Will join Harvard in August.
May 20, 2013—Harvard University Provost Alan M. Garber announced today that Sarah Thomas of the University of Oxford has been named vice president for the Harvard Library.
In this role, Thomas will have overall responsibility for the Harvard Library, and will collaborate closely with the Library Board, the Faculty Advisory Council and the Library Leadership Team.
Garber noted, “Sarah Thomas is a leader in her field with an exceptional record of success running major academic libraries. She is uniquely capable of building on the progress we have made thus far in responding to the evolving expectations of the 21st century scholar. Working closely with Library staff, faculty, students and school and university leadership, Sarah will help Harvard continue to set the standard for academic libraries worldwide.”
Thomas currently serves as Bodley’s Librarian and director of the Bodleian Libraries—the first woman and non-British citizen to hold the position in 400 years—as well as pro-vice-chancellor and member of the faculty of modern languages at the University of Oxford . Previous to Oxford, Thomas was the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian at Cornell. She served as the president of the Association of Research Libraries, and also held posts at the Library of Congress, where she led in the establishment of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging, the National Agricultural Library, the Research Libraries Group at Stanford University and Harvard’s Widener Library, among other positions.
“If we conducted a search throughout this world and far off into the galaxy where alien librarians may be charting new paths through cyberspace, Sarah Thomas would be at the top of the list. Having established a reputation as a superb university librarian at Cornell, she did wonders at Oxford, whose library system is both fabulously rich and bewilderingly baroque. She will be even more wonderful at Harvard,” commented University Librarian and Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor Robert Darnton.
Speaking in anticipation of her arrival at Harvard, Thomas said: “I know from long years of association with Harvard’s libraries that the exceptionally dedicated staff and superb collections make them an extraordinarily rich resource for scholars and students. It will be a rare privilege to work with colleagues at Harvard to develop a common vision for excellence and to create services that enable us to share these unparalleled resources effectively across the university and with the wider world.”
Thomas’s publications include “The Bod Squad” in Transforming The Bodleian (2012), “The Encouragement of Learning” in Copyright in the Digital Age (2010), Publishing Solutions for Contemporary Scholars” in Library HiTech (2010) and “Advancing Scholarship Through Library Collaboration” in Die Innovative Bibliothek: Elmar Mittler zum 65. Geburtstag (2005).
Some of Thomas’s recent and upcoming presentations include “E-books, Horseless Carriages and the Future of Libraries” at the Royal Danish Library, “A Conversation with Hilary Mantel” at the Times Oxford Literary Festival, “National Library Perspectives on the Past, Present and Future of the Book” at the Library of Congress and “The Bodleian: England’s First National Library Evolves in the 21st Century” at the Ex Libris National Library Meeting.
Debra Wallace, executive director of Knowledge and Library Services at Harvard Business School, observed, “Throughout her distinguished career, Sarah has brought a creative energy and practical knowledge to opportunities and challenges alike. Her strategic vision and infectious enthusiasm will no doubt enable the Harvard Library to move forward at this critical juncture.”
Under Thomas’s leadership, the Bodleian Libraries were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for the excellence of their collections and their efforts to widen access to their historic collections. During her tenure with Cornell, the Cornell University Library received the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries.
Thomas was elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society and received the Melvil Dewey Award from the American Library Association, the Smith Medal from Smith College and the Alumni Achievement Award from Simmons College. Thomas holds a BA from Smith College, an MSLIS from Simmons College and a PhD in German literature from Johns Hopkins University.
"Sarah's rich and deep experience in major research libraries in the US and the UK will be an enormous benefit to the Harvard Library as it enters the next phase of its evolution," said Helen Shenton, executive director for the Harvard Library.
Thomas also served on the Harvard University Library Overseers’ Committee and is currently a member of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Board, the Oxford Limited Board, the Research Libraries UK Board, the Smith College President’s Council and the University of Cambridge Board of Electors for the University Libraries. She is a member of the Grolier Club and a life member of the American Library Association.