Ms Jan Wilkinson (Doctor of Letters)

Friday 18 July, 3pm

Press comment

"I am very pleased to have worked closely with the University’s Vice-Chancellor and his senior colleagues when they have, on two separate occasions, been seeking to fill the role of University Librarian at Leicester. This is a University that deserves to attract the best, but achieving this within a library profession that currently suffers from a leadership vacuum is challenging. I am delighted that we achieved success in making these two appointments.

"I have benefited hugely from the opportunity to work closely with Professor Sir Bob Burgess, both in his role as a Board member of the British Library, and as a member of the Advisory Board of the Research Information Network, when he was its Chair.

"There is also a more directly personal attachment to the University in that three of my family members have been undergraduates at Leicester; my niece will graduate in economics in 2015.

"I consider it a great honour and privilege to receive this degree from the University of Leicester. This certainly represents a high point in my career. I am delighted to accept this honour with some pride in what I have achieved. But also with humility knowing that I have been fortunate to enjoy the loyalty, commitment and support of a large number of outstanding colleagues."


Jan Wilkinson is a strategic leader with a background gained largely in the library and information sector. A graduate of the Universty of Hull, Jan joined the University of Manchester in 2008 as University Librarian & Director of the world-renowned John Rylands Library. Before this she was a member of the Senior Leadership Team of the British Library (July 2004) in a new role of Head of Higher Education. Previous experience includes the University of Leeds, as University Librarian & Keeper of the Brotherton Collection, the London School of Economics, as Deputy Librarian, and a range of roles within the former polytechnic and college sectors.

Jan’s career is characterised by her long-felt desire to make a difference, to achieve results, and to contribute to organisational success by inspiring her colleagues to work with her. She is well-known for her leadership of testing, rigorous and transformational change to ensure that libraries remain relevant, innovative and accessible in the 21st century. Jan’s priority has always been on the development of people to realise their true potential. She has also initiated and directed two significant building projects. At the LSE, she led a major philanthropic capital campaign for a very large, newly designed building, by Sir Norman Foster; at Manchester she was instrumental in the successful completion in 2012 of the multiple award-winning Alan Gilbert Learning Commons, a student-centred, entirely digital, library.

Throughout her career, Jan has been involved in a wide range of national and international library developments, either as a board member, or as a consultant. Major Board roles include Research Libraries UK, the UK Research Reserve, the Research Information Network, and the Canadian Research Knowledge Network. In addition, Jan has worked on projects and committees for JISC and HEFCE, and as an adviser to the Wolfson Foundation. Keen to influence change within the world of scholarly publishing, she is also an active member of Elsevier’s European Advisory Board, and the SWETS Advisory Board. Jan continues to be Programme Director for a number of international leadership development programmes within the sector.

Through the complex and rapidly changing world of higher education, Jan has developed a deep understanding of the issues facing modern research libraries in a digital society, including a knowledge of trends in scientific publishing, and the opportunities for major, disruptive, change driven by technology. The world expects immediate access to knowledge, and information providers now have unprecedented opportunities to harness technology to support teaching, learning and research. However, within the context of complex organisational, technical and financial change in higher education, Jan’s focus has always been on the users of library services - students, teachers and researchers.

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