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Jay K. Lucker, former director of the MIT Libraries, dies at 82

Longtime library director remembered as a mentor and consultant.
Jay K. Lucker, former director of the MIT Libraries,
Jay K. Lucker, former director of the MIT Libraries,
Photo courtesy of the MIT Libraries

Jay K. Lucker, former director of the MIT Libraries, and nationally known library building and planning consultant, passed away on Sept. 2. He was 82.

Lucker was a native of New York City who started his library career at the New York Public Library in 1954, following service in the U.S. Army. He earned an AB degree from Brooklyn College, and an MS degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Library Service. While at Brooklyn College he met his wife, Marjorie Stern.

Lucker came to the MIT Libraries in 1975 from Princeton University, where he was associate university librarian. During his 20-year career at MIT, he guided the Libraries through the beginning of the transition to many digital library resources and services.

“Jay Lucker led the MIT Libraries during a period of exceptional collection growth, as well as in the momentous early years of digital library development. His contributions continue to inspire, and he will be sorely missed,” his successor, MIT Director of Libraries Ann Wolpert, said.

While at MIT, Lucker oversaw the award-winning renovation and expansion of MIT’s Rotch Library of Architecture and Planning, completed in 1990. He was active in many library organizations and served as board member and president of the Boston Library Consortium, and as president of the national Association of Research Libraries.

"Jay Lucker was an outstanding director of the MIT Libraries whom I had the privilege of serving alongside at Academic Council when I was dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences,” Philip Khoury, associate provost and Ford International Professor of History at MIT, said. “He had a fierce intellect and commitment to humanistic learning. He was also vigilant in promoting our libraries as vibrant centers for leading-edge scholarship," Khoury said.

Lucker trained and mentored a number of librarians, many of whom would go on to become library directors around the country. Throughout his career, his knowledge and advice on library building and planning was highly sought-after. He served as a consultant to numerous universities, libraries, museums and research organizations, and continued consulting well after his retirement from MIT.

“Jay’s legacy extends far beyond Cambridge and the MIT Libraries. His sense of place can be felt in libraries all over the country where he contributed his expertise as an architectural consultant. And his protégés at MIT have gone on to lead the major research libraries and archives of the United States. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his example, counsel, and friendship,” David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States, and former MIT Libraries associate director for public services under Lucker, said.

After his retirement, Lucker would eventually return to his hometown of Brooklyn, where he embarked on a mission to walk through much of Manhattan to explore the architecture of the city. He also volunteered with the nonprofit organization Literacy Partners, teaching a GED math class and getting great satisfaction from watching his students gain confidence in their abilities. Lucker also enjoyed bird watching and reading in his spare time, and was an avid fan of The New York Times crossword puzzle.

Lucker is survived by his daughters, Amy and Nancy, son-in-law Joshua, grandson Benjamin, and sister Gloria. He was predeceased by his wife, Marjorie Stern.

There are no plans for a public memorial service at this time. Lucker’s family has requested that gifts and donations in his memory be made to the Jay K. Lucker Fund at the MIT Libraries, Planned Parenthood, the Nature Conservancy, ASPCA, and literacy organizations.

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