The National Book Foundation has named Ruth Dickey, who currently heads Seattle Arts & Lectures, its next executive director. She will start on May 17, with the foundation's deputy director, Jordan Smith, continuing on as interim basis until then.

Dickey has been executive director at Seattle Arts & Lectures since 2013 and, before that, served as executive director at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center in Cincinnati, New Futures in Burien, Wash., and Miriam’s Kitchen in Washington, D.C. She was also a judge for the National Book Award for Fiction in 2019, and has a background in poetry; her first book, Mud Blooms (Harbor Mountain Press), was a finalist for the National Poetry Series, among other honors.

“Ruth Dickey brings the ideal combination of expertise and experience to lead the Foundation and advance our unique mission,” David Steinberger, chair of the National Book Foundation’s board of directors, said in a statement. “We were looking for a proven literary leader with a track record of engaging with a broad range of communities from all across our nation, and Ruth brings that and more to this role.”

Dickey takes over for Lisa Lucas, who ended her high-profile five-year run as executive director of the National Book Foundation late last year to take over as publisher of Pantheon and Schocken earlier this year. Lucas, in a statement, praised Dickey's "extraordinary skill set" and her record as "an effective and inclusive leader." In a statement of her own, Dickey said she was "honored and thrilled to follow in Lisa Lucas’s footsteps" and to "lead the Foundation’s next chapter of work in support of books and reading, and their critical role in our cultural landscape."