Library of Congress administrator named Cornell University Librarian

Sarah Elizabeth Thomas, acting director of public service collections for the Library of Congress, has been named the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian at Cornell University. The appointment, effective Aug. 19, was made by Provost Don M. Randel.

Thomas succeeds Alain Seznec, who is stepping down from the post after serving as university librarian since 1986. Seznec, who joined Cornell in 1958, will continue as professor of Romance studies.

“In attracting Sarah Thomas to Cornell, we are very fortunate to have attracted someone with both the academic training and the professional experience to lead a great library system in becoming even greater,” Randel said. “I look forward to working with her to ensure that the library remains fully able to play the crucial role that it has in the university’s ability to carry out its endeavors with distinction.”

As the university librarian, Thomas will be responsible for the leadership of 18 libraries and a variety of central support units. The Cornell library system serves more than 20,000 people and maintains a collection of over 5.8 million volumes and a budget of more than $30 million. The library employs more than 500 people.

As acting director of the Public Service Collections Directorate (PSCD) at the Library of Congress, Thomas oversees the library’s public service functions and special collections, which include the American Folklife Center and the Children’s Literature Center and the following divisions: Collections Management, Geography and Map, Humanities and Social Sciences, Loan, Manuscript, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound, Music, National Reference Service, Prints and Photographs, Rare Book and Special Collections, Science and Technology and Serial and Government Publications. She directs a staff of more than 750 and administers a budget of $35 million, as well as shapes policy for collection development, reference, processing and the development of the digital library.

Thomas also has served as the Library of Congress’ acting director of Public Service and Collection Management I and director for cataloging. She initiated the Program for Cooperative Cataloging, an international program to increase access to library materials.

Prior to joining the Library of Congress in 1992, Thomas was associate director for technical services at the National Agricultural Library (1984-92), a Council on Library Resources Academic Library management intern at the University of Georgia (1983-84) and manager and coordinator for Research Libraries Group, Stanford, Calif. (1979-83). She also has served as a librarian at Harvard University and at Johns Hopkins University, where she taught German.

Thomas has been published widely in library journals and has presented papers at conferences across the country on such issues as the national digital library and electronic cataloging. In addition, Thomas has served on various task forces and panels addressing library issues.

She is a member of the American Library Association and the Association of College and Research Libraries, among other professional organizations.

Thomas earned a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1982, a master’s degree from Simmons College in 1973 and a bachelor’s degree from Smith College in 1970.