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Nicole Saylor Appointed Director of American Folklife Center

Release Date: 20 May 2022
  • Nicole Saylor becomes the fourth director of the American Folklife Center
  • Saylor brings nearly 20 years of library and archives experience to the position

Nicole Saylor Appointed Director of American Folklife Center

Saylor to Lead the Premier Center for the Preservation and Presentation of Traditional Culture

Nicole “Nicki” Saylor has been appointed the fourth director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, effective May 22, 2022. Saylor succeeds Elizabeth Peterson, who retired from federal service in March.

Before her new role at the American Folklife Center (AFC), Saylor served as chief of the Library’s Digital Innovation Lab, where she oversaw a team of innovation specialists who explore new technologies and creative ways to share the Library’s content and connect with researchers, artists and the public.

Since February, she also served as acting director of the Digital Strategy Directorate for the Library, where she promoted digital transformation across the Library, and led digital innovation efforts as well as the ongoing work to implement and update the Library’s digital strategy.

“Nicki brings a unique combination of expertise in American Folklife Center programs, collections, digital stewardship and the application of contemporary research methodology which will be invaluable in moving the American Folklife Center into the future. I look forward to working with her,” said Susan Vita, acting director of Special Collections.

Saylor brings nearly 20 years of library and archives experience to the position, including her service as the director of the Archive of Folk Culture at the American Folklife Center from 2012 to 2021. During her tenure in the center, she led a team of librarians and archivists that curates the nation's oldest and largest archive of ethnographic documentation, including folk songs, stories, and other creative expressions of people from diverse communities.

“The Center’s work of preserving and presenting stories, songs and living traditions from all over the world is more important than ever. The staff is so innovative and committed to the work. It’s a dream job, and I am excited!” Saylor said.

The American Folklife Center Archives collections span the earliest field recordings made in the 1890s on wax cylinder to born-digital collections such as StoryCorps, a large oral narrative project. As director of that archive, Saylor had an active role in many high-profile projects including the establishment of Mellon-funded Community Collection Grants to support contemporary cultural field research within diverse communities; the ongoing integration of Veterans History Project archives into the center’s archives operations; and many acquisitions, including the AIDS Memorial Quilt Archive.

As an archivist and digital librarian, Saylor has published and presented on topics such as mentoring library science fellows, crowdsourcing, digital acquisitions and audiovisual preservation of ethnographic recordings. She has built coalitions with the archival and research library community through participation in the Mukurtu Shared project and on the executive committee of the National Historic Publications and Records Commission.

Saylor has engaged in conversations about responsible stewardship of indigenous materials, intellectual and cultural property issues, and ethical implications of applying contemporary research methods to Library collections.

Before joining the Library, Saylor served as head of digital research and publishing at the University of Iowa Libraries where she led the development of digital collections and library publishing services. In that role, she also developed collaborations with faculty and students on the design and implementation of digital scholarly research projects.

Saylor has also worked in a public library and a regional humanities center devoted to the languages and cultures of the Upper Midwest since earning her master’s degree in library and information studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as a certificate in folklore. She is an alumna of Iowa State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in mass communication.

For a decade before becoming a librarian, Saylor worked as an editor at the Kansas City Star and Wisconsin State Journal newspapers. She was a core team member of the National Folklore Archives Initiative Project, an effort funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to document and provide access to information about folklore archival collections.

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American Folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. For more information, visit

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Media Contact: Maria Peña,

PR 22-043
ISSN 0731-3527

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