University of Oxford
Director of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian


Exeter College, 14 March 1998

Mr Pro-Vice-Chancellor, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The theme of my Founder's address today can be summed up in two key words: continuity and change. And as I look around this hall right now, I can illustrate my theme by reference to a number of guests who I'm particularly pleased to see, and who won't mind, I hope, if I mention them by name. Continuity and change are represented here today, for example, by the presence of the University's Registrar-elect, David Holmes, who will take up his duties in July. David is very welcome, and we very much appreciate his attendance today as we wish him all the very best for the future. Continuity and change, too, are very much in my mind as I look across the hall to the distinguished figure of my career-long library mentor and guide, Dr Fred Ratcliffe, the former Librarian of Cambridge, with whom I had the privilege of working for 12 years in two separate institutions. And he will no doubt have felt a certain curious poignancy, not only in seeing me up here and having to sit and listen to me for a change, but also, I imagine, in sitting next to his Cambridge predecessor's son, our own Senior Proctor, Dr Martin Ceadel. Continuity and change: they're all around us aren't they? And for me those key words encapsulate the peculiar challenge which faces the Bodleian Library in the late 20th century. Indeed, as those of you who have already read the recently-published report of the North Commission will know, the trick of blending those two vital elements lies at the very heart of the enduring success story of the University of Oxford itself.

In my first address as Bodley's Librarian a year ago, I spoke about 'standing on the shoulders of others' and 'walking tall' as a result of it. And in paying a personal tribute to my immediate predecessor, David Vaisey, I characterised his distinguished career by reference to the way in which he so successfully embodied both the spirit and the values of our Founder, whose generosity and vision we are met together to commemorate today. We hear a great deal, in today's hard-nosed, heavily commercialised world, about strategic directions, about business planning, and about aims and objectives; but our 'mission' in the Bodleian, quite simply, is to honour our Founder, not by paying mere lip service to his grand design for the Library, but by continuing, in severely practical terms, the great work which he began. And we do it best, I believe, by reinterpreting that grand design, and by constantly adapting it to the changed, and changing, circumstances which confront us as the world moves inexorably on.

In taking stock, therefore, of the Library's position in order to plot its future course more effectively, it is appropriate that I should begin with more than just a backward nod in the direction of the Library's Founder. It is almost exactly 400 years since Sir Thomas Bodley first declared his intention to spend his considerable fortune, and to devote what remained of his successful life, to the provision of a worthy library for his beloved alma mater. It was on February 23rd 1598 that Sir Thomas wrote to the Vice-Chancellor, in those often-quoted words, about his desire to take upon himself "the charge and cost" of restoring Duke Humfrey's decayed library, and "to make it fit, and handsome with seats, and shelves, and desks, and all that may be needful, [and] to stir up other men's benevolence, to help to furnish it with books". Such was our Founder's statement of aims and objectives. And as we look back and evaluate the extent to which Sir Thomas's vision has been realised, we are, I believe, bound to recognise, with the deepest gratitude, that it is thanks to his far-sighted benevolence and energy that the Library remains to this day what, in the England of the first Elizabeth, he hoped would become "a notable treasure for the multitude of volumes: an excellent benefit for the use and ease of students: and a singular ornament in the University". These, then, are the benchmarks of continuity against which we must measure our stewardship of the Library in the second Elizabeth's England.

And, for me, that important sense of continuity with Thomas Bodley's task is underscored on a day like this by the fact that Bodley's "very great store of honourable friends" is still as active now as it ever was. Sir Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Essex may have gone to their graves, like Bodley himself, but many of their modern counterparts are here today. And although their titles may take different forms, their largesse (your largesse) is nonetheless just as real, and just as important. If benefaction now goes more often under the less attractive names of fundraising, of corporate giving, or of matching grants, such contributions to the Library's work are just as welcome, and just as crucial, as those which first supported Bodley's aims.

Twelve months ago, I spoke in optimistic terms about the prospects for our major grant application to the National Heritage Lottery Fund, little knowing that the advent of New Labour's plans for 'The People's Lottery' would bring radical changes to the policy direction of the Fund, and to the sums available for large capital projects in the heritage arena. As a direct result of these changes, our application was turned down last November, to general amazement, and notwithstanding the fact that the Trustees had been given generally glowing reports by their many expert advisers. And since the basic aim of our Lottery bid was to repair, restore and refurbish the most dilapidated parts of Bodley's world-famous buildings, you will understand, as I did, the keen sense of disappointment which lay behind the grim sardonic humour of the piece which found its way into the special Christmas issue of the Bodleian Staff Newsletter: "The Lottery bid has failed", it said; "the beetles are in the rafters, and the wolf is at the door. When no other option is left, it's time for the full Bodley".

And so it was - figuratively speaking at least! Not that I and my Lottery bid colleagues bared any part of our anatomy other than that which was exposed by rolling up our sleeves! But you can imagine, I hope, the sense of pride with which I can now report that, having picked ourselves up from the floor, we have refocussed the project and have kept its most important elements well and truly on track. You will understand my pleasure, too, in being able to confirm that, in spite of the lack of help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the essential works which we had planned for Duke Humfrey's Library, and for other parts of the Old Bodleian, will start on time in September this year, as planned. And in this, I pay particular tribute to the efforts of our Head of Development, Alastair James, and to those of David Vaisey, our Emeritus Librarian and fundraiser extraordinary, who, in less than four months, have reduced the funding target for the scheme from £3.3 million to a little over half a million - a quite outstanding achievement, and one which ought to have the death-watch beetles quaking in their nests! Just one or two more big cheques and those beetles will be history!

This success, of course, has been made possible only by the willingness of others to recognise the quality of the project and the nature of the need; and the catalogue of those who have been willing to contribute to the project is a most distinguished one, as was the list of those who first responded to Sir Thomas's appeals 400 years ago. You will, I hope, bear with me if I mention them by name, given the debt of gratitude which we owe them all. And first, and perhaps potentially most pleasing to Sir Thomas, comes his old alma mater, the University itself, which has generously made a substantially increased commitment from its own capital funds. And here I pay grateful tribute to the unwavering support of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Colin Lucas -currently on academic duties at a conference in France - and to the understanding support of the Buildings Committee and of the University Surveyor and his staff. An increased contribution, too, has been forthcoming from the Garfield Weston Foundation, which has responded magnificently to the rejection of the Lottery bid. The Rayne Foundation, the Manifold Trust and the PF Charitable Trust, have also agreed to contribute substantially to the funding of the scheme. The ever-present Wolfson Foundation, too, has come up trumps, as it so often does, with the offer of a very substantial grant; and I'm delighted to be able to thank publicly the Foundation's Secretary, Dr Victoria Harrison, for this most timely pledge of the Foundation's support. The sympathetic response of all these foundations and trusts is gladly acknowledged as they swell the ranks of those who had already agreed to help us with partnership funding for the Lottery bid, including the Oxford Preservation Trust, which is also represented here today. I'm certain that our Founder, if he were here, would be vigorously nodding his approval, or wanting to add something in his elegant Shakespearean prose to my inadequate expressions of thanks to all these modern benefactors. As you may imagine, too, there are other irons still in the fire, and Alastair and David and I will be pursuing other possibilities, both here and across the water, when we embark on a fundraising trip to the States in a few weeks' time.

And, of course, the work of supplementing the Library's core funding goes on without remission. After fourteen months as Bodley's Librarian, I can tell you that the constant need to raise funds from external sources is no mean treadmill, since the Bodley enterprise, in funding terms at least, is essentially no different from that of a College, or indeed of the University itself. Sir Peter North, our immediate past Vice-Chancellor, and who was (and who remains) such an influential advocate for the Library, and who now performs a key role as the President of the University Development Office, could undoubtedly entertain us for hours with many fascinating insights into the life of a fundraiser out on the stump. He will know, perhaps better than any of us, how much time and effort it takes to 'cast one's bread upon the waters' unremittingly. I was reading some of Thomas Bodley's writings only the other day, and I can tell you that I have a genuine fellow feeling for him when he writes, some fourteen years into his great project, that "the perpetual preservation, support and maintenance of the Publique Librarie in the University of Oxford doth greatly surpass all my other worldly cares". I now appreciate only too well the delightful understatement in the further particulars of my post: "the postholder can expect to be involved in library fundraising projects at appropriate points"!

And yet this all-important work, so necessary to close the potentially increasing funding gap between what the University provides from its own hard-pressed resources and what we need to function at a level appropriate to the Library's status and standing, is one that is shared with many excellent colleagues and friends, and it is all the more rewarding because of the contact it brings with an ever-widening circle of supporters. Old 'friends' have continued or renewed their support during the past year. The Friends of the Bodleian, under the wise chairmanship of Professor Colin Matthew, have continued to provide material help, in cash and in kind; and I take this opportunity to thank Colin warmly for the personal counsel and advice he has given me, in this his final full year of his chairmanship. The Lascelles bequest has been used to strengthen our outstanding map collections, and books and manuscripts of particular value or rarity have been donated by many good friends of the Library. And those of you who were able to visit the display in the Bullard Room this morning will have seen the wonderful early music manuscript donated by Mrs Elizabeth Saint, which is being catalogued with a special grant from the English Funding Council.

The University's own Development Office and, outside Oxford, Jonathan Taylor's Development Committee, have not just opened many doors for us, but have made or brought in material contributions to our funding, and have always been willing to advise creatively on new or existing opportunities. You may imagine, therefore, the pleasure it gives me to be able to announce that, in recognition of his exceptionally generous help to the University through the Bodleian Library, Jonathan has very recently been named by the Council as one of the first of the Distinguished Friends of Oxford, a newly-created honour which goes some way towards expressing the Library's enormous indebtedness to him. I'm very pleased, also, to report that Sir Robert Horton has recently agreed to join Jonathan's Development Committee, and I'm particularly delighted to welcome Sir Robert and his wife into our midst today.

Another recently-named Distinguished Friend of Oxford is Lady Margaret Bullard; and those of you who are in the habit of attending Library functions will know how often, in the last year, I have had occasion to speak publicly about Lady Margaret's outstanding work for the Bodleian during the last decade. At her 'retirement' reception last November (and I use the word retirement in inverted commas!), I announced, to general satisfaction, that we had decided to rename the old Curators' Room in her honour; and so the 'Bullard Room' has now become part of our common parlance in the Library, with the placing of a suitably-worded plaque still to come. There are very many in this hall today, and there are thousands in this city and beyond, who have gained much pleasure from the long series of musical events with which Lady Margaret and her dedicated team of helpers have regaled us; and you will all be pleased to know that over the years many hundreds of thousands of pounds have come to the Bodleian as a by-product of those immensely enjoyable events.

I gratefully acknowledge, also, the steady continuing financial support of Booker plc, of Apax Partners, of Marks and Spencer, and of Schroders, especially in relation to the running costs of our own Library Development Office. We have continued to receive welcome contributions, too, from the Helen Roll Charity and from a number of Oxford Colleges, including Merton, Bodley's own, where he is buried, and which he always venerated as the "place of his first education in learning". We continue to benefit, too, from the generous support of Blackwell's, perhaps our most longstanding sponsors. And in thanking Blackwell's very warmly for funding this Founder's Lunch yet again, I take this opportunity also to thank the Rector and Fellows of Exeter College for graciously permitting us to use these splendid facilities for the commemoration of the Library's Founder.

Then again, many new friends have helped us substantially during the year since I last reported to you. The Delmas Foundation and the Kulturstiftung der Länder have made sizeable donations to our ambitious incunabula project; the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung has given a major challenge grant which we hope to be able to match in order to complete this important and exciting work; and the Muban Foundation has recently helped us to strengthen our outstanding Chinese collections. The Vaisey Endowment Fund, which was established in 1996 as a memorial to my predecessor's outstanding contribution to the Bodleian for most of his professional life, and as a permanent source of income for the Library, now stands at over £830,000, thanks to a number of gifts since our last Founder's Luncheon. Further additions from the bequest of the late Margaret Sowers, a gift from Mrs Drue Heinz DBE, and dozens of contributions in memory of the late Alison Northover, whose untimely death in service last summer cast a dark cloud over the Library, have brought the Fund tantalisingly close to its original £1 million target. We are particularly grateful to Dr Peter Northover, Alison's husband, who is with us today, for his imaginative suggestion that contributions to the Fund might be made in lieu of flowers at Alison's funeral.

The Library has benefitted, too, from the sad passing of other friends. We shared, along with the Ashmolean and New College, in the substantial residue of the estate of the late Miss Cynthia Perrins, who had been a Friend of the Bodleian for 40 years. A long-time friend of the Library in America, Sheldon Vanauken, left us a generous donation in his will. And the late Revd. John Kelly, former Principal of St Edmund Hall and a regular reader in the Bodleian until his death, bequeathed seven fine paintings to us, on condition that they be sold for our benefit. The paintings have since yielded in excess of £50,000, and they, along with the other bequests, illustrate one of the many valuable ways in which the Library receives help from its supporters, in death as well as in life. (I say this, of course, not just to acknowledge the kindness of those who have helped us in this way, but as a word to the wise among the living also, and as a prior public word of thanks to those of you here who may have already remembered the Library in this way!)

By all these means, the collective contributions of such a galaxy of friends will help to guarantee the Library that continuity with our Founder's aims which has been such a major theme of my remarks today; and I can tell you that I am not only immensely gratified by it, but also appropriately humbled. My privileged task is greatly facilitated by these constant reminders of what this great Library means to so many of you who have known and cared for it for so much longer than I. My role as an agent of change is all the more clearly set within the historic values of such a great institution because of these evidences of support for what the Library is, and for what it has always aimed to be. The Library is, and must remain, what Bodley himself described as "the most absolute and sufficient for the furthering of students in all kyndes of knowledge of good literature that was ever yet in being, in any public place of study".

If, therefore, you hear of rumours of change within the Library, and if you should feel perhaps somewhat alarmed that the new broom may not fully appreciate what he is sweeping, then let me reassure you at once that any such changes as there may be are, and will be, only those which may be necessary to re-align the Library's services and its historic aims within the changing pressures to which the University itself is subject. This, for example, is what lies behind the current restructuring of the former Department of Printed Books; and the same rule of thumb will be rigorously applied to the role which the Bodleian itself will play in the overall restructuring of library services within the University. If, as is undoubtedly true, the University and the 'Republic of Letters' of which it is still part, are much larger, much more complex and much more demanding than they were in Elizabethan times, then it follows that if we are to remain true to Bodley's noble aims we simply must take account of our changing circumstances if the Library is not to fall behind in its local, national and international contribution to the advancement of learning.

Some changes there are, however, which are much to be regretted, and not least those which concern the passing of key members of staff - although I suppose that such things are necessary reminders to us, not only that the pursuit of Bodley's aims relies very heavily on people, but also that we are all only temporary custodians of Sir Thomas's continuing legacy. I have already alluded to the unexpected death of Alison Northover; and I should like to record how deeply we all still feel her loss, and how I personally regret being deprived of the chance to benefit from Alison's dedicated professionalism and energy. During the year also the Library mourned the death of Norman Sainsbury, the former Keeper of Oriental Books and Manuscripts, who retired over 20 years ago after many years of service to the Bodleian. In a different sense, too, we 'lost' Julian Roberts - and I'm glad of this further opportunity to pay tribute to the enormous contribution which Julian made to the Library's work in so many ways until his retirement last September. In all his various capacities, as Keeper of Printed Books, as Acting Librarian and as Deputy Librarian, Julian devoted himself to the Library's best interests, and his courteous and civilised humanity are much missed. In a similar way, too, we shall regret the forthcoming retirements of Mavis Green, for almost 30 years a loyal and much-loved pillar of the Secretariat, and of Adrian Roberts, the present Keeper of Oriental Books, whose dedicated service to the Bodleian has recently passed the 40-year mark. Such retirements inevitably remove from the Library a very great deal of that collective memory which is part and parcel of keeping us on our historic track.

A sea-change, too, will be felt soon in the work of the Oxford Recording Centre for the Blind - an activity which is closely associated with the Bodleian - when its dedicated head Mr Martin Davies retires, and when the Centre no longer enjoys the valuable input of his wife Ruth. I take this opportunity to thank them both for all that they have done to benefit the visually impaired, and should like to pay tribute also to the generous support that the Centre has received from Mr Robert Merrick, through his company. Lincoln. The value of the Centre's work can be attested by all those who benefit from it, including Mr Merrick's son Ben, who is with us today, and who achieved a First in French and Latin as an undergraduate here in Exeter College.

But if, as the hymn reminds us, "Time like an ever-rolling stream/Bears all its sons away", then it also brings new faces onto the scene; and among them, this year, I am personally very happy to welcome my new Deputy, John Tuck, who has joined us from the John Rylands University Library of Manchester. We're delighted, too, to welcome as our new Assistant Secretary, Dr Judith Thomas, who is already bringing her own special professional expertise to bear on what we now somewhat euphemistically call our 'visitor management programme'. And if, as we fervently believe, the work of the Bodleian is worthy of our very best efforts, then we can be sure that such new pairs of hands will be motivated to continue the work begun so long ago.

"Continuity and change": if they are our watchwords, then I am confident that, together with your help, our Founder's "zealous affection to the advancement of learning" will live on in this place, whatever our changing circumstances may be.

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for listening to me, and thank you for sharing this quatercentenary celebration with us!

May I ask you therefore to raise your glasses and to drink the toast: to the next 400 years of the Bodleian Library...

Reg Carr
14 March 1998