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Redefining our services and their users

The British Library welcomes everyone who wants to do research, whether for academic, personal or commercial purposes. People are undertaking research in greater numbers and are finding that the Library’s resources can help them. As the Google generation turns to the Library for help, we’re meeting their expectations with increasingly integrated services and a programme of continuous service upgrades.

Today’s British Library serves a wider range of users than ever. While Google has stimulated a widespread urge to search, the widening of educational opportunity has generated real need for knowledge and information. Corporate R&D departments and university spin-out companies, entrepreneurs and the media are all driven by research. We have begun to transform our services to meet people’s growing expectations of easy access to the Library’s entire collection of 150 million items. The goal is to offer a range of interconnecting services that provide information whenever and wherever required.

‘It’s been a pivotal year in terms of starting to bring services together and providing a common interface to them,’ says Natalie Ceeney, Director of Operations and Services. ‘We’re responding to a changing world in which more people want access to information. We’re improving services for everyone and want to ensure there are no barriers to expanding groups such as the business community, creative industries and personal researchers.’

We’re aiming to provide a service that a researcher can use in our Reading Rooms or at their desktop in the office, in their own library, or in their own home. The first step towards this has been the launch of our new pay-as-you-go portal, British Library Direct. Users can search up to date content details of the world’s 20,000 top research journals and place a credit card order to see complete articles. Copyright issues are dealt with automatically, and the user can access the full text online.

British Library Direct will be the platform for an extensive service giving seamless access to a range of research materials, open to anyone wanting to further their research. This accessibility to new users is mirrored in our Reading Rooms, which have seen the number of researchers applying for a Reader Pass double during the year. The number of collection items being requested is up; meanwhile, satisfaction rates among users remain at record high levels of 92% – an indication of staff’s commitment to making sure that researchers are getting at the material they need as quickly as possible.

The opening of our pilot Business and Intellectual Property Centre in May 2004 accounted for 25,000 of these new users during its first year. The Centre, in our St Pancras building, is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, which account for 50% of the UK economy. Their success can depend on access to reliable product and market data, and we’re developing services that provide them with the information skills, databases, research reports and the know-how that they need to start new businesses, design new products and launch into new markets.

‘We’re uniquely placed as a centre for SMEs as we offer world-class business and intellectual property resources under one roof,’ says Isabel Oswell, Head of Marketing for Business. ‘We’re anticipating and meeting a growing need. The London Development Agency is supporting the next phase of the centre, with a £1 million grant to allow us to offer an even better range of business facilities and targeted information. This underlines the confidence that the business sector has in the Library’s ability to add value.’

‘The real transformation,’ says Ranjiet Kainth, Head of Operations, ‘is that we’re removing barriers to access, both in our Reading Rooms and in our online services. We’re increasingly able to give people the same services online and onsite, so you won’t have to always visit St Pancras to get what you need. There’s still work to be done, but by joining the services up, uniting the Reading Room and Document Supply facilities, we’re creating a very powerful resource for everyone doing research.’

Image of Imtaz Khaliq Imtaz Khaliq, bespoke tailor took part in one of our sell-out events celebrating Asian business and creativity. The series was aimed at young Asian entrepreneurs and showcased the Library’s business support services.


Image of Brian Kefford Our new Integrated Catalogue's single interface was a huge achievement this year for Brian Kefford and the web services team. It makes life easier for searchers in the Reading Rooms and on the web and enables long-term cost efficiencies.

Roots of fame

Image from thw television programme Who Do You Think You Are? The popular BBC Television programme Who Do You Think You Are? made extensive use of British Library sources to trace the family history of TV personalities including Jeremy Clarkson, Moira Stuart and Meera Syal.

Refreshing new business

Image of Pomegreat Adam Pritchard says the Library was a 'massive help' when he was researching pomegranate presses, checking the fruit's cholesterol-lowering properties, sizing the juice market and sourcing suppliers. Now Pomegreat is stocked by most major supermarkets and has a turnover above 3 million a year.

Mothers of Invention

Mothers of invention Entrepreneurs Sahar Hashemi (Coffee Republic), Mandy Haberman (the Anywayup Cup) and Michelle Lewis (Funkyfins) revealed their secrets to a capacity audience at a special event marking International Women's Month.

Next - Redefining our public spaces

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