Catríona Cannon (1990)

At the end of May 2021, Catríona Cannon (1990) will take up the position of Librarian at the University of London's Senate House Library, a landmark Library located next to the British Museum in the heart of Bloomsbury. Catríona will be overseeing the management and providing leadership for Senate House and its collections in the arts, humanities and social sciences - the largest collection in the UK. Excitingly, she will also be Director of the Library Transformation Programme, part of the University of London's wider strategy for 2020–25.

Catríona’s colleagues in Oxford are sad to see her go. From 2014 until now, she has been Deputy Librarian and Keeper of Collections at the Bodleian Libraries. But actually, she has been part of the Bodleian team for more than a decade: she joined in 2010, originally as Assistant Director, Collections & Resource Description, and then Associate Director, Collection Support, before being appointed to the post of Deputy Librarian.

Catríona's academic life started in Ireland, with school in Dublin and then an undergraduate degree in French and Latin at Trinity College Dublin. Shortly after graduating in 1990, she came to Merton to do an MPhil in European Literature. Then followed an MA in Library and Information Studies at University College London, from where she graduated in 1995. After her studies, she worked at the Warburg Institute, University of London, for four years.

Once more across the Irish Sea in 1997, Catríona took up the post of Catalogue Conversion Project Manager at University College Dublin for two years. She then moved about three miles across the city to become Librarian at the National Gallery of Ireland, where she stayed for a year.

In 2001 Catríona returned to London to join the University of the Arts as Technical Services Manager, moving to King’s College London in 2005 for five years: first as Bibliographic Services Manager, then as Head of Information Resources. And thence to Oxford and the Bodleian.

Along the way, Catríona has clocked up many other appointments and roles. She was a Governing Body Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford for four years; she still is an Advisory Council Member of the Institute of English Studies at the University of London, ‘an internationally renowned research centre specialising in the history of the book, manuscript and print studies, textual scholarship, digital editing and new critical approaches to literary history’; and she is a Trustee and Chair of the Audit & Risk Committee of the Students’ Union at Bournemouth University. She has published and presented on a wide range of topics, including leadership in the context of libraries, resource discovery, collection management, open access and legal deposit, and has curated a display on the 20th-century novelist Barbara Pym.

Catríona is currently also Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) Liaison Fellow and Vice-President of Reuben College, a new graduate college of the University of Oxford. It will take its first admissions in Michaelmas Term 2021, and will be housed very near University Parks. In fact, Catríona is the Senior Responsible Owner for the capital project that will transform several heritage buildings into a home for the new college. No doubt she will be returning from London to Oxford to see the fruits of her work later in the year – and for many years to come.

Merton’s Fellow Librarian, Dr Julia Walworth, comments:

“Catríona has had a huge impact on the library and collections world in Oxford. In addition to her high-profile responsibilities, she also introduced many changes ‘behind the scenes’ that improved the running of the Bodleian Libraries. One of the secrets to her many successes has to be her sense of humour. She will be sorely missed in Oxford, but she’ll be a great Librarian to develop the Senate House Library.”

Merton & Me

Thinking of the first day you walked through the Merton Lodge arch as a student, what was your first impression?

Coming into Front Quad in late September, I remember that there were bright red flowers planted in the beds, which were a perfect foil for the sea of beautiful Cotswold stone. So my first impression was of a place where people had worked over the centuries to create somewhere visually harmonious and peaceful where learning would flourish.

Do you have a particular memory that stands out from your time at Merton?

My fellow graduate students! It was a very active MCR (and I’m sure still is) and there were lots of trips. One that particularly stands out was to the Lake District – we were climbing Scafell and a mist came down so the two people who really knew how to read maps went into a huddle to work out how to get us down safely. The rest of us played a game of throwing an imaginary ball to one another to keep ourselves busy and not distract them. I was very impressed with this example of sang-froid in the face of danger.

Tell us something about yourself that we would not know.

My secondary school was one of the only comprehensives in Ireland, Mount Temple. Other past pupils included U2.

What tips would you give your younger self to prepare for the career you have achieved?

Trust your instinct.

Describe Merton in three words.

Liberating; empowering; scholarly.

A Lecture by Catriona Cannon

Catriona Cannon gave an online talk, part of our 40 Years Series of lectures, on Wednesday 12 May 2021. Her subject was, 'The Value of University Collections in the 21st Century'.

Watch the lecture