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Lee Dirks

Lee Dirks

Lee Dirks joined Microsoft in 1996, after many years in the library world, first at Columbia University, then at the Online Computer Library Center. For 10 years, he worked at Microsoft in many areas, as the corporate archivist, corporate librarian, and senior manager in the corporate market research organization. In 2006, he became director for Education and Scholarly Communications, and in 2007, he joined the team within Microsoft Research responsible for working closely with academia and research organizations to help solve some of the world’s most challenging scientific and social problems via collaborative research projects. He continued working in this role until 2011, when he was promoted to director for Portfolio Strategy for Microsoft Research.

With a clear vision of where scholarly publishing and library science were headed, Lee understood that the Internet was changing everything, pushing the existing publishing models towards obsolescence and fundamentally altering the academic library’s traditional role. He championed the shift in librarianship that has seen many top library schools recreate themselves as iSchools, where the emphasis has turned to teaching the skills of information retrieval and evaluation. He used his vast connections in the library world to promote the iSchool paradigm. When confronted by old-school reactionaries, he loved to quote U.S. General Eric Shinseki: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

Lee was a powerful voice for change in the publishing world, too, pushing for the new model of interconnectedness, in which not only journal articles are available online, but also so are the underlying data sets for review and commentary.

Lee participated in several (US) National Science Foundation task forces; taught as adjunct faculty at the iSchool at the University of Washington; and served on the advisory boards for the University of Washington Libraries, the UW iSchool's Master of Science in Information Science (MSIM) program, and the Metadata Research Center at the School of Information and Library Science at UNC at Chapel Hill.

In late August 2012, Lee Dirks and his wife Judy, while on holiday in Peru celebrating their fifteenth wedding anniversary, died in an automobile accident when their car slid off the road. They left behind two young daughters and broken hearts throughout Microsoft Research and beyond. Lee was a thoughtful, charismatic, and loving co-worker, friend, husband, and father. He is greatly missed by many people around the world.




  • School of Information & Library Science (SILS) Board of Visitors, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), 2009–2012.
  • iSchool MSIM and Informatics Advisory Board, University of Washington, 2007–2012.
  • National Research Council (NRC) Study Committee on “Future Career Opportunities and Educational Requirement for Digital Curation” undertaken by the Board on Research Data and Information (BRDI) / Policy and Global Affairs Division (PGAD) / National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Term: December 1, 2011, through December 31, 2013.