Former OSU Libraries Director Joseph Branin Passes Away

Joseph A. Branin, former director of The Ohio State University Libraries and a visionary leader who led the transforming renovation of the Thompson Library, died December 30, 2012 after a brave battle with cancer.

Joseph BraninBranin served as director of OSUL from 2000-2009, and, among his many accomplishments, spearheaded the renovation of the Thompson Library, 1858 Neil Avenue.

“Quite simply, our landmark library is a testament to Joseph Branin’s leadership and vision,” said E. Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University. “He will be greatly missed,  but his contributions to the intellectual heart of our University will endure for generations.”

Current Director of Libraries Carol Diedrichs recalled Branin fondly, both professionally and personally.

“During his tenure at OSU, Joe will be remembered for many successes including the Knowledge Bank and the continued growth and development of OhioLINK,” Diedrichs said. “But undoubtedly he will be remembered for the decade he would spend at OSU managing, planning, and overseeing the magnificent renovation of the Thompson Library.

“Joe was a wonderful colleague, boss and friend,” Diedrichs said.

Branin was a member of the Board of the Association of Research Libraries, a trustee on the Board of the Columbus Museum of Art, and chair of the CIC Library Directors Group. Branin also served as the editor of one of the foremost journals in the field of librarianship, College & Research Libraries.

Branin left Ohio State and the U.S. in 2009 to become the first director of the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Library in Saudi Arabia. He helped oversee construction of the facility and oversaw its operations from the first day it opened.

KAUST’s Stefan Catsicas, Provost, and Nadhmi Al Nasr, Executive Vice President, in a joint statement released just after his passing, praised Branin’s work.

“As the founding Director of the University Library, Joe’s vital contributions to KAUST will long be remembered. His effective leadership established the library as a key element of KAUST’s world-class infrastructure and an important part of research and education at KAUST.”

Diedrichs said Branin was excited about the professional opportunity that KAUST represented.

“Joe was very enthusiastic about addressing the challenges that would come in conceiving, planning and implementing a new library for a new university,” Diedrichs said.

Jay Jordan, president and chief executive officer of OCLC, said Branin always respected the special connection between The Ohio State University and OCLC which goes back to the 1960’s, when Founder Fredrick Kilgour ran OCLC from a small office in the rare books room of the Thompson Library.

“I will  think of Joe as a leader who always sought ways to work with OCLC Research to advance the science of librarianship,” Jordan said.  “His dedication to his profession makes him an exemplar  of a librarian and he will be sorely missed both in the USA and around the globe.”

William Crowe, former member of the OCLC Board of Trustees and Librarian Emeritus of the University of Kansas, recalled Branin’s professional commitment and easygoing nature.

“Joe had a keen wit and sharp intellect that, with his capacity for hard work and ability to understand other people, made him both a strong leader and exceptional company,” Crowe said. “Joe demonstrated a great sensitivity to others through his kindness and his ready smile.  He was always there to encourage and help.”

Branin was cremated and his remains are to be scattered in one of his favorite places. The Libraries is working with Branin’s wife Anita regarding a memorial gathering in Columbus later this spring.

Donations in Branin’s memory can be made to the Friends of the Libraries’ Designated Library Fund,  fund #308498, for the Rare Books collection, either by mail, to The Ohio State University Foundation, 1480 West Lane Ave., Columbus, OH 43221, or online at:


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