SOAS University of London

Royal Librarian appointed to head up SOAS’s Library

17 October 2018
Royal Librarian appointed to head SOAS’s Library

The Librarian and Deputy Keeper of the Queen’s Archives for Royal Collection Trust, a department of the Royal Household, Oliver Urquhart Irvine, has been appointed to the role of Director of Library Services and Librarian at SOAS University of London.

SOAS Registrar and Secretary Paula Sanderson said: “Oliver brings a wealth of experience and a striking track record of successful delivery from across a range of national organisations. He will provide leadership and vision for how the SOAS Library and our spaces, services and collections should be developed to support our teaching, research, the student experience and community engagement.  

“We want SOAS to be at the forefront of the evolution of academic libraries as they adapt to changing technologies and evolve in the context of innovation in learning support, at a time of change for the UK higher education sector. I am confident we have secured an excellent person to fulfil this role.”

Oliver said: “The opportunity to lead a world-class library in a research and teaching intensive organisation with a truly global reach is hugely exciting. The library is a nerve centre for SOAS in its pursuit of excellence in all the services it provides to its students, faculty and professional services alike. This is as true for on-site as well as digital working and applies across all disciplines. I look forward greatly to joining the team at the beginning of 2019.”

Prior to being Royal Librarian, Oliver was at the British Library for nine years, where he had a number of roles including Head of the Asian, Middle Eastern and African Department and latterly the Head of the British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership, in which he oversaw the creation of a new National Library collection from scratch.

He has brought an innovative and collaborative approach to helping leading institutions making the very best of important national collections. In his role at Royal Collection Trust, he has hugely expanded access to the 205,000 books and 7m items in the archives, including the massive digitisation and public access project to the new Georgian Papers Programme in collaboration with King’s College London.

The SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East attracting scholars from all over the world.  Spanning six floors, the Library houses over 1.3 million volumes, together with a major collection of archives, manuscripts, rare books and special collections, an expanding Digital Library and a growing network of electronic resources. It is one of five UK National Research Libraries (NRL) along with Cambridge University, London School of Economics, University of Manchester and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

Oliver will start his new role at SOAS on 14 January 2019.