Vision and values

Vision and values

1,600 people. Six values. One vision.

The British Library will be celebrating its 50th anniversary as the UK’s national library in 2023, and our ambition for growth, innovation and development is stronger than ever. That’s why, back in 2015, we laid out our key strategic priorities and vision for the future in a publication called Living Knowledge.

A firm indication of our commitment to making our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment, Living Knowledge delivered the framework of six distinct purposes – custodianship, research, business, culture, learning and international. We believe that together, these purposes will help us achieve our vision of making the Library the most open, creative and innovative institution of its kind in the world.

However, we can only make that vision a reality with the help of great people.

Our staff are the key to our success. It’s their expertise, dedication and resilience that makes the Library so valued by our users. Accordingly, we created a series of values that will guide us as an organisation through the years ahead. We want to be seen as a professional community who:

  • puts users at the heart of everything we do
  • listens, innovate and adapt to a changing world
  • treats everyone with respect and compassion
  • embraces equality, fairness and diversity
  • acts with openness and honesty
  • collaborates to do more than we could by ourselves.

Join us, and you could soon be part of the 1,600-strong British Library team who are putting those values to use every day, on what promises to be an exciting journey towards 2023 – and beyond.

Custodianship

We build, curate and preserve the UK’s national collection of published, written and digital content.

Our collections grow significantly all the time – by some 0.8 kilometres of new physical items and 6.8 new terabytes of digital content each month, to be precise. Accordingly, everything we do at the Library is underpinned by our responsibilities as custodians of the 150,000,000 plus items that make up the extraordinary collections that we want future generations to enjoy just as much as we do. That means there’s an increasing dependence upon the skills and expertise of a wide range of people to understand, interpret and develop the diverse and complex collections we hold, and the challenges they face.

Our priorities between now and 2023 to support our Custodianship purpose are to address the growing preservation and access challenges for our historic, audio and recorded music collections. We are also working with our UK Non-Print Legal Deposit partners to develop the national collection of born-digital content and ensure its long-term preservation. And, we are developing our collection management capacity at our Boston Spa site to offer shared services that help deliver efficiencies for other public organisations. In short, the years ahead are set to bring new challenges in custodianship, and we intend to be ready to tackle them.

Research

We support and stimulate research of all kinds.

Since our foundation back in 1973, the Library has been at the heart of the UK’s infrastructure of research and innovation. We have also made our collections, expertise and spaces available to anyone who wants to carry out their own research. Now, as we look forward to our 50th anniversary, our goal is to support the active creation of new knowledge in all fields of human enquiry and evolve our spaces and services to keep pace with the changing needs of researchers. We also intend to harness the power of the data analytics revolution that is enabling researchers to use our digital collections at scale.

Specifically, between now and 2023 our priorities to support our Research purpose are to ensure that our on-site facilities and Reading Room services keep pace with the changing needs of researchers and work with partners to increase the Library’s capacity as an independent research organisation. We are also developing our remote access services to become a trusted and indispensable resource for fact-finding, research and analysis for researchers everywhere. And, we intend to leverage our collections and expertise to drive innovation in large-scale data analytics for the benefit of UK research.

Business

We help businesses to innovate and grow.

The Library has been committed to supporting innovation and economic growth in British industry since its foundation in 1973. In 2006, we opened a Business & IP Centre, which has since helped to create an average of 550 businesses and 1,200 jobs a year and serves as an invaluable resource to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Then, in 2014, we created the Knowledge Quarter partnership, an urban cluster of knowledge-based organisations and businesses that have a physical presence within a mile radius of our building in St. Pancras. Today, it’s a rapidly growing community of creative businesses, start-ups and knowledge-driven innovators that help each other to grow and achieve commercial success.

Our priorities to support our Business purpose until 2023 and beyond are to work with partners to secure funding to grow the network of regional Business & IP Centres to a total of 20 UK city libraries (since the first one opened, we have opened other centres in some of the UK’s major cities). We also plan to develop and open up our St. Pancras campus to maximise its potential for knowledge exchange and innovation at the heart of the Knowledge Quarter. Indeed, this is already happening.

Culture

We engage everyone with memorable cultural experiences.

The inherent cultural and artistic value of the Library’s collections is beyond price. Our challenge over the coming years however, is to help even more people discover and enjoy our exhibition and events programme, and to be even more creative and diverse in the range of artistic experiences we commission and co-create. We want the Library to be a hub of ideas, debate, discussion, dialogue and experimentation. We also want to expand and improve our galleries and share our collections with wider audiences. And, we will look beyond the UK to ensure audiences overseas have more opportunities to appreciate our collections.

Our priorities for the years ahead for our Culture purpose are to grow the profile, diversity and creative impact of the Library’s cultural activities, both on-site and online. We also plan to develop an increased programme of loans, touring exhibitions and digital collaborations, with public libraries and others, that open our collections to new audiences, both across the UK and internationally.

Learning

We inspire young people and learners of all ages.

For many people, the desire and need to learn stretches throughout their lives, and the British Library is strongly placed to help. Our collections already have a potent and unique educational value for lifelong learners and young people alike, but our aim is to grow our capacity even more. We don't want to just tell stories, but encourage a spirit of questioning and enquiry and inspire the researchers of tomorrow. In short, we want to establish our profile and reputation as an indispensable lifelong resource for learners worldwide.

Between now and 2023 the priorities to support our Learning purpose are to improve and expand our on-site capacity to grow the numbers of school students, young people, families and local communities able to engage with our collections. We’re also committed to further grow the range of teaching resources and primary source material available online.

International

We work with partners around the world to advance knowledge and understanding.

Scholarship has always sought, sometimes against the odds, to reach across boundaries of language, politics, faith and geography. Today, the international community of libraries is a powerful and resilient network of institutions with shared values and missions. What’s more, the digital era has delivered tools and platforms that are bringing this network closer together in compelling new ways. The British Library has a distinctive and important role to play alongside others in this global system, not least as our collection is perhaps the most international of its kind, with rare and unique items reflecting all major language groups and faiths.

Our priorities between now and 2023 to support our International purpose are to increase our engagement in those regions of the world whose cultures and histories are reflected most strongly in the Library’s collections. We also want to take a professional leadership role in the national library network of Europe so that we can contribute to the development of a global distributed digital library. And, we plan to grow our capacity to support other institutions whose collections are at risk from war or civil emergency.

Learn more

Diversity

Diversity is at the heart of our business aims.

What we do

Find out what it's like to work here.

Case studies from our staff

…It's a privilege to work with collections as vast and varied…

Mia's team ensures the Library is equipped for scholars’ digital needs.

…Technology here is unique. It ultimately helps preserve our history…

We’re a mixed-skill, multi-disciplinary unit that’s responsible for delivering digital services for the whole Library.

…Every day is genuinely different…

Our award-winning Customer Services team is the first point of contact for many British Library users.

…I find my role hugely fulfilling…

Seema is a Business Librarian in the Business & IP Centre providing reference and research services to readers, entrepreneurs and other external business customers.