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

Speech of welcome at the Bodleian Library's San Francisco dinner, 13 November 2003


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 event, and we're really glad that you could come and join us.

I want also to acknowledge the great personal debt which we in the Bodleian Library owe to a whole host of people for making this night become a reality.

  • To the Directors and staff of Bonhams and Butterfields, who could not have been more helpful and welcoming to us in staging an event like this, so very far from home;
  • To the organizing committee, who have given so generously of their time and local knowledge;
  • To our three co-chairs, Peter Magowan, Isabel Maxwell and Mike Malone, who have supported and encouraged us at every step of the way;
  • To our lively MC, James Burke, who must be one of the best 'front men' in the business;
  • To the many individuals and organizations who have so kindly sponsored today's event, and whose support is recognised in this evening's tribute journal;
  • To the wonderful staff of the University's North American Office, who have worked their socks off for us in masterminding the event;
  • And, of course, to our three very distinguished honorees (Pat Mitchell, Oliver Sacks, and John Warnock), who have so graciously agreed to add their lustre to this night of celebration.

The Bodleian Library is extremely fortunate in having so many wonderful friends and allies, and I'm delighted to be able to acknowledge and welcome them all.

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. 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 next door.

And, of course, what you've seen tonight is just the smallest tip of a staggeringly extensive iceberg. Sir Thomas Bodley has left us a truly amazing inheritance, and we in Oxford 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 rekindling his exceptional spirit of visionary generosity.

Sir Thomas wanted his library to be a library not just for Oxford, but for the world; and we share that outward-looking vision with our Founder. Sir Thomas was, in his own time, a great innovator; and like him, we recognize that we must never rest on our laurels. The world moves on, and seemingly ever faster; old technologies need renewing; new ones need harnessing and exploiting for the wider benefit of even larger numbers of users, both those who come physically to Oxford, and those who want to access our collections remotely; the architectural glories of the past need renovating for 21st-century purposes; and the physical treasures of the past need our extra special stewardship and care, both now and for the future.

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;
  • And, 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 you're going to see right now.

So thank you very 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 in all that we're striving to achieve...

Video Advice


Reg Carr
San Francisco
13 November 2003