Executive Director

Req Number: SY117
Location: New York, New York, United States
Posted: 4/24/2022
Category: Government/Not-For-Profit : Not-For-Profit
Job Type: Permanent

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 growth and sustainability of this beloved literary organization


Poets House is a comfortable, accessible place for poetry—a library and meeting place for poets and the public to engage with poetry. Poets House reflects the wealth and diversity of modern poetry; it seeks 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. 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. Poets House welcomes everyone into the joyous exploration of this art.

We believe that poetry can promote a deeper conversation between individuals, communities, and cultures.

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 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.

Donation-based, the collection has grown over the years because of the incredible generosity of the poets, publishers, and poetry readers who have supported Poets House. You can take a quick tour of the library to learn even more about the materials we hold at


Poets House has a rich tradition of diverse programming that is intellectually challenging, embraces all aesthetic and cultural approaches to poetry, and serves both the poetry community and the general public. The programming, digital and in person, includes:

  • Digital programs, including Poets House Presents and the Hard Hat Reading Series;
  • Community collaborations, including The Poetry Path in Battery Park City;
  • Collaborations with public libraries across the nation, including Poetry in the Branches, The Language of Conservation, and Poetic Voices of the Muslim World;
  • Live conversations, including 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 more than 3,000 books from almost a thousand publishers;
  • Digital explorations of the library collection, including Chapbooks of the Mimeo Revolution and Poetry Trading Cards;
  • Imaginative fundraisers, including the beloved annual Poetry Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge;
  • Education services including free class 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.
  • This rich history provides a foundation for a new vision the next Executive Director will bring to Poets House programming.

Position Overview

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director is responsible for providing the overall artistic direction, programming, and communication, 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, an inclusive, thoughtful, dynamic leader who values and promotes Poets House mission and rich history. A leader who can leverage business acumen, people management skills, and strategic vision for the benefit of all who engage with Poets House. Critical to this role is the ability to ensure an inclusive, collegial environment at Poets House for visitors, constituents, and staff.

Key Responsibilities

The Executive Director will assume responsibility for the leadership, strategic execution, overall management of Poets House, including its operating budget. There is great institutional potential for creating and deepening relationships with individuals and other sponsors.

Specific responsibilities will include, but are not limited to the following:

Executive Leadership & Strategic Vision

  • Understands Poets House, its mission and policies, culture, values, history, key partners and stakeholders, programs, finances, and strategic planning efforts.
  • Anticipates and articulates a strategic vision as Poets House 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 optimally perform 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 and, 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 oversight and recommendations of the Managing Director.
  • Promotes the growth, stewardship, preservation, and accessibility of the library collection.


  • 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.

Artistic Oversight

  • Ensures that program objectives and mission requirements are met by setting goals for program staff .
  • Approves and overseeing 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 programs 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 seven to ten years 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 can play in the life of the individual and the community.
  • Planning, organizational, and relationship management skills.
  • Exceptional written and verbal skills, including presentation skills, coupled with the ability to think strategically.
  • A professional commitment to represent the best interests and integrity of Poets House in all activities and relationships.
  • Ability to promote opportunities for engagement to wide-ranging constituents and the capacity to be a visionary leader who can motivate, inspire, and enlist partners, both external and internal, and work effectively with warmth one-on-one, as well as in a group environment.

Required Experience

  • Management experience in a non-profit or similar institution and/or higher education, government agency, with a demonstrated history of leading highly productive teams for with progressively responsible experience.


  • Bachelor’s degree is required; advanced degree is preferred.

Application Process

  • Interested and qualified candidates are welcome to submit a resume and cover letter to: