Thomas, Vice President of Harvard Library, To Retire

Widener Library
Harvard University's Widener Library.

Vice President of the Harvard Library Sarah E. Thomas will retire at the end of this year, according to the Harvard Gazette.

Thomas, who assumed the role of vice president in 2013, also serves as a University librarian and as the librarian of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

In a letter to Harvard affiliates, Thomas wrote that she was proud of her library colleagues, calling them “innovative, deeply knowledgeable, and dedicated to service.”

“It has been an immense privilege to have been shaped through the association with the world’s greatest library and to have been one in the series of men and women who have guided it forward,” Thomas wrote.


University President Drew G. Faust, who will step down herself this June, told the Gazette Thomas has “reimagined what a University library can be.”

“Her insight and ability to bring people together has enriched research, teaching, and learning at Harvard, and her many contributions will affect the ease with which students and faculty can access our extraordinary resources for years to come,” Faust said.

During her tenure, Thomas said she sought to achieve Faust’s goal that the University become “One Harvard” by developing user-oriented services meant to better connect faculty, students, alumni, and researchers with library resources both online and in-person.

Thomas also expanded access to the library’s resources by digitizing them for use by scholars around the globe and spearheaded partnerships with peer institutions.

In a letter to Harvard faculty, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 wrote Thomas is a “true embodiment of the spirit of One Harvard.”

“Working with Sarah over the past five years and witnessing the library’s progress during that time has been a pleasure,” Garber wrote.

Thomas has also played a role in expanding access to Harvard’s libraries on campus. She opened Pusey Library to the public after more than decade. The library has since supported public exhibitions from the University’s libraries, including a popular four-month showing of the Harvard Map Collection’s ink-drawn maps. Thomas was also involved in the design of the new Cabot Science Library, which opened in April 2017.

Before coming to Harvard, Thomas worked in many of the world’s most prestigious libraries. In 2007, she was appointed the Bodley’s Librarian at the University of Oxford, becoming the first woman and non-British citizen in 400 years to hold the position. Thomas also served as the director of the Bodleian Libraries for five years until 2013.

Prior to this role, Thomas worked as Cornell’s University Librarian for over a decade from 1996 to 2007. Thomas has also held administrative positions at the Library of Congress, the National Agricultural Library, and the Research Libraries Group. She began her career at Harvard in 1970, where she worked to file cards into Widener Library’s official catalog.

—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.


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