- Joe Gross American-Statesman Staff
Stephen Enniss, head librarian of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., has been appointed the new director of the Harry Ransom Center at University of Texas, the university announced Monday.
Enniss will take over the duties of longtime director Thomas F. Staley, who is scheduled to retire Aug. 31.
Staley, known for a world-famous array of acquisitions during his 25-year tenure, will remain on the UT faculty and plans to teach in the College of Liberal Arts.
“Under Dr. Staley’s leadership, the Ransom Center has become an American pantheon of literary and artistic luminaries, an invaluable resource for UT students and scholars the world over,” UT president Bill Powers said in a statement Monday. In recent years, Staley has acquired manuscript collections by Norman Mailer, David Foster Wallace and the film archives of Robert De Niro and “Gone With The Wind” producer David O. Selznick.
In addition to his four-year tenure at the Folger Shakespeare Library, which is administered by Amherst College, Enniss worked at Emory University for 16 years, serving as curator and later director of the Georgia school’s manuscript, archives and rare book library. Under Enniss’ leadership, the library acquired the papers of Salman Rushdie, among other writers.
“Everyone in the research library community involved in building research collections is well aware of the Ransom Center’s extraordinary record of success,” Enniss said. “When I was at Emory, I was always watching what Tom (Staley) and his colleagues were doing.”
Enniss noted that while the Folger was a very different experience, both institutions were good preparation for the Ransom Center’s singular legacy. “The Folger holds the largest collection of early English printed books in North America,” Enniss said. “The Ransom Center is, of course, known for its modern archive, but it also has an extraordinary 16th- and 17th-century holding, so my experience maps to those collections really well.”
Enniss demurs when asked if there are any archives he has his eye on. “My colleagues and I will quip that the most important acquisition is the next one, the one about to be made. That said, there is a kind of DNA that runs through a research collection,” Enniss said, referring to the groupings and thematic threads that a well-curated collection will have. For example, Don Delillo, whose papers reside at the Ransom Center, is a direct aesthetic forerunner of David Foster Wallace, whose papers are also there.
“What is most important in the research library setting is adding strength to strength, to add to and reinforce the genetic map of existing collections,” Enniss said.
Enniss will start at the Ransom Center on Aug. 1 (allowing for a smooth transition), overseeing the research library and museum.