Meet Bodley's Librarian

A man sits in a green chair, he is wearing a suit. He looks to the left and is holding a book in his hands

Richard Ovenden has been Bodley’s Librarian (the senior Executive position of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) since 2014. Prior to that Richard held positions at Durham University Library, the House of Lords Library, the National Library of Scotland, and the University of Edinburgh. He moved to the Bodleian Libraries in 2003 as Keeper of Special Collections, becoming Deputy Librarian in 2011. He was educated at the University of Durham and University College London, and holds a Professorial Fellowship at Balliol College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Society of Arts, and a Member of the American Philosophical Society. He is a member of the Grolier Club (New York) and the Roxburghe Club.

Richard serves as Treasurer of the Consortium of European Research Libraries, as President of the Digital Preservation Coalition, and as a member of the Board of the Council on Library and Information Resources (in Washington DC). He is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Deutsches Literaturarchiv (Marbach). He is also a member of the Libraries Committee of the International Alliance of Research Universities and the Information and Open Access Policy Group of the League of European Research Universities.

He is Chair of the Legal Deposit Libraries Implementation Group and a member of the Legal Deposit Libraries Committee, the Agency for Legal Deposit Libraries and the Joint Committee on Legal Deposit.

Richard has written extensively on professional concerns of library and information management, on the history of photography, and has written a history of the deliberate destruction of knowledge, Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attacks.

Richard was awarded the OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours, 2019.


Previous Bodley's Librarians

The current Librarian, Richard Ovenden, is the 25th to hold the office.


Dr Sarah E. Thomas was Director of the Bodleian Libraries and Bodley’s Librarian from February 2007 until May 2013.

When Sarah was appointed Bodley’s Librarian in February 2007, she was the first woman and non-British citizen to hold the position of Bodley's Librarian in the Bodleian's 400-year history.

The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said:

Sarah Thomas has been an outstanding steward of the Bodleian Libraries, overseeing with vision, energy, and commitment a process of major change and innovation. With the assistance of an excellent team, she has brought about the construction of the new book storage facility at Swindon and the transfer of some nine million books, journals, maps, and other archival materials; an £80 million visionary transformation of the New Bodleian into the Weston Library due for completion next year; extensive digitisation of collections; and many other significant improvements in library provision for users inside and outside the University. She has worked tirelessly to protect and nourish the scholarly purpose of one of the world's greatest libraries while making it more accessible and sharing its riches more widely. For all of this and much more, we owe her a great debt of gratitude.

Sarah graduated from Smith College in 1970, received a Master of Science in library science from Simmons College in 1973, and a Ph.D. in German literature in 1983. From 1996–2007 she was Cornell’s University Librarian. Previously she has worked at the Library of Congress, the National Agricultural Library, the Research Libraries Group, and Harvard’s Widener Library.

Sarah led in the establishment of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging at the Library of Congress, and has been active in scholarly communication initiatives. Under her direction the Cornell University Library was honoured with the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries award in 2002. Thomas received the Melvil Dewey Award from the American Library Association in 2007. She has also served as the President of the Association of Research Libraries. In 2009 she was selected to the Simmons College Alumni Achievement Award. In 2010 Smith College awarded her the Smith Medal for exemplifying in her life and work the true purpose of a liberal arts education. Also in 2010, under her leadership, the Bodleian Libraries were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for the excellence of their collections and their efforts, along with six other cultural heritage entities of the University of Oxford, in widening access to their historic collections.

Since May 2013, Sarah has worked as Vice President for Harvard University Library. As such she has been responsible for the operation of the largest university library system in the United Kingdom, and integral in the management of the oldest library system in the United States.

Sarah said of her time at Oxford, that it ‘has been extraordinarily full and very rewarding: serving as Bodley's Librarian has been both a delight and an exceptional privilege. I am grateful to my wonderfully talented colleagues within the Bodleian Libraries and beyond for their collegial support and friendship, and I am proud of all we have achieved together. It has been magical to be here in Oxford.'


Reg Carr was Director of Oxford University Library Services and Bodley’s Librarian from January 1997 until he took early retirement on 31 December 2006.

Prior to coming to Oxford, he held university library posts in Manchester (Assistant Librarian), Surrey (Sub-Librarian), Aston in Birmingham (Deputy Librarian), Cambridge (Deputy Librarian), and Leeds (University Librarian and Dean of Information Strategy).

During his ten years at Oxford, he was responsible for integrating the University’s centrally-funded libraries into a single new organisation, the Bodleian Libraries (previously Oxford University Library Services). He also established the Oxford Digital Library, helped to extend Oxford’s legal deposit status to include electronic materials, and acquired numerous important additions for the Bodleian Library’s collections of primary research materials. In addition, he oversaw a major program of construction, renovation, and rationalisation of library buildings and fronted a major capital campaign. He was also Professorial Fellow of Balliol College, 1997–2006.

A modern linguist by training, Reg Carr holds degrees from the Universities of Leeds (BA), Manchester (MA), Cambridge (MA), Oxford (MA), and Leicester (Hon D Litt). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; a member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals; and an Honorary Citizen of Toyota City, Japan. From 1986 to 1997 he was a Director of the Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL), which he served as Honorary Secretary from 1991 to 1997. He was a Council Member of the Standing Conference of National and University Libraries (SCONUL) from 1990 to 1996, serving as Vice-Chair, then Chair, from 1992 to 1996. He was an elected Board Member of the North American Research Libraries Group (RLG) between 1996 and 2003, and served as the consortium’s first non-North American Chairman from 1999 to 2003.

From 1997 to 2005 he was a Board Member of the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), during which time he served as Chair of the JISC’s Committee on Electronic Information (CEI), presiding over the nationally-funded Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib) and the development of the UK’s Distributed National Electronic Resource (the DNER). He served also as Chair of the JISC’s Scholarly Communications Group from 2000 to 2006. In 2000, he was a founding Director of the Digital Preservation Coalition, and served as Vice-Chair until 2005.

In 1987, he co-authored a textbook on university library administration, and he has continued to publish widely on professional issues as diverse as the early 20th-century private press movement, the future of the printed book, the development of the Hybrid Library, digital preservation, security in older library buildings, library fundraising, and the Google mass-digitisation programme.

In 2007, he published a book reflecting his most recent experiences in the academic library world: The Academic Research Library in a Decade of Change. He also continues to research and publish on the French writer Octave Mirbeau.

In retirement he continues as a Member of the Council of Management of the Friends of the Bodleian, as a Trustee of the Chawton House Library and Conference Centre (Hampshire), and as a Member of the Visiting Committee for the Harvard University Library.


David Vaisey was educated at Rendcomb College, Gloucestershire where he was a scholar, and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he was an exhibitioner. He graduated in Modern History in 1959 and qualified as an archivist at The Bodleian Library, 1959–1960. From 1960 he was assistant archivist in The Staffordshire Record Office, returning to The Bodleian Library as a member of staff of the Department of Western Manuscripts in 1963. From 1966 he was additionally Deputy Keeper of Oxford University Archives but relinquished that post on appointment in 1975 as Keeper of Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian.

In 1986 he was appointed Bodley’s Librarian, a post from which he retired at the end of 1996. From 1995 onwards he had also held the post of Keeper of the University Archives, retiring in 2000. He is now Bodley’s Librarian Emeritus. He held a professorial fellowship at Exeter College from 1975 to 2000 and is now an Emeritus Fellow. He is an Honorary Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

On the national scene he was Commissioner on the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts from 1986-1998, Chairman of the Manuscripts Committee of SCONUL from 1981-1988, Member of the Advisory Council on the Public Records from 1989–1994, and of the London Services Advisory Committee of the British Library from 1990 to 1996. He was President of the Society of Archivists from 1999–2002, and a Vice-President of the British Records Association until 2006. He was President of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society for 1992–1993. He was a member of the Expert Advisory Panel for Museums, Libraries and Archives for the Heritage Lottery Fund for six years until 2005.

He held a visiting professorship at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at UCLA in 1985, and was a Cecil and Ida Green Visiting Professor at T.C.U, Fort Worth, Texas, in 1991. He was a Mayer Fellow at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, in 1994, and Curtis Lecturer at Vassar College in 1997. In 1989 he was appointed the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Católica by H.M. King Juan Carlos of Spain, and received a CBE in HM The Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1996.

He is a historian with many books and articles to his credit, principally exploring the possibilities of local source materials for the study of English history. That for which he is best known is his edition of The Diary of Thomas Turner, 1754–1765, published by Oxford University Press in 1984 and subsequently reprinted in 1985, 1994, 1998 and 1999 which is now a standard work on mid-eighteenth century English social history.


15 July 1929 – 20 March 1985

John Jolliffe was Bodley's Librarian from 1982 until his death aged 55 in 1985; he was the 21st Bodley's Librarian since the post was established in 1599. The thirty years of his professional career as a librarian were divided equally between the British Museum where he joined the Department of Printed Books as an assistant keeper in 1955, and the Bodleian Library where he became sub-Librarian and Keeper of Catalogues in 1970.

Jolliffe studied at University College London, where he graduated in French specialising in sixteenth centre French literature, a bibliographical interest he maintained throughout his career. This was soon to be distinguished by the pioneering interest in the automated techniques to the cataloguing of older printed books.

He was closely involved with the proposed joint scheme (Proposed Joint Scheme Project LOC) for cataloguing earlier printed books in the major libraries of London, Oxford and Cambridge. Its exhaustive report, covering work Jolliffe had directed since 1968, was published as Computers and Early Books (1974).

His knowledge and skill – and his sharp critical intelligence – made him particularly well qualified to take over the planning of computerised developments in the Bodleian with the special problems of its partly revised catalogue and the urgent necessity of adapting traditional scholarly practises to modern information handling techniques. Jolliffe became a key figure in the Bodleian's computerised developments of the 1970s, playing a prominent role in the planning and execution of the 19th Century Short Title Catalogue amongst other projects.

In 1982, after a period of service as Acting Librarian, Jolliffe was appointed as Bodley's Librarian, taking office at a difficult time, when cuts in university and library expenditure were affecting all aspects of the Bodleian's activities.

Jolliffe was also a Fellow of Nuffield College, elected when he joined the Bodleian as a Keeper in 1970, and he gave his college good service, not least as its Dean of Degrees.

His tragically early death, after a short illness, occurred before he was able to fully make his mark on the administration of the historic institution which, as he was very conscious, has a special place not just in Oxford itself but in the world of scholarship.

1979: (Erik) Richard (Sidney) Fifoot

1966: Robert Shackleton

Robert Shackleton's biography  

1948: (John) Nowell Linton Myres

Nowell Linton Myres' biography  

1945: H R Creswick

1931: Sir (Herbert Henry) Edmund Craster

Edmund Craster's biography  

1919: Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley

Arthur Ernest Cowley's biography  

1912: Falconer Madan

Falconer Madan's biography  

1882: Edward Williams Byron Nicholson

Edward Williams Byron Nicholson's biography  

1860: Henry Octavius Coxe

Henry Octavius Coxe's biography  

1813: Bulkeley Bandinel

Bulkeley Bandinel's biography  

1768: John Price

John Price's biography  

1747: Humphrey Owen

Humphrey Owen's biography  

1729: Robert Fysher

Robert Fysher's biography  

1719: Joseph Bowles

Joseph Bowles' biography  

1701: John Hudson

John Hudson's biography  

1665: Thomas Hyde

Thomas Hyde's biography  

1660: Thomas Lockey

Thomas Lockey's biography  

1652: Thomas Barlow

Thomas Barlow's biography  

1620: John Rouse

John Rouse's biography  

1600: Thomas James

Thomas James' biography