Keeneland Library Director Becky Ryder to Retire; Roda Ferraro Named as Successor

Keeneland announced today that longtime Keeneland Library Director Becky Ryder will retire as of Oct. 31, 2023, after more than a decade at the helm of the globally renowned Thoroughbred information repository and public research facility. Roda Ferraro, who formerly served as Head Librarian at Keeneland Library and recently curated its popular The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers exhibit, has been named to succeed Ryder. Ferraro will serve as the incoming Library Director effective immediately and will work alongside Ryder as she transitions to retirement this fall.

“Keeneland Library’s role in preserving Thoroughbred racing’s storied history and making it accessible to fans worldwide is incredibly important to Keeneland,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “Becky and Roda have both been dedicated stewards of this legacy, using technology, innovation and creativity to advance the Library’s goal of being a true public service institution. We thank Becky for expertly guiding the Library through a decade of key expansion and preservation efforts and look forward to continued growth, particularly in education and outreach, under Roda’s oversight.”

Becky Ryder retires after 13 years of service to Keeneland Library

 Ryder said she always wanted to be a librarian, beginning her career as a college student working in the Music Library at the University of Virginia. Positions in UVA and Virginia Tech’s library systems honed her skills in book repair, archives management and the emerging area of library preservation. She moved to Lexington for Library School at the University of Kentucky and soon became Head of Preservation Services at the UK Libraries, where she served for 18 years before joining Keeneland.

Ryder’s preservation expertise and her passion for Thoroughbred racing proved to be a unique and perfect fit to lead Keeneland Library as it was acquiring collections and moving into the digital age.

“All of those experiences, all of the many conversations in committees, task forces, ‘square pegs into round holes’ working groups and staff meetings, and all of the projects parlayed into the solid foundation I brought to Keeneland Library as Director,” Ryder said. “During my career, I’ve had the good fortune to have had positions that I truly loved: music, books, photographs, travel, book and paper conservation, digital library development and the rich history of Thoroughbred racing. I have to say that the 13 years working with the Keeneland family have been the very best in my professional lifetime.”

Among the highlights of her tenure as Keeneland Library Director, Ryder oversaw the conversion of a manual card catalog into an online catalog system, which offered the opportunity to implement the Library of Congress shelving system. She initiated the Daily Racing Form Preservation Project while at the University of Kentucky, and with help from interns from UK’s School of Information, Keeneland Library continued to make progress toward moving its extensive DRF collection online. Ryder established a framework for Keeneland’s Digital Library and hopes to launch the collections by fall of 2023.

Ryder also has shared her knowledge by teaching workshops about all manner of preservation and access topics.

One achievement of which she is particularly proud is creating the Keeneland Library Lecture Series, which allow authors to showcase their research undertaken at Keeneland Library and to entertain and educate community members while enjoying the beautiful Library atmosphere.

“Becky has been a wonderful ambassador for Keeneland and racing, tirelessly promoting the Keeneland Library and sharing its deep resources with a global audience,” Keeneland Senior Director of Operations and Community Relations Kara Heissenbuttel said. “Her passion for conveying racing’s rich history to generations of fans is most evident in the time and care she takes to fulfill requests for information: whether you are an author writing a book, a student working on a school project or a visitor stopping by the Library while in Lexington. We thank her for all her work on behalf of Keeneland.”

Ryder has been active in the library services field and in the Central Kentucky community. She has been a member of the American Library Association (ALA) since 1992, serving as Chair of the Preservation and Reformatting Section for three years. In 2008, she was awarded the George Cunha and Susan Swartzburg Collaborative Preservation Award by a division of ALA. She was involved with the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and served as Secretary of the Preservation and Conservation Section for four years. Locally, Ryder was a co-founder of Phoenix Rising Lexington, an organization that seeks to raise awareness of the significant history of African Americans in the equine industry.

Roda Ferraro brings wide-ranging experience to leadership role with Keeneland Library

 In her new role, Ferraro brings more than 20 years of experience leading, assessing and promoting library, museum, research and educational services, highlighted by her work with Keeneland Library and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, since 2014.

“I am grateful to be back home at Keeneland Library,” Ferraro said. “I have connected the public, students and faculty to research and education services at several libraries, museums and universities, but I have never worked with patrons as dedicated and passionate as those I am privileged to engage with every day at Keeneland Library. It has been a joy to build relationships with industry and community partners over the past 10 years, and I look forward to cultivating new collaborative efforts with industry stakeholders as we move the Library forward.”

Through Ferraro’s focus on creating responsive systems of remote access for researchers and racing fans around the world, the volume of Keeneland Library’s research services doubled during her tenure as Head Librarian. Additionally, the Library’s outreach programs have tripled their range under her management, while her focus on digitizing collections grew the Library’s digital assets by more than 500 percent in six years.

“Moving forward, one of our goals is to engage the public beyond the Library’s brick-and-mortar home,” Heissenbuttel said. “Roda has demonstrated success in creating grassroots educational and outreach tools like those surrounding The Heart of the Turf exhibit, which includes a mobile exhibit designed to travel to schools, libraries and other community and industry organizations. We believe these opportunities will inspire people to learn more about racing and hopefully become lifelong fans.”

Ferraro’s industry educational initiatives include launching research fundamentals workshops for university equine students, curating Keeneland Library’s physical and virtual exhibits, expanding the Keeneland Library Lecture Series and piloting the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s fifth and final season of Foal Patrol to an unprecedented global audience of 4 million users in 2022.

Ferraro returned to Keeneland Library in fall 2022 to curate The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers and its associated educational programs and materials. The exhibit’s programs for youth and adults have reached record-breaking audiences for the Library, and Ferraro will continue to work with industry and community partners to provide educational programs and travel the exhibit across the country after it closes at Keeneland Library on Aug, 31.

“I welcome the opportunity to build, preserve and create access to our renowned collections in support of emerging industry research,” Ferraro said. “There is also tremendous potential to expand the Library’s reach through education and outreach programs, and I am excited to continue to meet the evolving needs of our growing global patron base.”

Ferraro, who moved to Lexington from Nashville in 2009, pursued undergraduate studies at Emory University and graduate studies at Indiana University before spending several years in research oversight and education at Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky. She holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Kentucky.

Her service work in the community includes roles on the Board of Directors for the Lexington Public Library Foundation, refugee and immigrant health and social services task forces, school-based decision-making councils and providing best practices consultation for international libraries and museums.

 Summer events at Keeneland Library open to the public

 Founded in 1939, Keeneland Library has one of the world’s largest collections of information related to Thoroughbred racing, housing nearly 30,000 books, more than 1 million photographic negatives and prints, and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles about all aspects of the equine industry. The Library, which is located on Keeneland’s grounds and is open to the public weekdays year-round, assists thousands of journalists, writers, academics, historians, racing fans and others with research and requests for information.

The current Library exhibit, The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers, celebrates the careers and contributions of 80 African American horsemen and -women from the mid-1800s to the present. The exhibit, which runs through Aug. 31, is free and open to the public. Exhibit outreach initiatives, including educational programs for fifth- to 12th-grade students and guided tours for adults, also are offered at no cost. To book exhibit educational programs, contact Roda Ferraro at

Keeneland Library also is hosting several ticketed events this summer, with proceeds benefiting the Keeneland Library Foundation, which funds Library preservation, education, outreach and access efforts.

The Library Lecture Series will celebrate these recently published works about Thoroughbred racing whose authors conducted research at Keeneland Library:

  • June 22 – Mark Shrager will talk about The First Kentucky Derby: Thirteen Black Jockeys, One Shady Owner, and the Little Red Horse That Wasn’t Supposed to Win.
  •  Aug. 24 – Jennifer Kelly will discuss The Foxes of Belair: Gallant Fox, Omaha, and the Quest for the Triple Crown.
  •  Sept. 28 – Patricia McQueen will review Secretariat’s Legacy: The Sons, Daughters and Descendants Who Keep His Legacy Alive.

All programs will be held at the Library from 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET. The author’s presentation will be followed by a reception and book signing. A limited number of copies of featured books will be available for purchase.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit

Since its first race meet more than 85 years ago, the Keeneland Association has devoted itself to the health and vibrancy of the Thoroughbred industry. The world’s largest Thoroughbred auction house, Keeneland conducts five sales a year, in January, April, September and November. Graduates of Keeneland sales dominate racing across the globe at every level. In April and October, Keeneland offers some of the highest caliber and richest Thoroughbred racing in the world. Keeneland hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 2015, 2020 and 2022. Uniquely structured, Keeneland is a privately held company with a not-for-profit mission that returns its earnings to the industry and the community in the form of higher purses and millions of dollars donated in support of horse industry initiatives and charitable contributions for education, research, and health and human services throughout Central Kentucky. Keeneland also maintains the Keeneland Library, a world-renowned public research institution with the mission of preserving information about the Thoroughbred industry. To learn more, visit

For more information contact:
Amy Gregory at 859 361-3490
Amy Owens at 859 421-2566