Phil Spence, the British Library’s chief operating officer, has received the Order of the British Empire in His Majesty the King’s first Birthday Honours. The award has been made to Phil in recognition of his services to Libraries.
Phil is responsible for the major operating functions of the UK national library, including its operations and services for users both online and at the Library’s Reading Rooms in London and Yorkshire. He also oversees the Library’s finance, technology, human resources, estates, security and corporate planning activities. Phil joined the Library in 2006 as director of operations and services (2006-2012), leading a two year transformational change project as Director of Scholarship and Collections from 2009 to 2011. He has been chief operating officer from 2012 to the present.
While at the Library, Phil has led numerous major strategic programmes. He led the implementation of Non Print Legal Deposit Regulations which extended the Library’s collecting to the UK’s digital published output, including ejournals, ebooks and the entire .uk web domain. The regulations benefit all of the UK and Ireland legal deposit libraries and this year marked their 10th anniversary. He also led the £33 million HM Treasury-funded programme to transform storage and access for the UK’s newspaper collections, including the construction of the fully-automated low oxygen National Newspaper Building at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, and the transfer of the newspaper Reading Room from Colindale to St Pancras.
Phil has led on the establishment of major strategic partnerships for the Library, including the partnership with FindMyPast to digitise more than 60 million pages of historic newspapers at no cost to the public purse, and also the 10 year partnership with Qatar Foundation to digitise millions of pages of items relating to Gulf history and Arabic scientific manuscripts. He also led the negotiations to acquire the 7th century St Cuthbert Gospel – the earliest European book to survive fully intact.
Prior to working at the Library, Phil Spence worked in over 20 countries as a management consultant with Development Alternative Inc, where he was a Director, and also with Coopers and Lybrand (PwC) and the Capita Group. Between 2000 and 2004 Phil was Director of Operations for the Scottish Ambulance Service, and prior to that he was Head of Research and Information at Northamptonshire Police.
Phil Spence, OBE, said: “Working at the British Library has been an immense privilege and the honour of my life. An award such as this is always a recognition of team efforts and I would like to pay tribute to all of my British Library colleagues, whose dedication, expertise and creativity in serving our users and the nation is both humbling and inspiring. This is an award for their work, and for everything that British Library staff have done – and continue to do – for current and future generations of researchers.”
Sir Roly Keating, the British Library’s chief executive, said: “Phil is a remarkable public servant and this honour could not be better deserved. His dedication to the Library and his empathetic and effective leadership are exceptional.”
2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the British Library starting operations on 1 July 1973. This year’s King’s Birthday Honours also saw awards for Janet Zmroczek, the Library’s former Head of European Studies, who was awarded MBE for services to literature and heritage, and Cathy Courtney, Project Director at National Life Stories, which is based at the British Library, was awarded MBE for services to oral history.