The president of Amherst College will leave the private liberal arts school and become president of the New York Public Library next July, the library announced Wednesday.
"To me, the Library is a bulwark of an informed and inclusive society," Anthony Marx said in a statement after the library board approved his appointment. "I am ready and eager to pursue its ideals of wide access to information and ideas — ideals I want defining my children's lives."
Marx, who has led the Massachusetts college since 2003, said in a letter to staff and faculty on Tuesday that he looked forward to heading the nation's largest circulating library, which has the third-largest collection in the world.
A native New Yorker, Marx will replace Paul LeClerc, who announced last year that he would be retiring.
Marx will take over a library system with nearly 90 branches in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx, an operating and capital budget of more than $500 million and 1,900 full-time staff members. Like other cultural institutions it has had to grapple with reduced public funding.
"The responsibilities faced by the library, and the larger society, are immense. We have to ensure that the public retains free access to ideas, information and books. We have to ensure a future for scholarship that further builds our understanding. And we have to ensure that our citizens have civic space and vibrant programs for learning and thinking," Marx said in his letter.
Marx attended the Bronx High School of Science and is a former professor of political science at Columbia University. He praised the accomplishments of Amherst — consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the nation — during his tenure, including increased low-income and minority enrollment and a planned new science center.
The library said in its statement that circulation and attendance are at record highs — with 18 million in-person visits recorded each year — and noted that for many New Yorkers it is the only source for job search help and free Internet.
"Technological change offers enormous opportunities, but also risks exacerbating the information divide," library Chairman Catherine Marron and Vice-Chairman Joshua L. Steiner said in the statement. "In Tony, we found a leader who embraces the Library's commitment to free and open access. He has passion for our mission and the flexibility, experience, and wisdom to help ensure that we evolve the way we fulfill it."
LeClerc, a former president off Hunter College, has been at the library's helm since 1993, and is credited with leading the library system into the digital age. He also has overseen some $500 million in capital projects.