"The maintenance of an institution cannot be defended on the ground of its usefulness in the past: only on the ground of its value for the present and the future”

(T. S. Eliot, from a speech given after becoming President of The London Library in 1952)

To remain the most remarkable lending library in the world, in an age when the means by which people access and use information is constantly changing and evolving, the Library needs to strengthen the model created by its founder, Thomas Carlyle, in 1841. To ensure it remains as relevant and valuable a resource as it always has been, ambition and innovation will be central.

Tom Stoppard Headshot

Sir Tom Stoppard OM CBE

Sir Tom Stoppard became President of The London Library in 2002. For 15 years he has been the most remarkable figurehead and ambassador. As President, Sir Tom has supported the Library through a period of great change and quiet innovation with huge success. As he steps down as President, the Library wishes to create the Tom Stoppard Innovation Fund to help continue what he has started. To mark the completion of this fund, and to provide a lasting reminder of his presidency and all that he has helped accomplish, the Library intends to rename the Reading Room the Tom Stoppard Reading Room.

“I could not be more proud of the compliment paid me by my beloved London Library. I have sat in the Reading Room turning pages and making my notes countless times. There is nowhere on earth I would rather have my name (discreetly) emblazoned.”

(Sir Tom Stoppard)


Focussed on the future of the Library, the Tom Stoppard Innovation Fund is designed to provide the investment funds needed to tackle a number of distinct challenges, as well as strengthening the Library’s endowment to help provide a stable financial future. Any donation to the Fund will go towards meeting these challenges, defining and shaping the Library’s future, and will celebrate one of the Library’s great presidents.

Getting the best from the library building

There are many ideas for how the building can better serve its objectives, but the fixed nature of the book stacks means that any new facilities will likely require more building work. There also remain parts of the Library much in need of refurbishment. Plans already exist for some of this work, but new ideas need to be scoped and prioritised. And then the work needs to begin.

Getting the most from the collection

During Sir Tom’s presidency the Library continued to strengthen the collection, investing in its development, cataloguing and conservation. Work must continue in these areas, but perhaps the biggest challenge is to ensure this unique resource is available as widely as possible.

The Library exists to support learning and knowledge, and aims to stimulate ideas and creativity. Sir Tom joined the Library at the very start of his writing career – we need to make sure that emerging writers, independent researchers and curious readers are part of the Library today.

Harnessing new technology

There is increasing interest amongst Library users in developing a sense of community. Whether through events, discussion groups or simple networks around subject areas, many Library users want to interact. How the Library can facilitate and encourage these connections, as well as augment its e-resources, is a key challenge, and will be central to the next phase of the Library’s digital ambitions.

We firmly believe that The London Library remains an important resource, but we are keenly aware of the need to innovate, ensuring its continuing relevance, today and in the future. To do this we need an investment fund to explore and implement that future. To make a donation to the Innovation Fund, use our online donation form, or contact the Development Office on 020 7766 4745 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Reading rm 1 c PHILIP VILE


John Julius Norwich


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