Palfrey appointed as new head of Harvard Law School Library

April 30, 2008

John Palfrey

John Palfrey

John G. Palfrey ’01 has been appointed vice dean of library and information resources and a tenured professor of law, Dean Elena Kagan ’86 announced today.

Palfrey is currently executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and a clinical professor of law. In his new position, he will be responsible for expanding the Library’s reach and services, and finding new ways to use digital technologies to enhance the Law School's scholarship, teaching, and other activities. Palfrey will remain a faculty director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

"John is the perfect person to ensure that the Harvard Law School Library is as important an institution in the 21st century as it has been in the past," said Kagan. "His extraordinary understanding of how digital technologies can facilitate scholarship and teaching, his deep commitment to making information and knowledge accessible, and his inspired leadership of research institutions all make him uniquely qualified to assume this great responsibility. Everyone who honors the Harvard Law School Library -- who appreciates what it has done and what it can do to advance learning in the world -- should feel a sense of joy about this appointment."

“I couldn't be more excited to take on this new challenge,” said Palfrey. “The Harvard Law School Library is an extraordinary institution, with a proud tradition and a bright future. I’m so grateful to have the chance to work with the staff, students, and faculty of the Harvard Law School in this job during our transition to a digital age.”

Palfrey’s work focuses on Internet law, intellectual property, and the potential of new technologies to strengthen democracies locally and around the world. He is the leader of several Berkman Center research ventures, including the new Digital Natives project, which focuses on the key legal, social, and political implications of a generation that has grown up immersed in digital technologies. Palfrey is the co-author of a forthcoming book focusing on the theories behind this new project entitled, “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives.”

Currently a visiting professor of information law and policy at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, Palfrey is also a co-principal investigator on the OpenNet Initiative, which seeks to identify and document Internet censorship around the world. He recently travelled to Turkey to speak with government officials about legislation aimed at limiting Internet access. Together with Visiting Professor Jonathan Zittrain ’95, Palfrey is a co-editor of a book exploring Internet censorship entitled “Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering.”

Palfrey joined the Harvard Law faculty as a lecturer on law in 2003. Prior to coming to HLS, he practiced law at Ropes & Gray, where he worked on intellectual property, Internet law, and private equity transactions. Palfrey also served as a special assistant at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration.

Palfrey holds an A.B. from Harvard College and an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge in addition to his J.D.

Palfrey succeeds Harry S. Martin, the Henry N. Ess III Librarian and Professor of Law, who served as head of the Harvard Law Library for 27 years.