Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

1 posts from April 2024

10 April 2024

Sir Roly Keating to step down as Chief Executive of the British Library in April 2025


After 12 years as Chief Executive, Sir Roly Keating has announced that he will step down from the role in April next year.

Sir Roly said: “When I took on this role in 2012 it was always my hope to serve for 12 years and I will reach that milestone in September this year. Being at the helm of the British Library has been – and continues to be – the greatest privilege of my life. The Library is an extraordinary institution, and it is impossible not to feel a daily sense of wonder at the collective dedication, knowledge and passion of its staff, and the sheer scale, depth and quality of its collections. The years I have served here have seen great achievements as well as times of challenge, including a global pandemic and a major cyber attack. Over the next 12 months my priority is to ensure that our recovery programme succeeds in its goal of leaving the Library even stronger and more resilient than it was before – able to serve new communities and new generations of users, and to continue to be a national library that is truly for everyone.”

Under Sir Roly’s leadership, the Library has undergone a transformation in its public impact and its visibility across the UK and internationally. With a focus on openness, creativity and innovation, his tenure has seen the establishment of major new partnerships including the Knowledge Quarter around its London HQ, the Business & IP Centre National Network and the Living Knowledge Network of public and national libraries across the UK.

Digital initiatives have included Save Our Sounds – to rescue and digitise the UK’s audio heritage – and Living with Machines, a groundbreaking research programme in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute. He has also initiated a programme of major capital developments, including the renewal of the Library’s campus in Boston Spa, Yorkshire.

Most recently, he has led the launch of a new strategy, Knowledge Matters, and the Library’s response to a significant cyber attack which took place in October last year.

Dame Carol Black, Chair of the British Library Board, said: “Roly’s clear-sighted and compassionate leadership has helped the Library to steer a steady course of growth and engagement through often turbulent times. As well as presiding over a massive expansion of our digital collecting, he has also overseen a transformation in our public engagement programmes – both online and onsite – and set in motion the next phase of the long-term development of our sites at St Pancras and Boston Spa, along with steps towards a permanent presence in Leeds City Centre. Having celebrated our 50th anniversary just last year, the British Library plays a unique and irreplaceable role in our society, and as Chief Executive Roly has helped future-proof that status.”

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “Sir Roly Keating has shown fantastic leadership at the British Library over the last twelve years. He has grown its presence across the UK and around the world, expertly overseen major projects, guided it through the pandemic and more recently overseen its continuing recovery from a major cyber attack, as well as celebrating its 50th anniversary last year.

“The British Library is a vitally important national institution and Sir Roly can depart knowing that he has made a hugely positive contribution to its continued success.

“I look forward to working closely with him in this transitional period and wish him all the best for the future.”

Roly Keating was appointed Chief Executive of the British Library in 2012, succeeding Dame Lynne Brindley. Prior to that, he had a long and successful career at the BBC, as a programme-maker and broadcasting executive, where he launched BBC Four and served as Controller of BBC Two and Director of Archive Content.

He is a Trustee of the Clore Leadership Programme and a former Board member of Channel 4 and the Barbican Arts Centre. From 2015 to 2021 he served as Chair of the Conference of European National Librarians. He currently chairs the Steering Committee for the 5-year AHRC-funded research programme Towards a National Collection. In 2023 he was knighted for services to Literature in the New Year Honours List and appointed Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the Government of France.

The British Library Board has begun the process of recruiting Sir Roly’s successor.

For more information, please contact the British Library Press Office: [email protected]


Notes for editors

The British Library

We are the national library of the UK and we are here for everyone. Our shelves hold over 170 million items – a living collection that gets bigger every day. Although our roots extend back centuries, we aim to collect everything published in the UK today, tomorrow and far into the future. Our trusted experts care for this collection and open it up for everyone to spark new discoveries, ideas and to help people do incredible things.

We have millions of books, and much more besides. Our London and Yorkshire sites hold collections ranging from newspapers and maps to sound recordings, patents, academic journals, as well as a copy of every UK domain website and blog. Our public spaces are a place to research, to meet friends, to start up a new business or simply to get inspired by visiting our galleries and events. We work with partners and libraries across the UK and the world to make sure that as many people as possible have the chance to use and explore our collections, events and expertise. And we’re always open online, along with more and more of our digitised collection.