12 November 2023

Five of six NSW cultural institutions to be led by women following appointment of new State Librarian

| Travis Radford
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Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon.

Transport for NSW Cities and Active Transport Acting Deputy Secretary Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon will be NSW’s next State Librarian. Photo: Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon.

Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon will oversee the next chapter of the State Library of NSW following her appointment as the next State Librarian.

After Dr Butler-Bowdon steps into the role on Wednesday 15 November, all of NSW’s six cultural institutions – with the exception of the Art Gallery of NSW – will be led by women.

Dr Butler-Bowdon has more than two decades of leadership experience in large public institutions and a track record of supporting creative communities and building partnerships across government.

She is currently Acting Deputy Secretary of Cities and Active Transport at Transport for NSW, but her career has ranged from the museum and heritage space to activations in streets, centres and open spaces.

Dr Butler-Bowdon is also a published author in architectural and urban history and previously held leadership roles at the Historic Houses Trust of NSW, which is entrusted with the care and maintenance of the state’s historic sites. In this role, she oversaw programs and initiatives for important museums and institutions, including Hyde Park Barracks, Museum of Sydney, Rose Seidler House and Vaucluse House.

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Dr Butler-Bowdon described the State Library of NSW as an important cornerstone of the community and said she was filled with genuine excitement to lead the institution.

“Libraries, like parks, are at the very bedrock of the best democracies, global cities and states,” she said.

“I look forward to playing a part in the future of this wonderfully storied institution, championing the work of its loyal and creative staff, its globally significant collections, and its state-wide reach.

“One of the keys to success will be balancing the focus on the physical library with the opportunities to work in western Sydney, and of course regionally through the Public Libraries network.

“Together we will ensure that every citizen has access to this great library and its public network across NSW, as places of experience, learning, research, connection and community.”

The State Library of NSW is the oldest library in Australia, with more than six million items in its collection and receives almost a million readers and visitors every year.

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Library Council President George Souris AM welcomed Dr Butler-Bowdon and said she would be an incredible asset with her passion for cultural institutions.

He also paid tribute to Dr John Vallance, who is retiring after six years as State Librarian and a distinguished career in the arts and academia.

“I want to thank Dr John Vallance for his leadership over the past six years – he brought a wealth of knowledge to the role through his many years in the arts and academia, and the State Library is a better place for his service,” Mr Souris said.

NSW Arts Minister John Graham also thanked Dr Vallance for his contributions and legacy and said he was thrilled that Dr Butler-Bowdon would be NSW’s next State Librarian.

“Dr Caroline Butler-Bowdon [will] bring her profound expertise and demonstrated excellence in cultural, creative and place leadership to this important institution,” he said. “[She] has a passionate commitment to cultural leadership for the widest audience. I look forward to seeing the State Library of NSW continue to flourish under her drive to engage and inspire communities in the joys and power of ideas and culture.”

Minister Graham also noted the library’s transformation over the past decade to make it a more inclusive place for visitors, with accessibility improvements and a new multi-purpose space.

“I look forward to working with Dr Butler-Bowdon in making the State Library an even more welcoming and diverse institution for readers and visitors to experience,” he said.

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