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Rare Books Directorship Endowed

January 8, 2013
Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. SchleiferJoseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer

Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer have made a $1 million commitment to endow the directorship of rare books, special collections, and preservation at the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries. The position plays a key role in the University’s efforts to preserve, digitize, and share historic collections.

“This is an amazing gift for which all of us at the University of Rochester are profoundly grateful,” said University President Joel Seligman. “Joseph Lambert and Harold Schleifer possess a deep understanding of the evolving work of libraries. Through their professional and personal experiences, they recognize the critical role that libraries play in advancing and preserving knowledge. Their commitment will allow collections that were once the preserve of a handful of scholars to be widely available through the Internet.”

An ophthalmologist who received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester in 1959, Dr. Lambert is inspired by the sweeping changes that have occurred in libraries. “Who would have thought, 50 years ago, that technology would play such an important role in libraries?” he asked. “Regardless of change, rare books and unique materials, such as the collected papers of individuals, will always remain a vital window to the past. With the advent of the Web, archiving and sharing information digitally is the new world.”

Both Lambert and Schleifer have close ties to the world of libraries. For Schleifer, that relationship began at the age of 14 shelving books as a page at the New York Public Library, where he worked through his undergraduate years at City College of New York. Schleifer eventually received a full scholarship from the library to pursue his master’s studies in library science at Columbia University. He joined the library staffs at Brooklyn College, New York University, Herbert H. Lehman College, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook before becoming dean of the University Library at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona—a position he held for 28 years.

Like his partner of 27 years, Lambert also found employment in a favorite library. During his undergraduate years at Rochester, he worked in Rush Rhees Library checking out books, locating materials in the reserve reading room, and even tending the fire in the Welles-Brown Room. Lambert recalled spending countless hours studying in the reserve reading room, which is now the Hawkins-Carlson Room. He noted that the “Welles-Brown Room with its leather chairs and fireplace was such a comfortable place for relaxing – it was a great spot.” He went on to earn his medical degree at New York University, before fulfilling a military commitment and then completing his ophthalmology residency at UCLA. He then practiced ophthalmology in Southern California while teaching as a clinical faculty member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA. He also worked for 17 years in drug safety and clinical research in the pharmaceutical industry.

Along with Lambert’s fond memories of Rush Rhees, a capstone project helped bring the partners back to Rochester in recent years. Shortly before retirement, Schleifer led a major addition and renovation to the Cal Poly Pomona University Library. Going into the project, he found guidance in the anthropological studies done at Rush Rhees Library. “I used the methods and applied them to my project at Cal Poly, which was very successful in part from the good work done at Rochester.” Now retired, Schleifer serves on the advisory council of the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries.

Lambert and Schleifer chose to endow a directorship because they wanted to make an enduring contribution. “Buildings and books come and go, but good people will always be essential,” said Schleifer. “As the University continues to grow, this directorship will support scholarship and students in perpetuity,” added Lambert.

The establishment of the Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer Director of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation at the University of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries supports The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester, a University-wide fundraising campaign that was launched in October 2011 and runs through June 30, 2016 (

“This is an exciting time for libraries. There are whole worlds being created in archiving and preserving e-mails, Web sites, and blogs paralleling what was done with print materials in the past, but reflective of advancements in electronic communication and documentation,” noted Schleifer. “Unique materials will always be important and more so, today, with the application of technology to these collections. Digitization and the Internet have made Rochester’s resources available to the world.”

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