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

The Libraries Capital Campaign video

Speech of welcome at the New York dinner celebrating the Bodleian Library's 400th Anniversary, New York, 28 October 2002

I'd like to add my own very warm welcome to everybody here tonight. It's truly wonderful to see so many of you at this evening's quatercentenary celebration.

400 years is a long time in the life of any institution, and we in Oxford have been looking forward to this anniversary year with great anticipation. In fact, for me, this dinner is a dream come true. It's just over four years since the Chairman of the Bodleian's North American Development Committee, Nigel Lovett, suggested such a dinner to me as we were walking down 6th Avenue in 1998; and I want to acknowledge the enormous personal debt which I owe to Nigel, and to a whole host of very dedicated people, for making this night become a reality.

As Bodley's 23rd Librarian in an unbroken line of succession over the last four centuries, I'm acutely aware of the immense privilege that is mine in presiding over such a great institution, and especially at this key moment in its long and distinguished history. I believe that I have the best job in the library world. And my Library colleagues and I regard ourselves as very fortunate indeed to be the custodians of the extraordinary collections of which we've given you just the briefest glimpse tonight in our display of treasures downstairs.

Sir Thomas Bodley has left us a truly amazing inheritance. And, as Oxford honours his unique contribution to the world, we feel his legacy as a sacred and binding trust upon us. It's a trust that has spurred us on to embark on a period of great renewal; and we believe that we can celebrate Bodley's legacy most responsibly by refocusing his single-minded vision, and by regenerating his exceptional spirit of forward-looking generosity. Thanks to Sir Thomas, and to the generations of benefactors, friends and staff who have helped to realise his vision, our collections are among the greatest and the best, and the Bodleian is rightly recognised everywhere as one of the world's foremost repositories of the cultural and intellectual memory of mankind.

Sir Thomas wanted his library to be a library for the world; and we believe that's precisely what it is today. But we can never be content to rest on our laurels: the world moves on, and seemingly ever faster; old technologies need renewing; new ones need adding; the architectural glories of the past need renovating for 21st century purposes; and the legacies of history need extra-special stewardship and care, both now and for the future.

And so we've resolved to dedicate our efforts to build on the excellence of the past. And, in the short video you're about to see, you'll notice the three themes which underpin our new Capital Campaign. They're all themes which drove Sir Thomas Bodley to put his energies and his fortune at the service of Oxford and of the world: the preservation of what is valuable and meaningful about the accumulated knowledge of the past; rebuilding for the future, with an eye not only on current needs, but also on posterity; but above all, securing and providing access to incomparable collections for an ever-widening circle of users. Preservation; rebuilding; and wider access: those were the driving forces of Sir Thomas Bodley in his campaign for the Library. And those are the underlying aims that are driving us forward 400 years after him. They are also the implicit themes of the Campaign video that we're going to show you right now.

Thank you so much for letting us share our vision of renewal with you. I hope that what you're about to see will excite you, as it motivates us. I cannot tell you how immensely important this all is for us…

Video Advice


Reg Carr
New York
28 October 2002