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The British Library The Knowledge Network: The British Library Annual Report and Accounts 2008/09

Advancing stories from 2008/09

UK PubMed Central

The British Library is playing a key role in the expansion of UK PubMed Central, the digital service that provides online access to biomedical and health research.

By April 2009 the initiative was on track to achieve its goal of becoming the information resource of choice for the UK research community. More than 1.5 million full text articles are available.

‘All the information is freely available and the service can be used by anyone,’ says Phil Vaughan, UK PubMed Central Programme Manager. ‘It is already a huge success, providing researchers with quick and easy access to high quality, peer reviewed research papers.’

The UK service is funded by a group led by the Wellcome Trust, who awarded the development contract to a partnership between the British Library, the University of Manchester and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL–EBI).

The year has seen a 900% increase in usage – from 26,000 visitors to more than 350,000. During this time, the British Library team worked on ways to search, retrieve and link research papers to relevant biomedical and health research knowledge. They provided access to a wide range of valuable additional content and created new tools to enable users to track and find out more about research grants.

The Digital Lives Research Project

Dr Jeremy Leighton John is the principal investigator of Digital Lives, a major project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, to explore how libraries and archives can help to preserve and organise personal archives in today’s digital world.

‘People are creating, acquiring and sharing all kinds of digital content and we need to understand the implications,’ he says. ‘The digital equivalents of personal papers include Word documents, emails, blogs, digital photos, audio and video, websites restricted to family and friends – and even the products of tweeting and texting.’

The project explored the behaviour of writers, scientists and others who create content, users’ expectations and perceptions of curators and archivists. It examined legal and ethical issues and identified suitable technologies to secure and give access to personal digital archives. It considered the growing significance of cloud computing, where services are provided online and a person’s files reside on remote computers.

The project team was drawn from the British Library and its partners, University College London (UCL) and the University of Bristol. ‘Our close collaboration with UCL was a great help in designing and analysing online surveys, which involved more than 3,400 respondents,’ says Dr John.

The Ramayana: Love and Valour in India’s Great Epic

Jane Richardson and her team were responsible for marketing the exhibition devoted to the Ramayana, one of the most important literary works of ancient India, and organising a wide range of public events.

The free exhibition celebrated the epic tale of Prince Rama’s quest to rescue his beloved wife Sita with the help of an army of monkeys. More than 120 paintings from the British Library’s 17th century manuscripts went on display for the first time. The story was brought to life through the exhibition design by Tara Arts, aiming to appeal to a wide audience, from art lovers and academics to families and schoolchildren.

‘We believe our marketing campaign was particularly effective in reaching new audiences,’ says Jane. ‘30 per cent of visitors were from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and 96 per cent of them said they had seen something about the exhibition ahead of their visit.’

The marketing campaign combined live readings on radio with advertising on the Underground and in key publications, supported by leaflets and posters in parts of London with large Asian communities.