Q. The digital revolution has caused upheavals
across the information sector - how can the
British Library remain relevant?
A. That's the question at the heart of
Redefining the Library - our new three year
strategy. Our strategic priorities have focused
us on developing our services and modernising
how we work to build new connections with
users and partners. The Annual Report gives
a rich picture of all our activities.
Q. How is the British Library
changing to connect with users?
A. Improving the user experience,
in the Reading Rooms, at
exhibitions and online, is a strategic
priority. This year we have met
record levels of demand while
exceeding user satisfaction targets.
Our events programme continues
to build a distinctive profile, with
outstanding feedback from visitors,
and our web presence is growing
exponentially, recording almost
50 million hits from over four
Q. Does the strategy change the services
A. It does - take the opening of the Business & IP Centre last spring. With funding
from the London Development Agency we
physically remodelled a traditional Reading
Room to provide networking areas,
workshops and specialist IP support. Our
rich database and patent collections have
not changed but the way we deliver them
has. We're now attracting a diverse range of
individuals and SMEs, by providing support
at each stage of the innovation life cycle.
Q. Partnership and connection seem a
focus - are they key to the strategy?
A. Absolutely - partnerships have been a
recurring theme across the year. With higher
education and JISC we are digitising millions
of newspaper pages and thousands of
hours of sound. With Microsoft we will be
digitising 100,000 of our out-of-copyright,
19th century books. And our recently
launched content strategy consultation asks
what we need to collect and who we need
to connect with, to ensure future access to
the widest possible array of source
material, wherever it is in the world.
Q. How will the content strategy change
A. We anticipate that the consultation
will result in calls to maintain our areas
of historic strength, including our heritage
acquisitions, and also to collect more from
China, India and other emerging economies
with burgeoning research programmes.
Q. What effect will this have on the
British Library's international position?
A. It will enhance it. Our primary duty is
to the British taxpayer and our collections
must reflect the changing areas of research
expertise across the world. Our cultural
diplomacy role is also important and we
have developed significant new agreements
this year: with South Africa to assist in
capacity building across Africa; with Iraq,
to support the intellectual reconstruction
of the national library; and with China to
digitally re-unite collections and build
Personally, it has been a busy year too, with
keynote speeches on redefining the library
in Japan, the US and Canada, Australia and
New Zealand. I am also advising the EU
Commissioners on their emerging digital
library programme for 2010.
Q. And what about progress on the
British Library's own digital library?
A. We are painstakingly building our digital
infrastructure so that we can handle digitised
and 'born digital' materials on a huge scale
for future access and long-term preservation.
We are working with publishers on practical
pilots for handling a variety of formats and
helping to develop the implementing
regulations for the Legal Deposit Libraries
Act 2003 through membership of the Legal
Deposit Advisory Panel.
Q. Is this digital R&D the focus of the
Library's research activity now?
A. It is an important research area for
Library staff but not the only one. A major
achievement this year was being awarded
Academic Analogue Status by the Arts and
Humanities Research Council, for the first
time recognising us as a research institution
in our own right. It's testament to the
expertise of our scholarly and curatorial
staff and means we are now eligible for
independent research funding.
Q. So even in a digital environment you
see staff expertise remaining at the heart
of what the Library does?
A. Certainly. Looking back over my five
years' leadership of the Library the pace
of change in the information environment
has been incredible and we cannot afford
to stand still. The British Library staff are
the backbone of one of the UK's greatest
institutions. It's thanks to their hard work
and innovation that we are meeting or
exceeding all our funding agreement
targets and going forward so successfully.