Richard S. Newman, a professor of history at Rochester Institute of Technology, has been named the next director of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Newman, author of a highly regarded biography of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church founder Richard Allen, will replace John C. Van Horne, who has led the nation's oldest library for 29 years. The Library Company was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731.

Van Horne will retire in May and Newman, 46, will take up his new post during the summer.

"The Library Company is a scholar's paradise," Newman said last week. " ... This is one of the great repositories in the world, so my job is to protect and enhance." He said he would seek ways to engage the broader public, build a robust digital presence, and refine the institution's scholarly and educational mission.

Newman has worked with research archives, public history sites, and teacher training programs on many outreach initiatives. He has been an educational consultant to the Strong Museum in Rochester; contributed to digital projects at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; been part of a major site review team at Independence National Historical Park; and collaborated on the Library Company's 2008 Black Founders exhibition.