Keep the Libraries Going

This last week I was in Boston, combining professional business with further fundraising activities. Two days were spent attending the Annual Meeting of the Research Libraries Group (an international library consortium which I chair, and whose work directly benefits Oxford in a number of key areas). Other time was spent making contact with potential donors and planning another fundraising dinner for the autumn. Being responsible for the centrally- funded libraries in the University including the world-famous Bodleian is both great fun and an enormous challenge. My two primary tasks right now are pushing ahead with the process of library integration (begun three years ago with the formal establishment of the Oxford University Library Services – OULS), and fronting an ambitious fundraising campaign, launched in 2002, and by means of which the OULS is planning to spend some £57 million by 2007-08 to revitalise its physical and technical infrastructure. With over £20 million already in the Campaign ‘bag’, an increasing amount of my time is being spent on fundraising. A Gala Dinner in Manhattan last October raised almost $1.5 million for the Campaign, and follow-up work has taken me to the States on six occasions since then. It’s all a far cry from what might be traditionally thought of as a librarian’s role; but then Oxford’s is no ordinary library system. Sustaining the collections of the Bodleian Library on a par with those of Harvard and Yale is no mean task, even though that’s what our users expect. The downturn in the world economy has made largescale fundraising more difficult; but with another £10 million yet to raise just to complete the wholesale refurbishment of the New Bodleian Library – originally built with Rockefeller Foundation money in the 1930s – we expect to rely quite heavily on American generosity. Back in Oxford after a comfortable flight (I was upgraded again, thanks to being classed as a ‘frequent flyer’), what remained of my week was spent catching up. A positive external review of library integration had been well received by the University Council, and the Curators of the University Libraries had been considering the senior library staff ’s responses to the review. With that, and a million other things to discuss after my days away (a difficult 2003-4 budget allocation to wrestle with, a major bid to the University’s Restructuring and Investment Fund to finalise, the filling of two senior staff posts to consider, a $1 million grant application to an American foundation to draft, and a host of follow-up letters and emails to write), I was glad when Friday evening arrived. A busy life, but one that I wouldn’t swap! Reg Carr is Director of University Library Services and the Bodley’s Librarian
ARCHIVE: 4th week TT 2003