long bio

Since I first began working in Dublin public libraries I have always been motivated by mission and impact.
Table of Contents
I enjoy working with groups of libraries to develop shared services, products and directions. I help guide national and international cooperative and R&D programs. I have been lucky to have worked with smart, dedicated people, in impactful organizations, in Ireland, the EU, the UK and the US.

Employment summary

8/2023 -The University of Washington, Seattle
Professor of Practice. The Information School.
8/2022 -Independent international librarian, writer, adviser
7/2001 - 7/2022 OCLC, Dublin Ohio, US
VP, Membership and Research, and Chief Strategist. I managed the Membership and Research Division of OCLC, a high performing group of 55 professionals from various professional backgrounds. I also jointly coordinated the strategic planning process.
7/2000 - 6/2001 Jisc, King’s College London, UK.
Director, Distributed National Electronic Resource. Oversaw the central, national UK Higher/Further Education investment in information services and resources.
11/1994 -6/2000 University of Bath, UK,
Director, UK Office for Library and Information Networking (UKOLN). Grew a high impact policy and R&D unit, with multiple funding streams.
1987 – 1994 University of Bath
Research Officer, UKOLN
1982 – 1987 Dublin City Public Lib, Ireland,
Library assistant. (inc career break for library school)


  • The Walford Award of the Knowledge and Information Management Group of CILIP (UK) (November 2023). For an outstanding contribution to knowledge and information management services.
  • IFLA Medal (July 2022). For distinguished contribution to international librarianship and to IFLA.
  • Award of the Library Association of Ireland (July 2022). For outstanding contribution to libraries and librarianship.
  • Honorary Doctor of the University, The Open University, UK (June 2014). For advancing digital libraries globally.
  • ALA ALCTS Presidential Citation (2014). For work on shared print and Collective Collections report.
  • NFAIS Miles Conrad Award (2010). For influence on the library and information industry.
  • ALA ALCTS Presidential Citation (2004). For work on OCLC Environmental Scan.
Lorcan Dempsey - Wikipedia

Principal attributes

The summary of my career below shows these attributes:

  • Learning. I have lived and worked in three countries, which share a language but are divided by cultural, social and behavioural norms (Ireland, UK, US). I have worked in different organizational and political cultures, with different drivers and patterns of decision-making (local government, education, non profit run along business lines). I have worked with academic and public libraries. This experience has taught me that I always need to question my assumptions, that I have something to learn from everybody.
  • Impact. I have worked successfully at executive level for OCLC and Jisc, organizations with broad reach. I have been privileged to direct two of the most impactful R&D units in the library community, UKOLN and OCLC Research. I have helped shape national programs, major R&D programs, and far-reaching product/service portfolios.
  • Networking. I have worked in complex multi-stakeholder environments, working with boards, advisory committees, membership structures. I have a strong network of partners and colleagues around the world. I am focused on positive outcomes.
  • Build. I have built successful teams, successful operational services, and successful partnerships thoughout my career. I am always focused on the outcome.
  • Influence. I have always combined my work responsibilities with my writing and speaking, through which I have contributed to library thinking about emphasis and direction. My proudest professional moment was when this contribution was acknowledged in the award of an honorary doctorate by the Open University in the UK.

Management roles

OCLC: Worldwide, member-driven library organization
OCLC is a nonprofit global library organization that provides shared technology services, original research, and community programs so that libraries can better fuel learning, research, and innovation.
OCLC provides library and research services to over 18,000 libraries and related institutions worldwide. It has a staff of 1,300, spread throughout North America, Europe and Australia.
Position: Vice President, Membership and Research, & Chief Strategist.
Reporting to the CEO and President, participated fully in enterprise-level budget, planning, and strategic decisions as a permanent member of the OCLC Executive Management Team.

Direct the Membership and Research Division, with a staff of ~55, in addition to broader enterprise responsibilities. Specifics include:

  • Manage the OCLC membership function, including Global and Regional Councils, Community Center, and related governance and outreach functions. In 2015/17 worked with Councils to achieve a major streamlining and realignment of Council responsibilities.
  • Manage OCLC Research, one of the world’s largest multidisciplinary groups devoted to R&D in libraries and archives, a high performing team comprising advanced developers, librarians, data scientists and other specialists.
    • We help scale learning and innovation through publication of reports, development of prototypes and support for communities of practice. I contribute actively to our research agenda, helping shape community discussions around collective collections, evolving scholarly record, libraries and Wikipedia, linked data, processing of distinctive collections, and other areas.
    • Support OCLC products and services through advanced data science techniques, data modelling, prototyping and processing of OCLC linked data resources.
    • Includes the Research Library Partnership and WebJunction programs. Oversaw the integration of the RLG group into OCLC in 2007/8.
    • Oversee a revenue diversification strategy based on OCLC support, service contributions (for the WebJunction learning platform), member dues, and grants (from IMLS, Mellon, Gates, and the Knight Foundation).
  • The OCLC Library, Archive and Museum is a part of this division.
Jisc, King’s College London
Jisc is a national UK body responsible for providing networking, information and innovation services to UK higher education. Jisc recruited me to shape the full breadth of Jisc’s investment in information services and development.
Position: Director, Distributed National Electronic Resource.
Managed the entire Jisc investment in national information services.

Policy, funding and accountability oversight for national services (including 3 national data centers and several other operational services), the national content licensing program, a set of national advisory services, and a major R&D program (comprising over 40 projects).

Gave shape and direction to Jisc’s information-related activities. Secured political support for ongoing work within the Jisc community committee framework.

Administered the Jisc central information office with a staff of 16. Responsible for oversight of the national information content and services budget, and the R&D budget competitively distributed as grants.

University of Bath
A leading UK university with an international reputation for teaching and research excellence
University of Bath, UKOLN
UKOLN (UK Office for Library and Information Networking) was an internationally renowned national research and policy centre at the University of Bath, funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils (through Jisc), the (now disappeared) Museums, Libraries, and Archives Council, the British Library, the European Union, and others.
Position: Director.
Oversaw growth into national and international center of excellence.

Developed UKOLN into an ‘international centre of excellence for networking and new technology’ (external review by the Higher Education Funding Councils and the British Library). Developed a diversified funding strategy which delivered sustainable, planned growth (core funding from Jisc and others, and grant funding from Jisc, EU Framework Programmes).

Helped shape foundational digital library programs (eLib in UK HE, the European Libraries Programme, and the People’s Network in UK public libraries) through consulting and facilitation services.

Co-founded (with Dan Greenstein) the Resource Discovery Network (RDN, later Intute) and subsequently managed the organizational and service framework for the coming together of independent ‘subject gateways’ into the RDN. Co-founded (with John MacColl) Ariadne Magazine.


  • University College Dublin: Master Library & Information Studies
  • University College Dublin: Dip. Library & Information Studies
  • University College Dublin: B.A. (English Language & Literature)
University College Dublin
UCD is one of Europe’s leading research-intensive universities; an environment where undergraduate education, masters and PhD training, research, innovation and community engagement form a dynamic spectrum of activity.

Select professional development

  • OCLC. Variety of 360-review and evaluations; courses on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and cultural competence; executive coaching.
  • Ohio State University, 2001-8. Executive development courses (strategy, finance, HR)
  • Civil Service College, UK, 1995. PRINCE - project management
  • Univ. Western England, 1992. Higher National Cert, Computing, Distinction
  • Trinity College Dublin, 1987. Dip. Adv Computer Programming. (First year completed of a 3-year course. Stopped when moved to UK)

Select committees


  • Visiting committee, Cambridge University Library, UK
  • Adv. Committee, Wayne State University, School of Library & Information Science
  • Adv. Committee, Kent State University, School of Library & Information Science

Some past commitments

  • IFLA WLIC 2016 National Organizing Committee (Organizational lead for OCLC participation when the global IFLA meeting came to Columbus)
  • NISO (National Information Standards Organization, US) Board
  • CISTI Advisory Board (Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information and Canadian National Science Library)
  • Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control
  • Ithaka Research Advisory Committee
  • Member of editorial boards of Program, Journal of Academic Librarianship, Public Access Computer Systems Review.
  • Visiting committee to Los Alamos National Laboratories Research Library (review of library)
  • Visiting committee to the Natural History Museum, London (review of Information services)

Communication, publications and presentations

The citation for the award of the honorary Doctorate at the Open University (UK) reads:

Through his extensive writing, inspirational speaking and thought-provoking online presence … Lorcan is responsible for a wide range of influential concepts that have shaped the conversation about the future of libraries in the broader information environment.

A full annotated description of my writing and some recent presentations are available here:

I have written widely over the years. Topics have evolved, but follow a general chronological arc from the technical, through the description of evolving digital systems and services, to organizational and institutional issues.
Some recent presentations
Here are some recent presentations. I debated whether to use Slideshare or Figshare to share. Slideshare is interesting and seemed to peak a while ago. I don’t know why it did not last within the Linkedin family and we will see what Scribd will do with it now that they own it. It has the advantage o…

Twice awarded an ALA ALCTS (Assoc. for Library Collections and Technical Services) Presidential citation for publications with colleagues. A book of my blog was published by ALA Publishing in 2014: The network reshapes the library.

Thoughtful, prescient yet also self-deprecating, Lorcan Dempsey's blog has been a must read for many years. This collection brings together some highlights spanning 10 years between 2003 and 2013. Curated into loosely themed chapters, they provide an accessible summary of some significant trends during that period and better illustrate how good Dempsey has been at identifying and describing key ideas. This for me was a lively reminder of how things are changing and how much there is yet to do. I inhaled it in one sitting. // Network Reshapes the Library: Lorcan Dempsey on Libraries, Services, and Networks by Lorcan Dempsey | LibraryThing

Grants and programs

Grant maker and program development

  • Managed the R&D program of Jisc in the UK, distributing grant funding to support innovation in library and information services.
  • Provided consulting, facilitation and support services to the UK’s Electronic Libraries Programme, and helped shape its direction.
  • Co-author of the libraries section of the EU Fourth Framework Programme. Acted as consultant, evaluator and drafter for the libraries programme of the European Commission.
  • Member of the working group which created the People’s Network, a UK public library network infrastructure funding initiative.

Grant recipient

  • Have overseen an extensive OCLC Research range of projects funded by IMLS, Gates, and the Andrew W. Mellon and Knight Foundations.
  • Co-PI, University futures, library futures. Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2017-18).
  • At UKOLN managed a portfolio of influential grant funded projects in distributed library services, resource discovery, and consensus-making. Funding from Jisc and the European Union Framework programmes.
  • Experienced application writer with a high hit rate.


Lorcan Dempsey dot Net

The social, cultural and technological contexts of libraries, services and networks

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