The Harvard Library has experienced some significant upheaval as it has gone through a recent disruptive, large scale restructuring. Layoffs, earlier retirements and staff realignments have all been part of what has been a difficult process. And now it has fallen to Sarah Thomas, formerly Bodley’s Librarian at Oxford, to make the newly restructured Harvard Library work.
Ms. Thomas officially took over as the new vice president for the Harvard Library a little more than a month ago and in this interview in the Harvard Review entitled “Sarah Thomas, New Vice President for the Harvard Library, Sees Opportunities Ahead” she addresses a number of questions related to the transformation she is leading. She talks about her challenges and opportunities, as well as her management approach as she ushers the library into the future. Additional concerns like the growth of multidisciplinary research, digitization of collections, space issues and the library’s role in campus wide efforts like capital campaigns are also discussed. However, Ms. Thomas makes clear that there is one key priority from which everything else flows. It is user needs and how the library is “going to benefit the most people” that are at the center of her vision. The focus for Ms. Thomas is breaking down barriers to information for students and faculty. She also highlights the positives that she has to work with at Harvard including great collections, energetic librarians and passionate faculty.
Of course, this brief description doesn’t do the interview justice, there is a lot more here. Ms. Thomas makes a number of other insightful comments and cites relevant examples in making her case.
So take advantage of this opportunity to spend some quality time with a highly accomplished library leader.
Tom is originally from Brooklyn N.Y but has spent his entire professional career in South Carolina, most recently as Head of Reference Services at the College of Charleston. As part of the Against the Grain and Charleston Conference team, he serves as the associate editor of the print ATG as well as the co-editor of the webpage. Tom’s conference duties include coordinating the Penthouse Suite interviews as well as the conference poster sessions.
He received his MLS from the University of Buffalo, SUNY and a second master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston and the Univ. of South Carolina. His wife Carol and he live in downtown Charleston and she is an artist and a tour guide offering historic walking tours of the city.