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The British Library The Knowledge Network: The British Library Annual Report and Accounts 2008/09

Sir Colin Lucas

Sir Colin Lucas, Chairman of the British Library Board

"The British Library is one of the world's greatest research libraries. It plays a vital function in the cultural life of the nation by preserving, and ensuring access in perpetuity to, the UK's national published archive and the national repository of sound."

The Library is an integral component of the national research infrastructure and the UK Science Base, and it plays a significant role in ensuring the research excellence of the UK. The Library contains a vast array of inspirational material that supports the creative industries and, through the Business & IP Centre, we support entrepreneurs in developing, protecting and exploiting their ideas.

When I was appointed Chairman, I wrote that I viewed engagement with the digital age as the major challenge that the Library would face during my term of appointment. This year we published the British Library Strategy 2008 – 2011. This describes the rapidly evolving research and information landscape, and outlines how we will develop the Library's existing strengths and seize new opportunities to enhance our proposition to researchers and business. Also, during 2008/09, we initiated a process of strategy development that will see us articulate the Library's operating environment and develop a vision for the year 2020.

The current economic climate has profound implications for the Library's financial outlook, with serious potential impact on future levels of fundraising, self-generated income, and Grant in aid. Of these, Grant in aid is the most important, in terms both of amount and also because this is the source of funding for our core activities. If the Library is to continue to make its tremendous contribution to the economic, cultural and intellectual life of the nation, it will be critical for its case to be well made in the next Comprehensive Spending Review. Meantime, I am pleased to report that the Business & IP Centre is supporting entrepreneurs in the recession with a number of specific initiatives.

We would like to thank all of our donors in the last year, particularly PACCAR Foundation, not only for its generous support of the PACCAR Gallery, but also for the exhibition Henry VIII: Man and Monarch which will run over the summer of 2009. We would also like to express our gratitude to all those who have supported our acquisition appeals for heritage materials, in particular The Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the many members of the public who supported our fundraising appeals for the Dering Roll and the Macclesfield Alphabet Book. In addition, as we start to increase our focus on building the digital research environment, I would like to acknowledge the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for their significant grant to make our important collection of Greek manuscripts globally available on the web.

On behalf of the Board, I would like to express my great thanks to all of our donors, Patrons and Friends for their help with these and the many other projects and initiatives that support and enrich the Library's programme.

The Library is committed to serious international engagement at all levels, and this year I travelled to Tehran to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Library and Archives of the Islamic Republic of Iran. During the year we have also continued to play an active role in the World Collections Programme in partnership with five other UK national cultural institutions. An exhibition of historic photographs from digital copies in Kabul Museum and a sound archive workshop in Kenya are examples of Library initiatives that received World Collections Programme support during the year.

Finally, I was pleased to announce in March 2009 that the British Library Board had accepted the recommendation of an independent group of world experts that the Lindisfarne Gospels can be loaned for temporary exhibition. The Board recognises the particular cultural and spiritual resonance that the Gospels have for the people of the North East of England, and this decision means that the Gospelbook could go on display there as early as 2010, with the expectation of another loan in seven years and a regular cycle of loans thereafter. Throughout its deliberations on this matter the British Library Board's paramount concern has been the welfare of the Lindisfarne Gospels as an integral part of the national collection which we hold intact for the nation and in trust for the global community."

Sir Colin Lucas