Statement of Public Task

This statement sets out the functions carried out by the British Library that are within the Library’s public task under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 and the General Data Protection Regulation 2016.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the greatest research libraries in the world.  Established by Act of Parliament in 1972, the scope of its remit, the scale of its operations, the range of its services and the international importance of its collections are without equal. The collection – which consists of some 150 million items – is unconstrained by subject, geography, format or language. 

The Library’s public task comprises all the statutory functions, duties and responsibilities as defined in the relevant sections of the British Library Act 1972. The Act charges the British Library Board with: 

  • managing the British Library as the national Library of the United Kingdom consisting of a comprehensive collection of books, manuscripts, periodicals, films and other recorded matter, whether printed or otherwise;
  • managing the Library as a national centre for reference, study and bibliographical and other information services, in relation both to scientific and technological matters and to the humanities;
  • making the services of the British Library available in particular to institutions of education and learning, other libraries and industry;
  • carrying out and sponsoring research;
  • contributing to the expenses of library authorities;
  • lending any item, and making any part of the Library’s collections, or premises, available, in connection with events of an educational, literary or cultural nature; and,
  • taking such actions as are necessary to safeguard the collections of the British Library.

For the avoidance of doubt, the British Library views all of its Collection management related activities as part of its Public Task, including the collection, recording, organisation, structuring, storing, adaptation, digitisation, facilitation of retrieval and consultation, disclosure by transmission or dissemination, and licensing of any or all material held by the British Library on behalf of the nation.

Under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, the British Library:

  • acts as a deposit library entitled to the delivery of printed and similar publications for persons who publish work in the United Kingdom.
The British Library also undertakes the functions formerly assigned to the Registrar of Public Lending Right, under the Public Lending Right Act 1979, namely:

  • establishing and maintaining a register showing books in respect of which public lending right subsists and the persons entitled to the right in respect of any registered book; and
  • determining and paying the sums (if any) due by way of public lending right. 
The Library’s public task is also incorporated in our mission and vision and in our six public purposes. 
  • The British Library’s mission is to make our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone for research, inspiration and enjoyment. 
  • Our vision is for the British Library to be the most open, creative and innovative institution of its kind in the world. 
Six public purposes encompass our scope and remit and provide a framework for why and how we spend the money the public entrusts us with:

  1. Custodianship - We build, curate and preserve the UK’s national collection of published, written and digital content.
  2. Research - We support and stimulate research of all kinds.
  3. Economic - We help businesses to innovate and grow.
  4. Cultural - We engage everyone with memorable cultural experiences.
  5. Learning - We inspire young people and learners of all ages. 
  6. International - We work with partners around the world to advance knowledge and mutual understanding. 
These purposes are aligned to our statutory duties as set out in the British Library Act 1972, the Public Lending Right Act 1979, and the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 as amended by The Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013.

This statement of public task is reviewed every 5 years and is due to be considered again in 2020. 

If you have any queries on our public task statement, please email