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A retirement reception held in honor of Dean of Purdue University Libraries and Esther Ellis Norton Professor James L. Mullins is set from 3-5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, in the Mullins Reading Room, Library of Engineering and Science, Wilmeth Active Learning Center.

Mullins has been the dean of Purdue Libraries since 2004. He came to Purdue from MIT Libraries, where he was associate director for administration. Prior to MIT, he held senior administrative positions at Indiana University and Villanova University.

During his tenure at Purdue, Mullins’ leadership propelled Purdue Libraries to the forefront of academic and research library innovation, and he strengthened Purdue Libraries in all areas; championed the active-learning concept on campus; and established the W. Wayne Booker Endowed Chair in Information Literacy, a first of its kind in higher education, in Purdue Libraries. Additionally, Mullins was integral in establishing the Purdue University Research Repository (PURR), the Libraries Scholarly Publishing Services Division to advance scholarly communication, and the Distributed Data Curation Center in the Libraries’ Research Data unit.


Dean of Purdue University Libraries James L. Mullins

Dean of Purdue University Libraries and Esther Ellis Norton Professor James L. Mullins — with the view of the Mullins Reading Room behind him — is holding a dictionary he has owned for nearly 50 years. The well-worn edition of Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary was given to him by his late brother and sister-in-law for his high school graduation.


In late September, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels announced that the Reading Room in the new Thomas S. and Harvey D. Wilmeth Active Learning Center (WALC) is named after Mullins, who played an integral role in envisioning and designing the new building.

“Jim Mullins has dedicated his life to serving students and transforming and improving the way we educate them. It is truly fitting for his name to forever be a part of something as innovative as the Wilmeth Active Learning Center,” Daniels noted.

The Mullins Reading Room is among the many now well-used study spaces in the innovative new building, which opened in August 2017. The WALC—home of the Library of Engineering and Science and 27 active-learning classrooms—marries library and classroom space in a first-of-its-kind structure and is situated in the heart of the Purdue West Lafayette campus.

“Due to Jim’s vision and pioneering work, Purdue Libraries is internationally recognized as a creative and visionary leader in the academic and research library profession,” said D. Scott Brandt, interim associate dean for research, Purdue Libraries.

Mullins has served in leadership roles within the American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, and the International Federation of Library Associations. In 2016, Mullins received the prestigious Hugh A. Atkinson Award from the American Library Association in recognition of his outstanding leadership and his many contributions to research libraries. In 2017, he was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award in Information and Library Science by the School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University.

During his tenure, Purdue University Libraries received the 2015 University Library Excellence Award by the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Mullins earned B.A. degrees in religion, history, and political science and his M.A.L.S. degree from the University of Iowa and his Ph.D. from Indiana University’s School of Informatics and Computing (formerly the School of Library and Information Science).