Monday, 31 December 2007

Dame Lynne Brindley

Cool! An excellent way to finish the year. Lynne has been made a Dame in the New Years honours list. From The Times: Order of the British Empire DBE  Lynne Janie Brindley, Chief Executive, British Library: services to education. Quoting from Wikipedia - partially as it annoys the luddite fringe :-) :
"The British Library (BL) is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is based in London and is one of the world's most significant research libraries, holding over 150 million items in all known languages and formats; books, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings and much more. The Library's collections include around 25 million books, along with substantial additional collection of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 300 BC."
The collections include:
  • The Diamond Sutra, printed in 868 during the Tang Dynasty, claimed to be the world's oldest dated printed book
  • The Lindisfarne Gospels
  • Two Gutenberg Bibles
  • Two 1215 copies of Magna Carta
  • Papyrus Egerton 2, the Egerton Gospel
  • The only surviving manuscript copy of the poem Beowulf
  • 347 leaves of the Codex Sinaiticus
  • The Codex Arundel one of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks.
  • Working manuscripts by J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, Arthur Sullivan, Gustav Mahler and Benjamin Britten 
...which all adds up to one heck of a responsibility for the top person and the staff answerable to her. Here's Lynne, speaking with some geeky looking guy at the British Library:

Microsoft Vista UK launch

And going way back (well, to the mid 1990s) Lynne is in the centre of the picture holding the Jason Farradane Award for the eLib programme. Seems like yesterday; left to right is Alice, Chris, Lynne, Dave and Kelly:


These are not very good quality pictures; that's because it was in pre-digital camera days. Picture taking was much more onerous, involving getting them developed and scanning them in (the weak point, as the scanner in the Ariadne/UKOLN office was primitive by todays standards, and I had no patience with it).

I remember her as friendly, and open-minded, and as someone who didn't suffer fools gladly. I learnt quickly, in her presence, to keep my mouth shut unless I had something useful to contribute. Oddly, in every job I had from 1995 to 2001 I'd end up bumping into Lynne at some point, be it for a lottery consortium funding application, presentation on Ariadne, or seminar on some aspect of digital libraries.

It's great that Lynne is now a dame; for the work she has done, for the British Library, and as recognition of the key importance of libraries, knowledge and information. Though I live almost exactly halfway between the British Library and Reykjavik, I still visit the building when I'm in London and have a few hours to spare. I could seriously live in there, if I had a tent and was inconspicuous. As well as the permanent and temporary exhibitions, there's good cafes, wi-fi, and numerous other facilities. But most of all, just being in and surrounded by one of the greatest collections of the sum of human knowledge is, in itself, profoundly inspiring. Long may these collections grow, be preserved and be used.

Wishing all readers of this blog a healthy and prosperous 2008.

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