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The British Library Bringing knowledge to life: The British Library Annual Report and Accounts 2007/08

Sir Colin Lucas

Sir Colin LucasThe true treasure of a national library is in the collective wisdom of the nation contained within its collections: its history and achievements, its culture, its imaginative literature, its law and commerce, its scientific and technical innovation. The British Library’s contribution to national life – secured because of the scale, richness, and range of our collections – is a legacy of the good stewardship exercised by our predecessors over 250 years, which has ensured that the collections have been held intact for the nation and in trust for the global community. Our stewardship obligation is to ensure the continuing importance, integrity, and relevance of these collections for future generations.

The British Library’s contribution to national life – secured because of the scale, richness, and range of our collections – is a legacy of the good stewardship exercised by our predecessors over 250 years, which has ensured that the collections have been held intact for the nation and in trust for the global community. Our stewardship obligation is to ensure the continuing importance, integrity, and relevance of these collections for future generations.

My first priority as Chairman was to refresh the membership of the British Library Board. During 2007/08, we recruited six new members and we were able to secure in the new membership the calibre and skills that we were seeking. I am confident that we have the right Board to lead the Library on its continuing journey into the digital age.

The Board welcomed the Library’s Comprehensive Spending Review settlement for the three-year period to 2010/11. The inflation-proof revenue allocation and confirmation of our capital allocation came as very positive news, given the highly constrained financial outlook.

The capital allocation is needed to enable the Library to take forward plans for a new storage facility to hold our newspaper collection in the best of archival environmental conditions. Newspapers are an immensely rich source for research. However, they deteriorate quickly because of the poor quality of the paper they are printed on; it is crucial that they are properly preserved for future generations. This is one element of our newspaper strategy – our ambition is to digitise the best of our historical collections, to open them up and make them much more widely accessible on the web.

We would like to thank all of our donors to Sacred: Discover what we share, particularly the Coexist Foundation, the Moroccan British Society and the Saint Catherine Foundation. Without their generosity, this most successful of exhibitions would never have been possible. We are especially grateful to the trustees of the Coexist Foundation who have subsequently lent their support to our touring plans for Sacred. In addition, we would like to thank those who have supported our appeals for acquiring heritage materials, in particular the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

On behalf of the Board, I should like to express my gratitude and warmest wishes to all of our donors, Patrons, Friends and supporters for their help with these and many other initiatives which serve to sustain and enhance the Library’s rich and diverse programme.

During the year we decided that the time was right to make a step-change in our fundraising activities and we have already made good progress in our planning for a major fundraising campaign for the coming five years.

Last year I said that the Library was committed to serious international engagement at all levels. During 2007/08, the Board endorsed an International Engagement Strategy for the Library and a corporate focus for international activity was established. We have engaged with five other UK national cultural institutions, including the British Museum, in the World Collections Programme to make connections between cultures and to share the best of British cultural excellence and expertise with memory institutions in Africa and Asia.

Finally, I was absolutely delighted that the Library’s Chief Executive was awarded a DBE in the New Year Honours List 2008. This was, of course, very well-deserved recognition of Dame Lynne Brindley’s personal achievements. But I believe – and I know Lynne shares this view – that this honour also represents a tribute to the work of all the staff of the British Library and recognition of the value to the nation of this great UK institution.

Sir Colin Lucas
Chairman

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