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Overview of the year’s main achievements

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Major progress with digitisation

  • The Library actively participated in the national debate on the UK’s digital future. In April 2009 it hosted the Digital Britain Summit, which brought key organisations and individuals together to explore the issues. Dame Lynne Brindley responded to the Government’s Digital Britain report. She called for a coherent UK national strategy to address the need for mass digitisation of content held by national institutions, update the UK’s intellectual property regime for the 21st century and develop digital literacy skills for all.
  • A milestone was reached in November 2009 when the 500,000th item was added to the Digital Library System. Contents include e-journals, digital sound recordings, born-digital material received through voluntary deposit arrangements with publishers, more than 65,000 digitised 19th century books and more than three million online pages of historic newspapers.
  • Codex Sinaiticus detailAll 800 surviving pages from the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus became freely available online to scholars worldwide at www.codexsinaiticus.org. The virtual re-unification of one of the two earliest surviving Christian Bibles is the culmination of a four-year collaboration between the British Library, University of Leipzig Library, St Catherine’s Monastery (Mount Sinai, Egypt) and the National Library of Russia (St Petersburg), each of which hold different parts of the physical manuscript.
  • The official launch of the UK Web Archive took place, offering access in perpetuity to thousands of UK websites for generations of researchers. The Archive preserves a record of the major cultural and social issues being discussed online. The British Library has been working closely on the project since 2004 with a number of organisations including the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), the National Library of Wales and the Wellcome Library. Material available through the web archive also covers records from other archival bodies including the National Library of Scotland and The National Archives.
  • The Library played a significant role in international collaboration on the future of mass digitisation. Contributing to the EU’s 2010 vision to significantly improve access to Europe’s cultural heritage, it has teamed up with a group of 26 institutions from across Europe in the four-year IMPACT project (IMProving ACcess to Text www.impact-projects.eu), which will remove barriers to the mass digitisation of European cultural heritage.
  • In a landmark deal, 65,000 19th century books were made available through Amazon’s websites in the UK, US, Germany and France. The non-exclusive agreement allowed Amazon to offer the largely out-of-print books through its print‑on-demand service and as free downloads for the Kindle wireless reader. The deal demonstrated how the British Library continues to explore new technologies and innovative business models to improve access to its historic collections.
  • The ‘New Ways of Reading’ display offered researchers an opportunity to sample and give their opinions about the latest digital reading technologies. The display showcased the new Bloomsbury Library Online service, which allows readers to borrow e-books from their public libraries. The COOL-ER reader and Sony’s ‘Pocket’ and ‘Touch’ devices went on display before they were available in shops.
  • The Library announced that it would be working in partnership with sculptor Antony Gormley to archive the online presence of his living monument One & Other, in which 2,400 participants each spent an hour on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. The collaboration is part of the Library’s continuing work to record the nation’s cultural and intellectual heritage in the digital age.

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