Före gårdagens seminarium i universitetshuset, då Kofi Annan och Jan Eliasson samtalade, besökte ett tjugotal ambassadörer universitetsbiblioteket. Alla världsdelar var representerade, och det timslånga besöket blev en välkommen chans att visa biblioteket och dess skatter. Jag fick också tillfälle att tala om den moderna biblioteksverkligheten. Naturligtvis följde inte själva talet helt och hållet manuskriptet. Så är det ju sällan. Men det talutkast jag hade i handen såg ut så här.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

You are all most welcome to Uppsala, to Uppsala university and more particularly – to Uppsala University Library. You are now in Carolina Rediviva, and this room, The Linnaeus room, is what I now and then proudly call my “reception area”.

This old library goes back to the early 17th century and houses treasures from all over the world. We are caretakers of a magnificent international cultural heritage.

But notwithstanding the old and venerable looks of this house and these collections, Uppsala University Library is a very modern institution.

I have been in this job for a year, and the most pressing question for me is: What *is* a university library today?

The old idea of a library is a place where books are taken from the shelves by a harsh librarian, who hands you the book over the counter, where there is a big sign saying “Silence, please.”

A modern university library is something very, very different. There are more than 200 persons employed at this library, some of them handling physical books, but many more working with making the library resources accessible for students and researchers, and teaching students how to navigate on the ocean of modern information. Here we all work daily with rather complicated computer systems and rich electronic resources. Important parts of the modern library world are now totally digitized, and there are research departments at the university who never ever read anything on paper.

I use to say that there now is a big building being built beside the Carolina Rediviva: A new, huge, quickly growing, but also invisible building – I am talking about the digital library of UU. It now houses 20 thousand e-periodicals, 400 thousand e-books, 300 databases. Through the DiVA-consortium we store and give access to the research output for 34 universities and research institutes in Sweden. 1,5 million digital full-text publications just from Uppsala university were, through this system, downloaded all over the world last year.

Now we are soon launching a digital archive for cultural heritage. It is called Alvin and I would call it ground-breaking. More and more of our books and pictures will be made accessible world-wide, and the archive will also be used by a number of other Swedish project partners.

The invisible, globally connected digital library is truly astonishing. One of my problems, however, is that in the era of internet these resources are taken for granted. They should not be. In reality it is a very tricky business to run the modern information machine – there are rising costs, there are needs for development and new professional skills, and there is an ever growing need to work nationally and internationally to create all the necessary networks and collaborations. We are busy – as you understand.

On Thursday I am visiting Harvard where I am sure I will see many wonderful things, but I will also meet the library directors. This is, I think, a typical sign of the need of international contacts. The world is more and more interconnected. The big university libraries – to which Uppsala University Library belongs – are important parts in the international work of making research and information available. Access to research output and information is crucial in all our attempts to build a better world.

But as I said. The modern digitized systems are invisible, and one of my chores is to try to explain the future need of strong university libraries – the new library systems which now are developing. My worries are three: the complexity of the modern information world, the sustainability of systems and collections and the identity of the modern library. But I also have great hopes: The rapid development of Open Access, the networking libraries all over the world, and the modern student – born in the digital world but also in need of the physical library with its incomparable study facilities.

One of my strategies is communication – trying to interact with shareholders, benefactors and the general public and trying to describe what we are and what we do.

In this work of mine it is wonderful to be able to show a huge, impressive, physical library like this. In a traditional, but very effective way Carolina Rediviva reminds Uppsala that libraries belongs in the center of a university campus, and it reminds everyone of the treasures which are stored in this building.

Very soon I am going to invite you to go through my office, turn to the left and walk into the famous Book Hall of Uppsala University Library.

1) Senior Librarian Dr Krister Östlund will show you the way and he will tell you something about the history of the Library and about our truly formidable collections.
2) After his general introduction you are invited to have a look at some of the treasures. We have arranged three tables – feel free to inspect the collections on all of them and to talk to the librarians about our older collections of which senior conservator Per Cullhed is in charge. Some other colleagues – for example senior librarian Cecilia Petersson and our administrative head Anna Wennergrund – are here if you’d like to ask us about the problems and hopes of a modern university library.
3) About a quarter past 3 we invite you to some light refreshments – also in the Book Hall, but at a safe distance from our displayed collections.
4) And half an hour later, about 15.40 it is time to head for the Aula Magna of the university. My colleagues will lead the way – it is about two hundred meters. If there is time we will make a short, short dash into our exhibition area in the Library Entrance Hall – the place where we keep the Silver Bible, the Viking Edda manuscript, the Mozart autograph and other very special things.

One of the library’s photographers will take some pictures for our records while we are in the Book Hall – I hope that is OK.

And talking about records – We are most honoured by your visit, and want to remember the occasion, so please sign your names in our Visitors book before you leave – it’s in the Book Hall.

This visit to the library will this time be rather short. I hope that you soon will return to Uppsala. In that case please get in touch with me and we will try to arrange a new visit to the University Library where we can show those parts of our collections which might be of special interest for you.

Once again – you are all most welcome to Uppsala University Library. Thanks for letting me share some of the hopes and worries of a modern Director of an old Library. Krister, please lead the way to the Book Hall.