On the morning of January 6, 2021 Larry Sullivan announced his retirement, effective immediately at a regular Library faculty meeting. We all thought it would be the most shocking thing that would happen that day. We were wrong about that, but at least we will always remember the anniversary of his retirement.
I will miss Larry’s deep understanding of academic library administration and management; he always knew when, how and to whom to advocate for the Library when a problem loomed. But the most important lessons I learned from working with Larry was how to practically manage our Special Collections. Under his direction we made significant acquisitions of rare book and archival collections, which have more than doubled in size over these past two decades. As a result, we regularly have been able to report in this publication an average of four to five publications a year resulting from researchers working with our unique primary resources on criminal justice history (broadly defined).
As work continues finally finishing and opening our new Special Collections reading room and exhibit space, I am also reflecting on how this suite of room was conceptualized as part of “the John Jay Construction Phase II” planning of the New Building three decades ago, well before I arrived in 2004. It took all of the intervening years of Larry advocating for this space to finally make it a reality. While famously technology-adverse, Larry’s support for our robust digitization program from our Special Collections have made content from thousands of items freely available supporting not only those unable to travel to NYC but most importantly student learning directly from primary materials. We have Larry to thank for making the Library’s unique collections accessible, known and used, not only at the College but worldwide. I wish him well on his well-deserved retirement. -- Ellen Belcher
In addition to being a celebrated scholar and mentor, as a chief librarian who oversees the work of library faculty and staff, Larry has also been a compassionate manager who had promoted work-life balance well before it became a management cliche. I am grateful for working with Larry when I was a new mother and my son was a very small child. Among sleepless nights, endless colds, unpredictable child afflictions, snow day school closures, and other crises, I had always known that Larry would tell me to calm down, take as much time as needed, and pick up the work when I was able to. Thanks to Larry, the library department has embraced a care-work culture where people’s private lives and family obligations were seen as a part of who we are and how we work. Time and time again, Larry supported those of us who had to attend to children, elderly parents, our own health crises, or to others who needed our care by ensuring we knew that he understood and encountered these challenges himself. I wholeheartedly hope that this particular legacy of Larry’s tenure in the Library will continue to shape our work lives. -- Marta Bladek
I am appreciative for his expertise as an administrator who was an able representative among the CUNY and John Jay College administrators and fellow faculty members. He was special in his ability to draw out the best in the library faculty and staff (including custodians) and helped all of us to make a good presentation professionally at the College and elsewhere. -- Marvie Brooks
Larry was and is a scholar, first and foremost, and as chief librarian for over two decades he made a point to hire intellectually curious library faculty in whom he saw the same potential. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to land than John Jay, and I am grateful to Larry for his unflagging support and encouragement of my scholarship en route to tenure and promotion. Working for Larry meant never having a moment’s doubt that he would support his faculty and staff in every way possible. He instilled confidence in me and my colleagues and gave us the freedom to carry on and do our jobs well. In large part due to Larry, my position at John Jay has been the most satisfying work experience of my career. – Kathleen Collins
For many decades, the John Jay College Library and Larry, or Dr. Sullivan, were synonymous terms when faculty were talking about my place of work. Everybody in the college, be it a seasoned professor, a janitor, a 6th floor administrator, a graduate student, a visiting scholar knew Larry and were able to make their way into his office to chat or get advice. His attitude towards library faculty, clerical staff and student workers is always of respect, equality and interest in other person’s life and experience. Larry is always impeccably dressed, has a calming and attentive demeanor and is carrying the most erudite conversations on a vast variety of topics: world travel, literature, theater, history of punishment, crime, educational theories, just to name a few. Larry’s favorite phrase is “to be continued” which I interpret as “problems will be solved, people will move on, reason will prevail.” -- Maria Kiriakova
I am going to miss Larry’s calm and compassionate leadership. He guided so many of us through the stress–inducing tenure process. I appreciated Larry’s trust in our ability to lead and manage our work responsibilities and units. I never doubted that he would support us and the library even through the most difficult times like the pandemic lockdown period. Thank you, Larry, for being there for us! -- Karen Okamoto
As Assistant to the Chief Librarian, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from the exceptional librarians in the John Jay College Library, in particular Bonnie Nelson for excellent computer training, and Janice Dunham and Chief Librarian Larry Sullivan for excellent library training.
-- Carolyn Paden
I first met Larry at about the beginning of the fall 2019 semester when I arrived at John Jay for my interview for the cataloging and metadata librarian position. I had just recently finished my dual MS LIS and MA History degrees and Larry’s scholarship on prisons and prison librarianship filled the bibliography of my theses. I would soon learn that we share even more interests such as rare book cataloging, American traditional tattoos, and a deep admiration for Samuel Steward a.k.a Phil Sparrow. I did not have the pleasure of working with Larry for long. However, Larry has provided me with great support within my research areas, professional development opportunities, and has continually reminded me that I can always reach out to him for support. I am grateful to have worked with him for he is a true scholar, mentor, librarian, and leader. I wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement. -- Patrick J. Raftery Jr.
It is hard to adequately pay tribute to the work of the Chief Librarian who led and shaped the Library for over a quarter of a century. Larry was barely ensconced in the Chief's Chair when I started my career at the library in the mid-nineties. His was a genial and discreet presence, striding the hallways with a single thin braid running over the collar of his dark suit. He arrived as web browser Netscape's Navigator took over from Mosaic, and the CD ROMS stacked in towers beside workstations were our most exciting new technology visible to users. Telephones sat firmly on top of desks. He enlivened the dullest meetings with philosophical asides and anecdotes of the Chicago boys, dive bar tending and prison librarianship. He wrote and taught and talked about punishment and prisons and prisoners and prisoners’ writing. His office was a curio box of vintage dime store novels, religious kitsch, postcards and art, with the resident devils and angels mesmerizing and menacing guests. He steered the Library successfully from card catalog days through three management systems (NOTIS, Aleph, Alma), yet was helpless in front of a beeping photocopier. By the year he retired, most of our users were accessing most library content remotely, many using light handheld devices many times more powerful than our old workstations.
Larry was generous with distributing writing assignments to the willing, sharing opportunities to publish in the encyclopedias and handbooks he edited. Generous too with tickets to the magnificent annual Armory show on Park Avenue; wandering through the stalls in search of bargain-basement criminal justice treasures was an education; not least chatting with Larry's tattooed and kilted friends amid their eclectic collections.
He was a steadfast and unfailing advocate for the library within the college and beyond. He led us enthusiastically through times of unimaginable technological change while maintaining a deep reverence for the physical manifestations of books and manuscripts. We miss his stewardship, and wish him all the best and happy travels. -- Ellen Sexton
To Larry, you have touched all hearts in Lloyd Sealy Library. I greatly appreciate your leadership and support system for your employees throughout the years. P.S. don’t forget about us. Thank you so much. -- Debbie Spivey
On paper and in life, Larry’s breadth and depth of knowledge might intimidate the less traveled, both figuratively and literally given his penchant for world travel. And then one gets to know him. Although the library is only one of Larry’s many interests, he always has had the library’s back, knowing when to lead, when to intervene, and when to let the experts do their job. For me, his kindness and efforts to support the people in the library are what I will always remember first when thinking about Larry. -- Maureen Richards
I was honestly surprised when I heard that Larry Sullivan decided to retire. A part of me thought that he'd be here forever. He has been a fixture of the library for the whole of my career and it’s difficult to imagine the place without him. Larry’s time as Chief Librarian has been transformative. It is a period where the way we do business changed completely, moving from card catalogs to computers. I’m deeply appreciative to have had the opportunity to work here while he has been in charge. He helped to make the library an open and friendly place, both for students to study in and for faculty and staff to work in. His retirement is the end of an era but I know that after so many years of hard work, it is also well deserved. Larry, congratulations and best wishes! -- Mark Zubarev