John W Jolliffe

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.

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