Position: Executive Director
Company: Poets House
Location: New York City, NY
Reporting Relationship: Board of Directors
Poets House Overview
Poets House is our nation’s poetry library; a 70,000-volume collection that honors the many poetry traditions of the world and has also set a standard for programming and dialogue during the last three decades of operation. A place of welcome and social imagination, Poets House invites everyone to read, write and participate in poetry’s transformational power.
This is a remarkable opportunity for the right individual whose management and development acumen can be a creative force in facilitating the long-range growth and sustainability of a beloved literary organization.
Poets House is a comfortable, accessible place for poetry—a library and meeting place which invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry. Poets House seeks to document the wealth and diversity of modern poetry, to stimulate dialogue on issues of poetry in culture, and to cultivate a wider audience for the art.
Diversity and Inclusivity at Poets House
At the heart of our mission is a commitment to diversity and inclusivity, which has informed our programs and activities since we opened our doors to the public in 1986. Poets House exists to create a welcoming home for poets, poetry readers and for those who are exploring poetry; a democratic and pluralistic space that encourages artistic excellence, inquiry, and experimentation, and one that welcomes everyone into the joyous exploration of this art.
We believe that poetry can promote a deeper conversation between individuals, communities, and cultures. We strive to ensure that the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion shape all aspects of the organization—governance, staffing, programming, and collections—in order to provide an environment of belonging for all.
An Organization in Transition
Due to financial stresses caused by the pandemic, the organization temporarily ceased operations in late 2020 and has used the time since then to stabilize, replenish financial reserves, and make repairs necessitated by a devastating flood. During this time Poets House has launched a listening campaign to gather intelligence from the community that will help to inform the final selection of the next Executive Director and the strategic planning to begin as we reopen to the public when repairs are complete. The next Executive Director will have the opportunity to work with the board to shape priorities for the next chapter in the life of the organization.
About the Library
Among the largest and most comprehensive independent poetry collections available to the public in open stacks anywhere in the country, the Reed Foundation Library at Poets House houses over 70,000 poetry books and related materials, all freely accessible to poets, readers, researchers, and the broader poetry community. The collection includes books, chapbooks, literary journals, special collections, and the Axe-Houghton Multimedia Archive.
A donation-based library, the collection has grown over the years due to the incredible generosity of the poets, publishers, and poetry readers who have supported Poets House. You can check out our quick tour of the library to learn even more about the materials we hold at www.poetshouse.org.
Poets House has a rich tradition of diverse programming that is intellectually challenging, embracive of all aesthetic and cultural approaches to poetry, and serves both the poetry community and the general public. A wonderful bench of programming, reading series, and digital offerings includes:
- Digital programs such as Poets House Presents and the Hard Hat Reading Series
- Education Services including free trips welcoming over 10,000 children and youth each year, in-depth collaborations with local elementary schools resulting in an annual anthology of children’s poetry and writing workshops and masterclasses for adults.
- Community collaborations such as The Poetry Path in Battery Park City
- Collaborations with public libraries across the nation in series such as Poetry in the Branches, The Language of Conservation, and Poetic Voices of the Muslim World
- Live conversations such as Passwords, in which one poet speaks about the work of another, Craft Talks, and Tributes
- Exhibits including the Poets House Showcase, an exhibit of all of the year’s new books—normally over 3,000 books from almost a thousand publishers
- Digital explorations of the library collection such as Chapbooks of the Mimeo Revolution and Poetry Trading Cards
- Imaginative fundraisers such as the beloved annual Poetry Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
This rich history provides a foundation for a new vision the next Executive Director will bring to Poets House programming.
Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director is responsible for providing the overall artistic direction, and communications to a diverse field, representing the organization in accordance with its mission and values and developing and managing the operations of the organization. Primary responsibilities include administration, community relations, fundraising, building the library’s collections and representing Poets House with the wider literary world.
Poets House seeks a visionary executive with the passion, skills, and drive to successfully lead, refine and define value and impact with visitors and the wider poetry communities. The Executive Director must be an inclusive, thoughtful, dynamic leader who values and promotes its rich history and mission. As well as someone who can leverage their business acumen, people management, and strategic vision for the benefit of all who engage with Poets House.
Poets House makes an inclusive, collegial environment for visitors, constituents, and staff. The individual who fills this position can have a truly pivotal impact in this new chapter by engaging in conversation, listening, incorporating feedback, and driving creative vision through programming, reach, resources, value, and service.
The Executive Director will assume responsibility for the leadership, strategic execution, and overall management of Poets House, as well as its operating budget. There is great institutional potential for creating and deepening relationships with individuals and other sponsors.
Specific responsibilities will include, but not be limited to the following:
Executive Leadership & Strategic Vision:
- Thoroughly understands Poets House, its mission and policies, culture, values, history, key partners and stakeholders, programs, finances, and strategic planning efforts.
- Anticipates and articulates a vision for strategic challenges Poets House faces as it transitions into the next phase of its growth.
- Actively pursues the development of library collections, including books, special collections, the archive, and digital holdings
Governance and Policy:
- Works with executive officers, committees, and the board at large; maintains a close relationship with the board chairperson and president; works closely with the nominating/governance committee to recruit new board members; orients new board members; and helps the Board of Directors to understand its fundraising and policy role.
- Serves as the chief staff liaison to the Board of Directors and executive committee; sets the annual board and executive meeting schedules; helps board leadership plan agendas and ancillary materials for board meetings.
- Communicates regularly with board members on issues of Poets House business and interest.
- Prepares an annual budget, in tandem with senior staff, for approval of the Board of Directors.
- Helps the board understand the context and positioning of the organization in order to assist them on policy issues and to facilitate long-range planning; then, in tandem with staff, carries out long-range plans.
- Overall responsibility for the development and management of a diverse staff in a culture of mutual respect
- Conducts searches for senior staff positions approved by the board; develops office and staff policies in compliance with local, state, and federal guidelines
- Oversees fiscal management, budgeting, capital investments
- Directly supervises senior staff; oversees staff development, compensation, and workflow in coordination with annual institutional goals.
- Approves major expenditures, policies, benefits, and operational procedures, responding to the operational oversight and recommendations of the Managing Director.
- Promotes the growth, stewardship, preservation, and accessibility of the library collection.
- The Executive Director works with the board and staff, leading and overseeing fundraising, including the cultivation of new donors and the continued development of relationships with established donors. The Executive Director directly supervises the Development Director.
- Works proactively with the Development Director, staff, and board to strategize about institutional fundraising to meet both long-range goals and annual budgetary benchmarks, supervising development plans, timelines, and “prospects” lists.
- Manages local, state, and federal relations with elected and appointed officials
- Works closely with the Development Director and the board on special fundraising events and any special campaigns, including capital projects.
- The Executive Director has final responsibility for ensuring that program objectives and mission requirements are met. For example:
- Sets goals for program staff; approves and oversees the long-range and annual Poets House program plan.
- Initiates, when appropriate, new programs, or programmatic relationships with potential collaborators.
- Serves as chief liaison and spokesperson to other literary, artistic and community organizations.
- Speaks publicly about the Poets House role in literature, coordinating long-term partnerships with other organizations and spearheading new program synergies to facilitate the Poets House mission.
- Acts as the official spokesperson for the organization to the press.
The successful candidate will bring passion, enthusiasm, and vision for the Poets House mission, people, and library. They will embody a deep knowledge and love of poetry and have at least a decade of executive leadership experience in an organization of similar or larger size and complexity.
The Executive Director will be a very strong culture builder, stellar communicator, strategic thinker, and a proven leader who will articulate an inclusive vision that others are excited to embrace and follow. This leader must have a working knowledge of non-profit organizational structure, such as: board development; fundraising; impact measurement; and financial reporting. The candidate must have extensive experience managing staff, volunteers, budgets, and program plans.
Other desired qualifications and leadership characteristics include:
- Minimum of seven years of experience in management positions with progressively increasing responsibility;
- Experience managing a special library that provides access to the general public, scholars, and the wider research community;
- A demonstrated appreciation of the role that poetry plays in the life of the individual and the community;
- Planning, organizational, and relationship management skills;
- Exceptional written and verbal skills coupled with the ability to think strategically and demonstrated presentation skills;
- A professional commitment to represent the best interests and integrity of Poets House in all activities and relationships through consistent messaging;
- Ability to promote opportunities for engagement to wide-ranging constituents and the capacity to be a visionary leader who can motivate, inspire, and enlist engagement of partners, both external and internal, and work effectively with warmth one-on-one as well as in a group environment.
- Management experience in a non-profit or similar institution and/or higher education, government agency, or publishing, with a demonstrated history of leading highly productive teams for 7 to 10 years with progressively responsible experience.
- Bachelor’s degree is required; advanced degree is preferred.
- Interested and qualified candidates are welcome to submit a resume and cover letter to:
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