Memorandum from the British Library (BL01)
1. The British Library was established by
statute in 1972 as the national library of the United Kingdom,
consisting of a comprehensive collection of books, manuscripts,
periodicals, films and other recorded material, whether printed
or otherwise. The Library's duty is to act as the national centre
for reference, study, bibliographical and other information services
in relation both to scientific and technological matters and to
the humanities. The Library is the main custodian of the nation's
written cultural heritage. The Library's growing collections are
rich and unrivalled in their breadth and depth. Collections items
are acquired via a combination of donations to the nation, purchase
from tax-payer funding, and legal deposit which provides for a
copy of every United Kingdom printed publication to be deposited
with the British Library.
2. The Library is funded from the vote of
the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Library's baseline
operational Grant-in-Aid in 2001-02 was £82 million, enabling
it to build, preserve and provide access to its collections in
support of research, business, the wider library network and wider
educational goals, through its reading rooms, through its exhibition
galleries, educational programmes and loans to other institutions,
through its remote document supply services, and through provision
of information and bibliographic services.
3. The British Library is an integral component
of the national research infrastructure and it plays a correspondingly
significant role in ensuring the research excellence of the UK.
Its services are heavily used by higher education. Some 55 per
cent of the readers who use the Library's reading rooms in its
new flagship building at St Pancras come from the HE sector. And
UK Higher Education accounts for some 50 per cent of UK usage
of the Library's Document Supply Centre which responds to c. 1.2
million requests annually for documents from the sector in support
4. The British Library spends c. £13.5
million on research level material for the collections each year
and it is, in addition, the beneficiary of legal deposit. When
the budgets for acquisitions in UK higher education institutions
(HEIs) are ranked against those in the United States, the British
Library acquisitions spend is on a par with the best UK research
collections at Harvard and Yale. The highest ranking UK HEI to
feature (Cambridge University Library which spends £3.5 million
in addition to receiving copyright deposit material) comes in
at 65th place; the first HEI, not benefiting from legal deposit
(Manchester, John Rylands), comes at 83rd. More significantly,
the last 85 places out of 221 are taken up by UK universities.
This reflects the centralised model of provision within the UK,
whereby the BL plays a key role in underpinning the academic research
infrastructure through its provision of both reading room and
remote document supply services. (In the United States, the Library
of Congress currently spends c. £8.8 million on acquisitions
and it receives "`legal deposit'" material worth c.
£17.2 million. The Library of Congress does not however play
the same national role as the British Library in underpinning
its national library network either through remote document supply
or reading room services). The comparatively lower levels of spend
within the UK HE sector can arguably only be sustained because
of the relatively high level of spend within the BL. We estimate
that annual opportunity cost savings of £30-£40 million
are made within the HE sector alone from their use of the BL remote
document supply services.
5. The Library's role in underpinning services
to the UK HE sector, through the collection of material beyond
the scope/resources of other libraries, was reinforced by a number
of the institutional returns to the 2001 consultation exercise
over the Library's New Strategic Directions. In particular,
the point was made in responses that the UK academic community
has always looked to the BL for important monographs and serials
in many languages, as well as for the titles that are more obscure
or more expensive and that university libraries will not have
acquired because of more restrictive collection policies or the
high cost of single items. If the Library were to cease to collect
such material no other library would have the resources to plug
6. The Library has highlighted a number
of areas where additional investment in the national research
infrastructure is required, including:
(i) Sustaining acquisitions funding. Inflation
in the price of publications continues to rise at well above the
level of general inflationcurrently at 8 per cent for journals,
5 per cent for electronic materials and 4 per cent for booksand
annual uplifts in the Library's acquisitions budget are required
to sustain the quality of its collections.
(ii) Extending the national published
archive to electronic media. Meeting the challenge of embracing
new electronic information media presents new pressures on the
Library in terms of digital storage requirements and processing
costs. In addition the Library is proposing a web archiving programme
to capture and retain important UK Web activity in recognition
of the rapid migration of significant information to the Web,
particularly in the scientific, medical and technical fields.
(iii) Information for the science base.
The Library's Document Supply Centre requires urgent modernisation
to bring remote document supply into the e-environment, in line
with changing customer expectations, if it is to sustain its central
position in the UK research infrastructure.
British Library-Higher Education collaboration
7. In recognition of the mutual interest
of the British Library and the UK Higher Education sector in achieving
closer strategic collaboration, the Chairman of the British Library
Board and the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding
Council for England (HEFCE) initiated the establishment in September
1999 of a Joint BL/HE Task Force, strongly focused on specific,
practical and deliverable initiatives for mutual benefit. A number
of other significant BL/HE collaborative initiatives include:
establishment of the UK Digital Preservation
Coalition with the funding bodies' Joint Information Steering
Committee (JISC) and BL as co-founding members.
JISC support for free HEI and FEI
access to the Library's ZETOC service and to develop and extend
the functionality of the service.
Research Support Libraries Programme
support for costs of HEI participation in the Library's Co-operation
and Partnership Programme.
engagement of the BL in the Distributed
National Electronic Resource programme.
8. The British Library and HEFCE have signed
a statement of strategic alliance for future collaboration and
as the context within which specific joint actions, projects or
programmes will be negotiated and agreed. The aims of the alliance
are: to promote collaboration and undertake special projects in
support of our common purpose; to ensure our strategies are mutually
informed by relevant developments in both bodies and our respective
networks; and to develop mutually beneficial information exchange
and expertise sharing.
9. Of greatest significance is the establishment
of the Research Support Libraries Group under the chairmanship
of Professor Sir Brian Follett. This is charged with advising
on the development of a national strategy for research library
provision in the UK. The British Library's view is that the development
of such a strategy is essential to ensure that UK researchers
in all disciplines have access to world class information resources.