THE first woman to run Oxford’s world-famous Bodleian Libraries in 400 years will leave her position this summer.

Sarah Thomas will say farewell to Oxford to take the position of vice-president of Harvard University Library in America after serving as Bodley’s Librarian for six years.

During her time there, she has overseen several multi-million pound projects to improve its facilities.

Dr Thomas said: “My time at Oxford 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 and beyond for their collegial support and friendship, and I am proud of all we have achieved together.

“I am most proud of the way the staff of the Bodleian have overcome adverse circumstances to transform library services. They’ve been creative, absolutely dedicated to delivering top quality reader services, and very disciplined about achieving extremely ambitious targets.”

Dr Thomas arrived at the Bodleian in 2007 from Cornell University in America.

She had previously worked for the Library of Congress and the National Agricultural Library.

Raised in Massachusetts, she has been the first foreigner to lead Oxford University’s historic library.

She said: “When I signed on as Bodley’s Librarian, I thought primarily about the scale and scope of the professional work, but I didn’t appreciate the intricacy of the collegiate university, and I knew Oxford principally as a visitor.”

She said she would miss the “inexhaustible treasures” of the Bodleian as well as more mundane things like walking in Port Meadow and shopping in the Covered Market.

When Dr Thomas arrived in Oxford, the Bodleian Libraries had been widely criticised for attempting to build a book storage facility in Oxford’s Osney Mead.

But her time as Bodley’s Librarian saw the completion of the new £29m book storage facility at Swindon with the transfer of some nine million books, journals, maps and other archival materials, as well as the £80m transformation of the New Bodleian into the Weston Library due to be completed next year.

Vice-chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: “Sarah has been an outstanding steward of the Bodleian Libraries, overseeing with vision, energy, and commitment a process of major change and innovation.

“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.”

The Bodleian Libraries have combined collections numbering more than 11m printed items, in addition to 50,000 e-journals and vast quantities of materials in many other formats.

From Thursday, August 1, Dr Thomas’s deputy Richard Ovenden will be acting as the interim Bodley’s Librarian until a permanent appointment is made.