I was educated in the state school system and read modern history at the University of Oxford, where I gained MA and DPhil degrees. After taking a postgraduate certificate of education, also at Oxford, I was Social Science Research Council Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Wadham College from 1975 to 1977, prior to entering librarianship.

I spent my professional career from 1977 to 2006 in research libraries, at the Universities of Manchester and Birmingham (where I was Deputy Librarian, 1990-95 and Librarian and Director of Information Services, 1995-2001) and latterly (2001-06) at the British Library as its inaugural Director of Scholarship and Collections.

My contribution to librarianship and cognate disciplines was recognised by the award of an honorary DLitt by the University of Birmingham in 2006 and by my appointment as OBE by Her Majesty the Queen in 2007.

Following early retirement in December 2006, I became Honorary Research Fellow (subsequently Honorary Senior Research Fellow) in the Department of Modern History at Birmingham, renewing earlier links as associate member of the Department between 1992 and 2001. I remained active in historical research and writing throughout my career in librarianship.

I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the English Association, and a member of the Ecclesiastical History Society and the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion Study Group. I am also Honorary Research Fellow in the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, University of Manchester, where I co-direct the British Religion in Numbers project.

I have had many national and regional involvements over the years. I was for a long time a Director of the Consortium of Research Libraries in the British Isles (now Research Libraries UK). I led the successful national library campaigns to secure the extension of legal deposit to the electronic publishing world (through the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003) and to amend Clause 2 (on terrorist publications) of what became the Terrorism Act 2006, and I contributed to several other Parliamentary enquiries.

I have been President and trustee of the Religious Archives Group (2007-16); and a member of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Council on National Records and Archives (2007-14), and also of its Forum on Historical Manuscripts and Academic Research. Additional involvements are noted in my successive annual entries in Who’s Who from 1999.

In 2012-13 I gave a series of interviews about my professional and academic career as part of the British Library’s Corporate Memory Programme. Those relating to my career up to July 2001 are currently available for listening at the British Library, St Pancras, London. The British Library catalogue record for these recordings is reproduced below:

Title: British Library staff oral history interviews

Contributor: Field, Clive (speaker, male; interviewee); Kenna, Stephanie (speaker, female; interviewer)

Rights: British Library

Place Name: British Library, London

Recording: 2012.11.08, 2012.11.14, 2012.11.28, 2012.12.05, 2013.01.17

Recording Notes: audio files 16 WAV 16 bit 48 kHz 2-channel

Recording equipment: Marantz PMD661

Access restrictions: Tracks 10 to 16 are closed for a period of twenty years until January 2033, or until the interviewee’s death, whichever is earlier. Tracks 1 to 9 have no restrictions.

A detailed summary of Tracks 1 to 9 can be read at this link: Oral history interviews summary tracks 1-9