The British Library's Digital Research Centre Programme has been established to meet the needs of future researchers. One proposal is a centre that will provide the next generation of users with a working space in which they will be able to access digital content in a collaborative working environment. Initial approaches to strategic partners were well received and the first review by the Office of Government Commerce gave a positive assessment of the programme. Third-party funding commitments were received for the development of a proof of concept, and a manager and team were appointed. Workshops were held to explore how research practices are supported and enhanced by their physical and digital settings, and £3 million of funding has been allocated by the Research Councils for research in this area. The programme is making good progress against the plan.
The Library's newspaper strategy sees access for newspapers moving to St Pancras where microfilm and digital surrogates will be used. Hard copies of newspapers will move to a state of the art storage building at Boston Spa. The project requires funding approval from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and HM Treasury.
The converted Business & IP Centre floor 2 has been fitted out as a Reading Room and opened for general Reader use in advance of becoming the Newspaper Reading Room.
The Library's Business & IP Centre supports entrepreneurs and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from that first spark of inspiration to successfully launching and developing a business. During the year the Centre delivered a total of 2,362 business and employment support and skills development sessions, which comply with London Development Agency targets. A report was produced on how the Centre is supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs in the recession.
The Library holds two major public exhibitions at St Pancras each year. The Ramayana: Love and Valour in India's Great Epic received 114,458 visitors overall, 17 per cent above target. The exhibition also attracted 30 per cent black and minority ethnic visitors, 45 per cent of whom were first-time visitors to the Library.
Taking Liberties: The struggle for Britain's freedoms and rights received 97,098 visitors. An additional 64,677 came to see 1968 on Record: A Year of Revolution, which was very positively received. Overall visitor numbers for the year were 581,702, which is 28 per cent above target and 11 per cent higher than 2007/08.