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The British Library Bringing knowledge to life: The British Library Annual Report and Accounts 2007/08

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Stef Penney“My name is Stef Penney and I wrote a book called The Tenderness of Wolves. I came to the British Library to research life in the backwoods in 19th-century Canada.

“When I started I really didn’t know what the story was going to be, but I soon found an amazing wealth of material in the Canadian collections. They have accounts by employees of the Hudson Bay Company and the North West Company; pioneer settlers like Susanna Moodie and her sister, Catherine Parr Traill; and then explorers like James Clark Ross and people who were looking for the Northwest Passage. So, gradually, through all these things, a picture built up and the story took shape.

“The Library gives you an amazing freedom to develop ideas in this open-ended and organic way, which is wonderful. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone and there are no time constraints and I found books that I just wouldn’t have found anywhere else – so, without that, I couldn’t have written my book.”

Stef’s novel, The Tenderness of Wolves won the Costa Book Prize 2006 and went on to become one of the best-selling UK fiction titles of 2007.

Dorian Hayes, Curator, Canadian and Caribbean. Meet Dorian

Historic map of Canada. Explore

Canadian Wolves recorded howling. Listen

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Nkwenkwezi Languza“My name is Nkwenkwezi Languza, I’m from South Africa. I work for the National Film, Video and Sound Archives, which is a government institution under the Department of Arts and Culture.

“I am responsible for sound preservation and am mandated to take care of a collection of about 20,000 items which include recordings of oral history interviews and South African indigenous music.

“At the moment I’m at the British Library, receiving training in sound archiving. The team at the Sound Archives have taken me through different processes of properly preserving material. I’ve been taken through the history of analogue and digital formats and using different equipment to digitise this material.

“I hope to go back and apply and also transfer the skills that I’ve received here and make sure that our collection back at home is available for generations to come.”

Nkwenkwezi is one of a number of international and UK interns learning expert techniques at the British Library Centre for Conservation.

Alison Faraday, Training Coordinator. Meet Alison

South African oral history. Listen

Zulu street guitar music. Listen

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Dee Wright“My name is Dee Wright and I’m the founder of a company called The Hairforce – Lice Assassins, a nit and head lice hand-removal service, a complete innovation in the UK.

“The British Library has been very significant in the development of my business in a number of crucial ways. It has given me access to the data and information that I needed to put together my business case.

“I met a number of fantastic people here who guided me towards the information that I needed quickly and efficiently – something that was quite important, given I hadn’t been in a library for some time. They also guided me towards the Business & IP Centre, where I had access to business reports and data that would have cost me thousands to buy externally.

“The British Library has also allowed me to attend a whole raft of courses for free that could enable me to develop my skills in areas where I felt I was weaker or I needed reminding that I was a small business, not a big one – and how, therefore, to use my resources more efficiently.

“Crucially, I’ve also attended many talks and events given by important entrepreneurs and that led ultimately to me being mentored by both Anita Roddick and Tim Campbell. All of these resources at the British Library have contributed to where I am today. I am currently cogitating on a new business idea, which is an extension of The Hairforce and it’s to the British Library that I’ll turn to first to do my research.”

Dee’s company now employs 12 staff and she plans to build a network of hundreds of Lice Assassins over the next five years.

Jeremy O'Hare, Business Information Specialist. Meet Jeremy

Market research in the Business & IP Centre. What we offer

Networking events for entrepreneurs. Sir Stelios speaks

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Daniel LynchDr Daniel Lynch, co-founder, Exilica: Exilica limited was formed as a university spinout company to commercialise micro-nano particles. These particles are something we had developed out of the university, and when it came to the actual commercialisation of these particles, Exilica was the perfect framework into which to go forward and to actually start selling and licensing the technology. Throughout the seven years that we had been developing the technology that eventually led to the formation of Exilica, we were fairly confident that the British Library contained all of the articles we needed. This proved to be very true and we greatly appreciate the British Library for having that resource. We were certainly very appreciative of the fact that access was free, for academics, which helped us immensely. But now that we’ve become Exilica, a commercial entity, we do recognise the fact that we actually have to pay for that sort of commercial access to those articles.

Ben White, Copyright and Compliance, British Library: In the last 10 years, we’ve seen a massive shift from print publishing to digital publishing, and this has brought about the erosion of the traditional arrangements that have existed within copyright laws to enable academic research and the development of new ideas. The Library has been playing a leading role within the UK in the issue of copyright reform. We are dedicated to ensuring that the balance that has traditionally existed is taken forward. The balance is important to creativity in this country because it ensures the rights of the creator to be recognised and rewarded for their work, as well as the clear public interest in ensuring access to knowledge for future generations of researchers.

Dr Daniel Lynch: It’s fantastic that the British Library is leading the debate on copyright in the digital age, to ensure that this balance remains.

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Hamza AswatHamza Aswat, first-year law student: I heard about the Young Researchers project through my sixth form. Initially I was told the project was to entail discussions regarding religion and various ideologies. Taking part there were three Muslim students, two Jewish students, one agnostic, three Christian students, and one person who didn’t believe at all. We produced a short video documentary, which was more visual than anything else, and basically showed different ideas from different perspectives. This was the end product of all the ideas that had been produced throughout the six months of workshops we had been through. The workshops were very, very lively and very energetic, there was a lot of enthusiasm in the room, and British Library played a key part of that I believe.

I went to the Sacred exhibition a couple of times. On various occasions I took family, friends, and also people from my social life, and even though there were a lot of people I brought along who hadn’t believed in a religion or ideology, it showed that religion is not boring but that it has a rich cultural background to it.

More stories about Understanding


Hugh JacquesHugh Jaques, Dorset County Archivist: We heard of the competition through our colleagues in Dorset Libraries who brought to our attention the competition and the desire, from the British Library’s point of view, to reveal hidden treasures held by local library services and their partners.

The book is called the Dorset Federation of Women’s Institute’s War Record book: 1939-1945, and that in a nutshell is what it is. It describes the memories of 82 separate Women’s Institutes from across Dorset. As it has become better known through the competition, we have had to actually filter the use of the book through using copies of it in the History Centre, and through directing people to the British Library’s website, to promote its use but without necessarily putting the original itself at risk.

We will be coming back to the British Library, and its partners, to talk about additional use of Turning the Pages type technology. The excitement of the people we drew together to celebrate the launch of the book on Turning the Pages, demonstrated that they were really taken with the technology and really enjoyed it. I think they will have taken that away with them and passed that on to many other people.

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Gail WhitbyGail Whitby, Conservation Officer: I’m Gail Whitby, and I work in conservation at the British Library repairing the old books and looking after the collection items. I was interested in learning sign language because I have a couple of colleagues who are deaf or partial hearing. I could see there were some communication issues between the hearing and deaf people in the department, and it was quite nice to be able to break down those barriers and be able to talk to them about work.

As soon as people realised the benefits of breaking down the communication barriers and how much easier it would make the working environment for all of us, not just the two members of staff, they supported me learning level one through evening classes, right up to level three.

We’ve realised that there are a lot of people interested in learning this language for many reasons, personal reasons as well as work reasons. As a public building we can have anyone from the public use this building and so people are now signing up to learn level one British Sign Language. The Human Resources department has supported this, getting a teacher to come into our site and train people in level one sign language, which is really good.

More stories about Developing

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