400-year-old Bodleian Library begins new era with double-first: American woman takes over





One of the last remaining bastions of male domination has come crumbling down as one of the oldest libraries in Europe prepares to get to grips with the demands of the 21st century.

For more than 400 years, the Bodleian library - the main research library at the University of Oxford and the second largest in the UK after the British library -- has had a man at the helm. It has also never been run by anyone born outside these shores. But both of those taboos have been broken this week, with the accession of Sarah Thomas to the post of librarian.

Dr Thomas has a distinguished record in the United States, where she worked at the Library of Congress in Washington DC as acting head of its Public Service Collections before moving on to oversee the 20 libraries at America's Cornell University. They won an international award for excellence in 2002. Now, as executive head of the Oxford University Library Services, with its more than 11 million printed volumes in 40 different library sites, her task is to ensure the university's fantastic collection survives the move to the new digital era unscathed.

"The challenge is to bring forward the best of traditions - which in Oxford's case includes the superb collections and the commitment to preserving the record of our civilisation for current and future scholars and students -- while at the same time creatively reinterpreting these traditions for the digital age," Dr Thomas said.


comments powered by Disqus