Ken Varnum is Senior Program Manager at the University of Michigan Library. Part of Library Information Technology’s Design & Discovery unit, my responsibilities include technology and project management for the library’s discovery interfaces (the “MLibrary” single search tool, ArticlesPlus, Search Tools, etc.), delivery interfaces (“M Get It”), and the library’s evolving and emerging analytics infrastructure.

From 2007-2015, I was manager of the Web Systems department at the University of Michigan Library, where I oversaw the library web site and development of new features and functionality.

Ken Varnum
Courtesy of Michigan Photography – Austin Thomason

I received my Bachelor of Arts from Grinnell College and two masters degrees from the University of Michigan (one from the School of Information and the second from the Center for Russian and East European Studies). Over my two decades working with public-facing technology in academic, corporate, and special libraries, I have gained a deep appreciation and understanding of the need to tailor systems and interfaces to the local user base. (See my full CV for details.)

My areas of interest include the web-scale discovery tools, Drupal content management system, and user-generated content. In addition to various articles and chapters, I wrote Drupal in Libraries (2012), compiled the LITA Guide The Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know (May 2014), and edited Lorcan Dempsey’s The Network Reshapes the Library (July 2014). I blog sporadically at and am on Twitter as @varnum.

Professional Involvement

I am a member of the NISO Open Discovery Initiative Standing Committee, focused on creating transparency in communicating what information is available in web-scale discovery systems. The group released a Recommended Practice in June 2014. I am in my third year of service on the LITA Forum Planning Committee (and was chair of the 2014 LITA Forum), and was recently elected to a three-year term as LITA Director-at-Large (2015-2018).

Past involvement includes the RLG Social Metadata Working Group.


I speak regularly at conferences (upcoming events are noted on the right; see the presentations page for a complete list of past talks and links to presentations). In Fall 2016, I will be speaking at the Charleston Conference and the LITA Forum. In November 2014, I was a panelist on the NMC’s Virtual Symposium on the Future of Libraries, presented at the Amigos Virtual Conference: Discovery Tools Now and in the Future and was a presenter in a LITA Webinar, Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know.