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Redefining our people

Employer of choice

The 2,300 people who work for the British Library possess an immense range of knowledge and experience. Now they are extending their skills more widely than ever as the Library redefines its role.

The British Library 's people are as diverse as the treasures the Library contains, from some of the world's most highly respected specialists in conservation of illuminated manuscripts to experts in cutting-edge digital technology. As the Library redefines itself, so the people who work for it are combining new and traditional skills to an unprecedented degree. Roles are being shaped by the changing world of research information, an ever closer relationship with customers and rapid adoption of digital technology.

'Our people strategy is focused on enabling the Library to achieve its strategic priorities in an incredibly competitive, complex and fast changing environment,' says Mary Canavan, Director of Human Resources. 'It is all about underpinning our goal to be the greatest 21st century library.'

Over the last year, the Library has introduced the first phase of a modernised pay and rewards strategy with scope for progression within the pay and grading structure. 'The process we have introduced is transparent, fair and market-facing,' says Mary Canavan.

'We have to be market-facing if we're going to compete for the skilled staff, effective leaders and specialists we need. Our strategy is quite simply to become an employer of choice, attracting and retaining the highest calibre people.'

Performance management has been improved and a new appraisal system, developed in partnership with unions and staff, is now in place. Every member of staff now has an individual development plan based on a clear understanding of the competencies required to do their job. Engaging with staff and listening to their opinions is especially important at a time of such rapid change, and the Library 's new colleague opinion survey was introduced during the year. A high proportion of people throughout the Library returned questionnaires and the full survey results were published for everyone to see. 'The colleague opinion survey is a critical piece of work in terms of developing our culture,' says Mary Canavan. 'Every part of the Library is using the information to make a difference by actively working on the messages that came out.'


Image of David Stevens David Stevens successfully implemented the Integrated Library System in his area. It's designed to deal seamlessly with the hybrid information carriers - CD-Roms, e-files, microforms and printed items - that increasingly form our collection.

Born digital

Image of Alison Hill Websites often have no printed equivalent – they're born digital. Alison Hill sets the parameters for harvesting a good selection as part of our UK web archiving work.


Image of Paul Davies Paul Davies and his team have pioneered new service partnerships with our facilities services providers. Contact and communication are a key part of their success. The use of mobile technology by the roving teams will improve maintenance and repair response times.

Minimal intervention

Image of Vicki Humphrey Vicki Humphrey heads Conservation, where collection treatment is guided by the principle of 'minimal intervention'. The aim is to improve the longevity and accessibility of items while preserving their historic integrity and essential character.


Image of Richard Toby and Manish Patel Richard Toby and Manish Patel lead the Desktop Services teams north and south. Their IT troubleshooters are on hand whenever staff need them - they're as pervasive as the technology they maintain. The teams recently upgraded all desktops to Windows XP Professional, giving staff added file protection and a seamless software platform.

Best practice

Image of Pauline Caulfield 100,000 books arrive on Legal Deposit each year. The new Integrated Library System has enabled Claire Caulfield and her team to set best practice standards and make efficiencies in processing them.

Next - Redefining our people part 2

Discover more:
The 21st century Library
Years of achievement
Chairman's statement
Chief Executive's review
Raising the standard
Attracting substantial support
Redefining our people
Redefining our services and their users
Redefining our public spaces
Redefining our collections
and collection management