BL North

Drawing of British Library Boston Spa site.

The project will build on the geography, mandate and skills of the British Library's Boston Spa site. It will develop the site's role in helping the UK meet the information management challenges of the 21st century.

Published date:

What we will do

By the Library’s 50th anniversary in 2023, the British Library’s Boston Spa campus in Yorkshire will be a destination for anyone with an interest in working with, or working for, a truly great national institution.

The British Library is the custodian of one of the largest cultural heritage collections in the world. With more than 150 million items in both physical and digital formats, the collection grows rapidly, with 8km of physical items and 150Tb of digital items for long-term preservation being added every year. Given this mandate, the Library is globally recognised not just as one of the world’s greatest collections, but also as a genuine leader in the field of Collection Management. 

Boston Spa Renewed sets out a bold response to both the immediate estates challenges faced by the British Library, as well as establishing a vision of a national centre of excellence in digital and print collection management, large-scale and bespoke digitisation, and high quality skills and training provision. The sustainable service model not only meets the needs of the British Library, but also addresses the collection management needs of other cultural organisations. We believe the model will improve the infrastructure that plays a key role in delivering a number of issues at local, regional and national levels.

Why we're doing this

  • To increase the economic value delivered by the British Library
  • To increase socio-economic impact in Northern England
  • To increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon footprint.

Boston Spa is both nearing capacity and experiencing substantial physical deterioration. Many of the buildings on the site were built during World War Two (1942) as part of a larger Royal Ordnance Factory made up of temporary munitions buildings. These have been used well beyond their intended lifetime and the conditions they provide for the national print collection will become increasingly inadequate with vulnerability to fluctuations in temperature, humidity, water ingress, and encapsulated asbestos. Without urgent action, invaluable cultural assets will be placed at risk of damage and disrepair.

However, the proposal is not only about preserving collections through the improvement of our real estate. It is also about:

  • providing access to new audiences beyond London
  • improving the appeal of the Library as an employer of choice capable of attracting the (increasingly digital) skills necessary to manage complex collections
  • reflecting the desire to rebalance the UK economy by shifting public investment in public bodies outside of London.
All of these can play an instrumental role in the sector’s response to the Mendoza Review of national museums, as well as other related policy agenda such as Culture is Digital and Libraries Deliver.

How we will do this

Collection storage

  • Increase the amount of storage space providing internationally recognised archival storage conditions
  • Expansion in storage capacity, meeting British Library needs to 2035
  • Ensure the security of the National Print Collections
  • New data centre for digital Collection Management

Shared services

  • Spaces for small business incubation, start-ups, scale-ups and others
  • Expanded storage spaces for 3rd party collections
  • Expanded imaging studios

Visitor experience

  • Inspiring public areas reflecting the demands of our users for innovative, shared and inspiring spaces
  • Enhanced availability of resources for researchers
  • Increased access to cultural heritage for a wider demographic

Staff areas

  • New vision for the Boston Spa site
  • Office regeneration
  • Support for modern ways of working
  • Improved co-location
  • Workflow enhancements through functional adjacencies
  • Improved well-being facilities