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


Exeter College, 15 March 2003

High Steward, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Last year, we met, like Harry Potter and his Hogwarts schoolmates, in the soaring splendour of Christ Church Hall, and a magical experience it was too. We went to Christ Church in our quatercentenary year because we wanted to accommodate a larger-than-usual array of guests as a special way of marking the Bodleian's 400th anniversary, and because we were also conscious that Christ Church had been the venue for the Library's tercentenary lunch, in 1902. Certainly, no-one can justifiably say that we lack a sense of history!

But, of course, it's very much the present that preoccupies us now, and it's our continuing commitment to the future that motivates us and helps to sustain that enduring sense of history. Our quatercentenary celebrations were a huge success, and we like to think that our Founder would have been pleased with all the varied ways in which we sought to honour his memory. David Gentleman's inspired revision of the Bodleian logo set the tone for the whole year, and we used it ubiquitously as the hallmark for all aspects of the landmark anniversary. In fact, hardly a month passed without some kind of celebratory activity, and our 2002 Group did a fine job of filling the whole year with memorable things.

The year included two major retrospective exhibitions, complete with splendid catalogues which are models of their kind. We distributed anniversary mugs to all members of staff (it reminded me of being at junior school during the coronation fifty years earlier!). We enjoyed a wonderful concert in Merton College, which was given a glowing review in The Times, and in which all the performances were based on musical manuscripts held in the Bodleian, including Purcell's own conducting score of the Ode to St Cecilia. An excellent Bodleian Friends London lecture was delivered in the grandeur of the Stationers' Hall by Professor John Barnard, who revealed to us some of the intriguing secrets of Sir Thomas Bodley's role in the accession of James I. We staged a highly successful international library conference, which was attended by a galaxy of distinguished visitors including the Librarians of Harvard, Yale and Princeton, and which was addressed with such panache and technological sophistication by the Librarian of Stanford that the published version of his presentation is having to appear on the Web rather than in the printed pages of the Bodleian Library Record! We were treated to an excellent evening with Alan Bennett in the Sheldonian Theatre. On the day of the anniversary itself - 8 November - we held a special degree ceremony in Convocation House, in which the late Chancellor presented honorary doctorates to four of the leading figures in the library world - one of whom, Professor Sir Brian Follett, we're delighted to have with us on the top table today. And a truly exhilarating year was rounded off by an enormously well-attended staff party in the Divinity School, at which Bodley's Librarian made a spectacle of himself by masquerading as Sir Thomas Bodley, in full Jacobean costume. We had a really great time all year; and I take this opportunity to thank all the many hundreds of people who helped, in so many ways, to mark such a significant anniversary in such wonderful style. It was a real privilege to be part of it all.

But, with an eye on the future as well as on the past, we also deliberately used the year as the perfect launching pad for our forward-looking Capital Campaign, which is, of course, designed to revitalise the libraries' physical and technical infrastructure, and to bring our services well and truly into the 21st century. This time last year, both the Vice-Chancellor and Sir Robert Horton, the Chairman of our Libraries Development Board, spoke briefly but warmly to you about our plans to raise £40 million over the next 4-5 years, and to add it to the £16 or £17 million which the University itself is generously providing, to accomplish eight key capital projects in the library sector which will ensure our ability to continue, at a world-class level, that historic support for research and scholarship which is such an important ingredient of what makes this University so very special.

The success of the Capital Campaign is an essential component of our wide-ranging ambitions for the future; and, having given the Campaign what the professional fundraisers call a 'soft launch' at last year's Founder's Lunch, it was our great pleasure to give it a formal inauguration in North America at a highly successful Gala Dinner in New York last October. With about 300 attendees, the New York Dinner itself raised no less than $1.5 million towards the Campaign funds; and, even though it was held at a particularly difficult time for the world economy, the Dinner was declared, by those who have reason to know, to be one of the best and most enjoyable fundraising events of its kind they had ever attended. A stunning exhibition of 52 Library treasures was on display at the dinner, and the highlight of the evening was the Vice-Chancellor's presentation of a Bodley Medal to three distinguished honorees, Sir Rupert Murdoch, the novelist P.D.James, and Timothy Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. The event has certainly given us a wonderful platform on which to build our ongoing efforts to meet our five-year campaign target. And it's with no small pride that I am able to announce today that we have already raised almost a quarter of the £40 million that we need to achieve our plans in their entirety. For this initial success, we owe a great deal in particular to Mr Doug Smith, to Sir Howard Stringer, and to the ever-generous Andrew W Mellon Foundation.

But there are very many others who have helped us on our way; and I take this opportunity to thank Sir Colin Lucas for his strong personal support, to pay tribute to Sir Robert Horton and the volunteers on his Development Board for their inspiration and constant encouragement, and to acknowledge the huge professional input of Mike Smithson and Jo Agnew and their Development Office colleagues, both here in Oxford and in New York. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be working with such smart and committed people in such a major enterprise.

During the year, we said a reluctant farewell to our energetic Head of Library Development, Hannah Lemon, who has followed her new husband to a posting in Bangladesh. Hannah did a great deal to leave the Campaign in good shape; and in particular she has bequeathed us an excellent range of publicity materials, including the outstanding Campaign brochure (of which you've all received a copy), an attractive set of Campaign stationery, an entertaining video, and a fabulous website, which I recommend you all to visit (just go to the Bodleian website, and you can't miss it!). We are fortunate, too, to have been able to replace Hannah by the appointment of Sarah Catliff, whose previous work in the Development Office has given her a good headstart in her challenging task of building on Hannah's legacy.

Happily, too, our 400th anniversary year, with its marked emphasis on the Campaign, was also crowned with a number of spectacular successes on the collections front; and it is really pleasing to be able to report that we have not neglected to build on what, after all, makes the Bodleian the world-famous institution that it is. Last summer, we pulled off a major coup in acquiring the holograph manuscript of Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, at a public auction in which a single leaf of Beethoven's 5th Symphony went for a cool million pounds; and we also raised the substantial sums required for us to obtain an important 17th-century Ethiopic manuscript, The Harp of Praise, and a really outstanding 12th-century illustrated Arabic manuscript, now intriguingly known as The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eyes. We are deeply grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Friends of the Bodleian, the National Art Collections Fund, Saudi Aramco, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, and a pleasing number of Oxford colleges, for making it possible for us to acquire such important materials.

All of these manuscript items have added significantly to the Bodleian's existing research strengths; and the Library's support for the study of ancient languages, music, geography and the history of science has been immeasurably enriched as a result of these major acquisitions. And then, towards the end of the year, the Library was deeply gratified to receive from the University Press a generous and timely endowment of £2 million, the proceeds of which are to be spent in perpetuity on library materials and associated costs. My words of thanks today for all this remarkable generosity towards the Library's collections are seriously inadequate to do justice to those who have helped in such significant ways to ensure the Library's continuing health.

Then last, but by no means least, the acquisition of an extensive collection of Asquith letters, additional to the Asquith Papers already present in the Library, came as a very pleasing conclusion to an extraordinary year. For this most important acquisition, we are greatly indebted to many generous people and foundations, including the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Pitt-Rivers Charity, both of which are represented here today; and I take this opportunity to thank both of those trusts very warmly for their crucial assistance with the Asquith letters. But there are also three individuals I would like to mention by name in this context, two of whom are with us now, and one of whom, very sadly, is not.

In the first place, I'm very glad indeed to be able to say publicly how much the Library owes the acquisition of the Asquith letters to the energetic support of Dr Michael Brock, the former Warden of Nuffield College. If, as Napoleon believed, "an army marches on its stomach", a library like the Bodleian relies very heavily on the personal commitment of influential advocates like Dr Brock. He it was who took upon himself the spearheading of the successful mini-campaign to secure this latest tranche of Asquith's private papers, which consists of a truly remarkable series of more than 550 letters from Asquith to his confidante, Venetia Stanley, and which cover much of the time when Asquith was Prime Minister during the First World War. The collection has added significantly to the Library's strength in the area of modern political papers, and it's a privilege for me to be able to acknowledge this important contribution by Dr Brock to the very essence of what makes the Bodleian such a powerhouse for the support of research scholarship in the Humanities.

At the same time, the mention of the acquisition of the Asquith letters also gives me a peg on which to hang an expression of the Library's, and my own personal, gratitude to Mary Clapinson, the Keeper of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, who retired in December after more than three decades of outstanding service to the Library. Mary's central role in obtaining the Asquith letters represents a typical contribution among the very many which Mary made to the Library's primary research collections during the course of a quite exemplary career in the Bodleian. Like David Vaisey before her, whom she succeeded as Keeper of Western Manuscripts in 1986, Mary quite simply personified all that is distinctive and world-class about the Library; and I know that I am speaking not only on behalf of all her colleagues, but also on behalf of countless scholars - past, present and future - when I pay this warm and glowing tribute to all that Mary has done - and continues to do, even in retirement - for the Bodleian.

One of the major tasks of the head of any large institution, of course, and one of the principal headaches, is the challenge of trying to replace such key members of staff with appropriately gifted successors. It is therefore with a sense of genuine relief, and no small satisfaction, that I am able to announce today that we have been very fortunate indeed to appoint as Mary's successor Mr Richard Ovenden, who is currently Head of Collections and Acting Deputy Librarian in the University of Edinburgh. I'm confident that you will all come to realise, once he joins us at the beginning of June, that Richard himself will prove to be one of the Library's major acquisitions for the future.

But I said earlier that there were three people I wanted to mention in the context of the addition of the Asquith letters, and that the third person was, sadly, not with us today. I'm referring, in fact, to our late lamented Chancellor, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. The Vice-Chancellor, speaking at the memorial service for Lord Jenkins earlier this month, paid a warm and fulsome tribute to Roy Jenkins, and in that address Sir Colin was speaking on behalf of the whole University, which benefitted in so very many ways from the sustained devotion of such a very remarkable man. What may be less well known is the extent to which Lord Jenkins gave his practical support to the Bodleian Library over the whole of his Chancellorship; and his personal contribution to the acquisition of the Asquith letters - fuelled no doubt by the fact that he, like Asquith, was a Balliol man - was entirely typical of Lord Jenkins' willingness to be of service to the Library. I can assure you that the Bodleian has many very special reasons to mourn the passing of Roy Jenkins, and we shall always be deeply grateful to his memory. The Library is following the election of his successor with intense interest, and not least because the new Chancellor will have so much to live up to from our particular point of view.

The Library has also sustained other losses since we last met, though none of them by any means as sad as the death of Lord Jenkins. My own Deputy, John Tuck, left us for pastures new in the British Library after four-and-a-half years of phenomenally hardworking and effective service, and it's a real pleasure to welcome John and his wife Anne back among us today. And, if the British Library is fortunate to have poached John to St Pancras as Head of British Collections, we can, I believe, regard ourselves as particularly well blessed in having been able to replace him through the appointment of Ronald Milne, who joined us last November, and who, thankfully, now has his feet well and truly under the table. Like Richard Ovenden, Ronald has also come to us from Edinburgh, so it's nice to see that the Scottish brain-drain is flowing strongly in our direction!

But we also lost both Gregory Walker and Jack Flavell during the year, from Collection Development and Legal Deposit respectively, and I will frankly admit that we have not yet wholly replaced the expertise of those two loyal servants of the Library (although we are, of course, working hard on trying to do so, as you might expect). As I hinted earlier, it is crucial for the Library's wellbeing and continued future success that we should take every care to fill such key gaps with the highest possible calibre of senior staff.

Yet one of the many really pleasing things about a great institution like the Bodleian is that, even in retirement, many of its most loyal servants continue to put themselves out to help the Library. This is certainly true of all those who have retired in recent years, and I gratefully acknowledge now the ready availability of so much accumulated expertise and devotion which is so generously put at the Library's disposal. I've mentioned my own predecessor, David Vaisey, briefly already; but I want to follow that up with a slightly fuller comment about David now.

I find it hard to imagine that any Bodley's Librarian, in all the four centuries of the office, has ever benefitted from the kind of constant support and encouragement that I have had from my predecessor since my appointment in 1997. I think you should hear me say today that the Library has continued to gain enormously from David Vaisey's legendary skills as a fundraiser, and that even now, over six years after his retirement, David is still active on the Library's behalf in spearheading a Bodleian legacies campaign, as an integral part of our current ambitious fundraising efforts. David is sharing this important responsibility with another longstanding Library supporter, Jonathan Taylor, the former Chairman of the Bodleian Library's volunteer Development Board; and together they are planning the inauguration, later this year, of what we are calling the "Bodley Circle", which will consist of all those who have been generous enough to let us know that they have remembered the Bodleian Library in their wills. We hope, by this means, not only to encourage this particular form of generosity, but also to demonstrate our great gratitude to our personal benefactors while they are still very much alive.

We continue to acknowledge and remember our most substantial benefactors, of course, by other means also; and most particularly, perhaps, by including their names on the splendid marble panel just outside the entrance to Duke Humfrey's Library. So I'm very pleased to be able to draw your attention to the fact that, during 2002, we added the name of the late Sebastian Walker to that illustrious list. We are very grateful to Sebastian's sister Mirabel Cecil, and her husband Hugh (who are both with us today) for making it possible for us to acknowledge the enormous support which Sebastian gave to the Library during his lifetime. It's also pleasing to be able to report that we shall soon be running out of space on the panel, and that we're already thinking about ways in which we might install a continuation panel somewhere appropriate within the Library. But there's still a little space left on the original panel (says he, as a word to the wise, and to the potentially motivated among you!)

In any speech such as this - and especially a speech which is so full of expressions of gratitude and acknowledgement - it is inevitable that some degree of selectivity has to enter in, for otherwise I could keep you here for the rest of the day. But in bringing my remarks to a close, I just want to pay two more tributes, one particular and the other general.

My final particular tribute goes to the Bodleian's nearest neighbour, Blackwell's. As I hope you're well aware, we owe this splendid occasion entirely to Blackwell's, and I take this opportunity to thank the company very warmly, and sincerely, for this generous and continuing act of benefaction. But you should know, too, that Blackwell's helps the Library in many other ways, and that the company is almost certainly our most longstanding supporter. This is a relationship which we value greatly; and I'm glad to be able to tell you all that, as Blackwell's itself looks forward to its own significant milestone next year ('125 years in Broad Street'), we are actively discussing ways in which the Bodleian can contribute to the company's own celebrations. For us, it seems the very least that we can do, in return for such sustained support.

But finally - and I promise you these are my last words today - I just want to say a sincere and heartfelt 'Thank you' to you all. Being Bodley's Librarian is both a privilege and a challenge. But both aspects of the job are immeasurably helped by all the support and encouragement received from such a galaxy of friends and well-wishers as are gathered here today. So I close these proceedings by thanking you all very much for coming today, and for helping, in ways too numerous to mention, to keep the Bodleian Library, and its Librarian, on track for a successful future. I raise my glass to you, every one. Thank you all very much!

Reg Carr
15 March 2003