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


New College, 12 March 2005

It is always difficult - though especially perhaps in Oxford - to break with time-honoured traditions; but this year, Bodley's Librarian happily cedes pride of place at the Founder's Lunch microphone to the University's Chancellor, the Lord Patten of Barnes, who has kindly consented, 'by popular demand', to say a few words after the conclusion of the meal in New College. Instead of a state-of-the-Library speech, therefore, Bodley's Librarian offers this printed report about the Bodleian during the 12 months just ended.

The year under review was an extraordinarily busy and successful one, and only the principal highlights can be touched on in this necessarily brief report.

The year's 'set piece' events were pleasingly numerous, and proved to be enjoyable occasions for all concerned. They served to raise awareness of the Bodleian's work, to celebrate the Library's achievements, to highlight its ongoing needs, to thank its many generous supporters, and to engage with new friends.

The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the Bodleian was held in June. Presided over by the Friends' Chairman, Professor Jon Stallworthy, the meeting was addressed both by Dr Richard Palmer (who took as his subject In the footsteps of Sir Thomas Bodley? The Libraries of Lambeth Palace and Sion College) and by Bodley's Librarian (whose report to the Friends can be found at www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/librarian on the Library's website). In terms of financial and other assistance for strengthening the Library's collections, the importance of the Friends continues undiminished. The only downbeat note was the announcement of the retirement of the Friends' Assistant Secretary, Penny Sturgis. Known and admired by many as 'the human face' of the Friends for almost 16 years, Penny left Oxford at the end of June to start a new life in Northern France with her husband Simon; but her enormous contribution to the work of the Friends - and especially her role as the presiding genius of so many Library events - will long be remembered with warmth and gratitude.

The Council of the Friends and the Library, however, suffered a really sad loss in August, with the death of Albi Rosenthal, a Council member of many years' standing and one of the Bodleian's most loyal supporters. Nevertheless, it was with extreme gratitude that the Library learned that Albi, with typical generosity, had bequeathed to the Bodleian his outstanding personal collection of Mozart materials, assembled over a long career as one of the world's leading rare book and manuscript dealers. Bodley's Librarian and a number of other Library staff were privileged to attend a musical memorial to Albi, held at the Wigmore Hall in November, at which, among many other memorable performances, the Bodleian's Music Librarian, Peter Ward-Jones, played a pianoforte transcription of Bach's Prelude and Fugue in B minor for Organ.

In October, the Friends' London Lecture was delivered at the Society of Antiquaries by the distinguished biographer Claire Tomalin, who captivated a packed audience with a talk entitled Samuel Pepys: the Divided Self. A small dinner party after the lecture was attended, among others, by the Library's longstanding friend, Sandy Lerner, the co-founder of Cisco Systems, whose own Chawton House Library and Study Centre, in Hampshire, is not only a fine memorial to the legacy of Jane Austen but also a typical example of Sandy's entrepreneurial support for the Arts in general.

After two 'Bodley Medal events', in New York (October 2002) and in San Francisco (November 2003), the successful formula was repeated in Oxford last November. The evening began with a reception in Convocation House, where there was a select display of Library treasures. Dinner followed in the Divinity School, at the conclusion of which the new Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Hood, presented Bodley Medals to Lord Richard Attenborough, Professor Seamus Heaney, and Sir Tom Stoppard - each of whom spoke of their delight at the honour thus bestowed on them. Apart from adding three more honorees to the distinguished roll-call of Bodley Medal recipients, the evening provided a perfect opportunity for direct engagement with Library friends both old and new.

On the evening following that event, Dr John Warnock, the co-founder of Adobe Systems Inc., spoke at the formal opening ceremony for the Library's major exhibition of incunables, After Gutenberg. Dr Warnock - himself a major collector of rare books - was visiting the Bodleian Library for the first time, with his wife Marva, and is currently helping the Library with its ongoing programme of high-quality digitisation of historic treasures, through his prestigious digital imaging company Octavo. The exhibition itself is a by-product of the Library's long-running Incunable Catalogue project, now close to completion, with a six-volume publication expected from the Oxford University Press later in the year.

In December, almost 100 North American Friends and benefactors gathered in the Madison Avenue, New York, headquarters of OUP (North America), to hear Bodley's Librarian, together with William Buice III (President of the Keats-Shelley Association of North America) and Betty Bennett (Distinguished Professor of Literature at Washington's American University) speak in celebration of the acquisition of the Abinger-Shelley Papers. The enjoyment of the event was greatly enhanced by the announcement by the celebrated book-collector Dr William Scheide that he had just concluded making the arrangements for a generous gift of $500,000 to the Bodleian.

In early February, Bodley's Librarian convened a second Round Table meeting, in Palo Alto, which brought together an invited group of Silicon Valley leaders to discuss the Library's forward-looking initiative on The Library of the Future. Excellent progress was made, and active partners are now being sought to move further ahead with this ambitious attempt to put Oxford at the forefront of global efforts to develop a public-private partnership model for the provision of seamless access to the world's expanding knowledge-base.

The Library's research collections were enhanced very significantly during the year. In addition to the usual steady flow of special individual items acquired by gift and purchase, the addition of two particularly major collections - the Abinger-Shelley Papers and the Marconi Archives - served to make 2004 yet another 'red letter' year.

Having set itself the daunting task, in the autumn of 2003, of finding £5.5 million to purchase the extensive Shelley Papers belonging to Lord Abinger, the Library was able to celebrate a notable success in this regard within 15 months. This was due not only to major gifts from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation, but also to many generous individual donations to the Appeal, which was very ably led by Richard Ovenden, the Head of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts. In addition to the New York celebration in December, a dinner marking the success of the Appeal was held in Shelley's own college, with the welcome support of Lord Butler of Brockwell, the Master of University College. The Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion (himself also a graduate of Univ), delighted the dinner guests on that occasion with an engaging account of the life of a poet. The Abinger-Shelley Papers represent one of the most important single collections of literary materials ever to be acquired by the Bodleian in its long history, and they serve to confirm Oxford as the world's leading centre for the study of English literature.

The Library made headline news also late in 2004 with the successful conclusion to its negotiations, in concert with the Museum of the History of Science, to acquire by gift the extensive archives of Marconi plc. Valued by Christie's in 1997 at £5 million, the collection was donated to the University, with the archives coming to the Bodleian, and the historic equipment being added to the Museum's collections. While important highlights of the collection, the company's working archive will also be of primary research interest for students of business history in the Saïd Business School and elsewhere. At the same time, the Library was fortunate to secure substantial donations from the Wireless Preservation Society, for the cataloguing of the archive, and to fund a number of Visiting Research Fellowships, to enable scholarly research to be undertaken on the materials over the next few years.

It is also very pleasing to report that, with the generous assistance of the Prism Fund and a number of other donors including Merton College, the Library was able to purchase from the Macclesfield Library sale a copy of the first printed edition of Archimedes' works (1544), formerly owned and extensively annotated by John Greaves, Oxford's first Savilian Professor of Astronomy.

The Bodleian is always delighted to be the recipient and storehouse of valuable research materials like these; but it faces an ongoing challenge in its efforts to administer them all as expeditiously as they deserve. For, while the Capital Campaign continues with its long-term aim of providing the appropriate physical environment for the Bodleian's outstanding special collections, the Library is grossly under-resourced for the essential task of cataloguing and listing its most precious materials. Compared to its North American peers, for example, the Library has a manuscript and rare book staffing complement which is worryingly small, with 40% of the staff costs in this important area being dependent on external funding of one kind or another. It is all the more pleasing, therefore, to acknowledge the generous help received to undertake some of these key processing tasks. With the world's second largest collection of medieval manuscripts, the Library has been fortunate to benefit from cataloguing grants from the Kress Foundation and from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. Grants have been received also from the Heritage Lottery Fund and from the History of Parliament Trust for text encoding work on the Carte Collection of Irish Papers, from the Tolkien Trust for a 5-year project to catalogue the Tolkien Archive, and from the Trustees of the Conservative Party Archives for work on an oral history project. In the special collections digital arena, financial support was forthcoming from the UK's Joint Information Systems Committee for a ground-breaking project to develop an archive of political papers in digital form, from the Mellon Foundation's ARTStor initiative for digitising a large corpus of slides of the Library's medieval manuscripts, and from the map-collector David Rumsey, who is giving in-kind support both for the digitisation of historic maps and for the development of a state-of-the-art technical platform for viewing and delivering the digital images created. Although the longer-term staffing issues remain, these generous contributions are at least enabling the Library to do more than it otherwise could to make its deep research materials accessible to the scholars whose work depends upon the prompt and convenient availability of the Library's collections.

The Capital Campaign itself has progressed gratifyingly well during the last year. Since last August, with the approval of the University Council, I have concentrated most of my own time on the Campaign and other fundraising activities. With about £26 million raised towards the original October 2007 overall Campaign target of £57 million, this new arrangement is making it possible to intensify the fundraising efforts, to engage with a wider range of potential donors, and to plan a more intensive series of Campaign-related and fundraising activities, some of which are described in the first section of this report.

With my Deputy Ronald Milne taking on the rôle of Acting Director and Bodley's Librarian, and with David Perrow as Acting Deputy, the new arrangement is working well, and I take this opportunity to thank them both, as well as other members of my senior staff, for willingly and ably shouldering the burden of so much extra management responsibility.

The support of Sir Robert Horton and his fellow Development Board members has continued to be crucial in maintaining the momentum of the Campaign. It is therefore very pleasing to be able to report that fundraising for two of the eight Campaign projects (the Clarendon Building refurbishment - £1.6 million - and the Hybrid (electronic) Library developments - £3.8 million) has already been effectively achieved. Work on the Clarendon Building has now just begun, and this will continue until Easter next year, when the building will re-open as the headquarters of the libraries' central administration. Under the Hybrid Library project, a three-year programme of mass-digitisation of the Bodleian's 19th-century printed books, funded by Google Inc., will be taking place, based in the former Blackwell's Science Building at Osney Mead. The 'Google deal', as it is familiarly called, is the firstfruits of two years' hard work to persuade the world's leading Internet company to include the Bodleian as the only non-North American institution in the company's ambitious plans to digitise vast quantities of otherwise inaccessible printed materials, for convenient delivery via the World Wide Web. The mass-digitisation agreement also fits perfectly into the Library's own plans for bringing its collections into the 21st-century, for both local and global benefit. We firmly believe that our Founder would have approved of this contemporary interpretation of his original vision for a library designed to serve, not just the University of Oxford, but also the whole 'Republic of Letters'!

Priority in the fundraising efforts is currently being given to the new Medical Research and Information Centre (at a cost of £4.7 million), on which work is due to begin later this year. This will be an innovative, state-of-the-art facility, designed to serve a range of important medical and bio-medical research groups in a new University building on the Old Road (Headington) campus.

At the same time, with £4.5 million still to raise for the largest of the Campaign projects (the redevelopment of the New Bodleian Library, at a recently revised total cost of £17.5 million), the opportunity has been taken to review these major works, and it is likely that the original plans for this rather 'forbidding' 1940s building - which houses the largest and most important collection of primary academic research materials in the world - will soon be formally amended to include both a high-quality restaurant on the 'dead' space of the Broad Street 'apron' and a permanent exhibition hall, to provide a much higher level of public access to the Library's premier collections.

The redevelopment of the Osney Mead building (at a revised cost of £15.9 million), initially slowed down by cash-flow constraints, is now proceeding on the basis of 'Plan B'. Backroom staff are being relocated there in phases; space will be leased to Google Inc.; and the main 'Osney One' building will be used to house both staff and materials displaced from the central site during the refurbishments taking place there. A new, free-standing Conservation Centre on the Osney site is now also being considered, with the prospect of major financial help from an appropriate commercial partner.

While fundraising for the refurbishment of the Bodleian Law Library is still proceeding, some radical rethinking has been taking place about the two remaining projects (the extension of the Taylor Institution Library, and the renovation of the Upper Radcliffe Camera), in the context of a thoroughgoing revision of the overall library estate strategy.

I take this opportunity to place on record the Library's warm thanks to the very many generous donors who have responded to the Campaign appeal, and especially to this year's major benefactors, Joseph Sassoon, William Scheide, Douglas G. Smith, and Barrie Wigmore, whose support has been such a very great encouragement. Notable, too, is the gracious agreement of the Chancellor to lend his name, and his personal advocacy, to the Campaign, as its distinguished Patron.

But finally, a few brief words about the key changes in personnel to which the Library, and the University, like all long-running institutions, are inevitably subject. The departure of Penny Sturgis is mentioned above; but she was only one of many long-serving assistant staff to retire during the year. With Kathy Firkin (Photographic Studio), Linora Lawrence (Personnel), Rosemary McCarthy (Photocopying), Marilyn Masters (Accounts), Susan Harris (Inter-Library Loans), Tony Wilkins (Bodleian Law Library), and Gwydwr Leitch (Special Collections and Western Manuscripts) all also retiring, these eight members of staff together chalked up a quite remarkable total of 228 years of service to the Bodleian. It would be 'putting it mildly' to say that the wide-ranging knowledge and experience of so many loyal and longserving members of staff will be impossible to replace.

There were changes too - although not quite so sweeping - among the professional staff. After more than 32 years' devoted service to the Bodleian in a variety of important roles, Richard Bell retired from the very senior post of Head of Reader Services in June, and Yvonne Hibbott retired in September after 14 years in the Radcliffe Science Library. Saddest of all, however, was the sudden loss of the Foreign and Comparative Law Librarian, Gillian Sands, after only two months on the staff, whose tragic death-in-service came as a deep shock to her colleagues in the Bodleian Law Library.

Other deaths were noted with sadness during the year among the Library's former members of staff, including two of the pre-War 'Bodley Boys'. W.J. (Walter) Andrews, who died aged 94 in March, was appointed to the Bodleian staff at the age of 14 under the Librarianship of Sir Arthur Cowley in 1924. Stanley Gillam, who died in April, and whose fascinating reminiscences of life as a Bodley Boy in the 1930s were published in the Bodleian Library Record for April 2003, went on to enjoy a distinguished career as Librarian of the London Library from 1954 to 1980; but in his 'retirement' he again became a familiar and much-loved figure around the Bodleian for almost a quarter of a century until his death.

But as something of a counterbalance to these losses, the Library was very pleased to welcome a number of 'new recruits'. In June, Isabel Holowaty joined us from Cambridge University Library to take on responsibility for both the History Faculty Library and the Bodleian's History collections. In August, Charlotte Goodall arrived to perform a similar role as Classics Subject Librarian, with responsibilities spanning both the Bodleian and the Sackler Libraries. In October, Steve Rose, previously Head of the OULS Health Care Libraries, took over from Richard Bell as Head of Reader Services. And, during the latter part of the year, David Howell was appointed as a Principal Conservator within the newly-restructured Department of Conservation and Collection Care.

In respect of all those who have retired or died during the year, the Library records its sincere gratitude for all the loyal service given, and for all the 'jobs well done'. And together with those who remain to carry the torch, we look forward to achievements yet to come. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to work with so many gifted people on the great Bodleian enterprise…

Changes, and the welcome support of a variety of non-Library staff, were also experienced from outside the Library itself. From the earliest days of his Vice-Chancellorship, Dr John Hood has taken an active and expert interest in the Library's development. Sustained and energetic help has also been received for the Capital Campaign from the University's North American Office (and especially from Michael Cunningham and Kim Erskine); and, with the University's Director of Development, Mike Smithson, moving on to pastures new with our thanks and best wishes, the Library looks forward with eager anticipation to the arrival, later in the year, of Dr Jon Dellandrea, from the University of Toronto, whose appointment as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Development and External Affairs) promises so much for the overall success of the University's fundraising activities generally. And last but by no means least, though this will not be the only opportunity for noting such a significant change in the life of the Library, this will be the last Founder's Lunch before the Principal of Linacre, Professor Paul Slack, steps down from his 8-year stint as Chairman of the Library's governing body. Suffice it now to say that when Paul Slack hands over the reins of Library governance to Dr Bill Macmillan in October, all those who have seen at close quarters his unfailing dedication to the Bodleian's cause will know how great is the Library's long-term debt to such a major University figure…

The Library's special thanks go to Blackwell's, who have so generously sponsored the Founder's Lunch since its establishment 17 years ago: we are deeply grateful for this remarkable record of support, and we do not take it at all for granted.

As the years roll by, we have reason to be confident that the Bodleian Library will continue to go from strength to strength. The Bodleian undoubtedly has a bright future before it as one of the great libraries of the world; and those of us who are privileged to be its temporary custodians join in a heartfelt 'thank you' to all those who share the same concern for its long-term health and welfare. All the support we receive is very warmly appreciated.

Reg Carr
12 March 2005