the passive observer will see and appreciate."

Mims is a 2018–2019 fellow of the Association of Research Libraries Leadership and Career Development Program and an active member of the Society of American Archivists. She is also the co-founder of the Nomadic Archivists Project.

For questions about the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, you can contact Miranda Mims at mmims@library.rochester.edu.