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Treasury Plans To Cut British Library Funding

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007 at 15:51 by Sue Stewart

It seems that real books are under threat again. From our beloved government, this time.

Google has noticed that people love books featuring real places and has started to link the places mentioned in its digitised books to its map section. So if you read “Around The World in 80 Days” and you want to find the location of the club that Phileas Fogg sets out from, you can. You can peek at the places he stops off on his travels, too. Google is expanding its service.

The British Library, on the other hand, won’t be. Despite reducing its workforce by 15 per cent and saving £40m since 2001, it faces still more cuts because the Department for Culture, Media and Sport says, “The cultural sector has had huge real-terms increases in funding since 1997. Clearly, this cannot go on indefinitely.”

Perhaps, but reducing its budget means that the British Library will have to make extremely significant changes.

The permanent collection, which includes a copy of every single book published in the UK (yes, even the rubbish ones - this is a democratic institution) will have to be reduced. Not such a permanent collection, then.

Opening hours, largely from 9.30 or 10 a.m. to 8 p.m every day except Sundays and bank holidays, mean that people can go in at weekends and after work - except the opening times will have to be cut, too, so they probably won’t.

It’s currently free. Saddest of all, the cuts mean there are plans to charge for admission to the reading rooms, a thing that would have been unthinkable in the past.

You may argue that the BL seems like a highbrow, elitist sort of place - but that’s not the point. The point is that it sets out the blueprint for what a public library could and should be.

Last, but not least, it’s acknowledged as world class. Don’t forget, this is the place that houses Magna Carta - the document that many of our supposed freedoms are based on. I have never been to the British Library and may never go there. I may never go to the Cairo Museum, either, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea to shut it down. Not even part of it, before you start, Mr Brown.

To allow the closure of all the British Library’s public exhibitions, the national newspaper archive (which is used by 30,000 people per year, incidentally) and its schools learning programmes because it now seems a bit old-fashioned and inaccessible is like saying it’s all right to demolish Lincoln Cathedral because it’s only used as a film set every now and then. It’s like saying that only the kids with money and computers should get a decent education. (Oh, hang on. Ah. Sorry, my mistake.) And I’d like to know where the £7M or so that the British Library must save will go. (Don’t mention the war….)

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5 Comments on “Treasury Plans To Cut British Library Funding”

  1. RJ Barker Says:

    ?As a government we at New Labour are one hundred per cent committed to bringing the people of Britain together under a banner of ??The Stupid.???


  2. theo Says:

    I agree with the cuts. Books should be secret open only those with a private education or privately funded membership. Knowledge after all is power.

  3. Rhys Wilcox Says:

    Print is dead! Long live downloadable pdf and electronic handheld readers!

    Hang on, my eyes are bleeding.

  4. Sharon Says:

    The trouble is today that the financial myopes, those who know the price of everything but the value of nothing, & who only plan for the next six months, whose idea of ‘long term’ is twelve to eighteen months, are in charge.

    Of course they’re cutting back on the British Library - they don’t understand its value. They don’t want those who leave school actually able to read going there & ‘getting ideas’ after all.

  5. J Keith Says:

    Accountants appear to be in charge. Do they forget that they needed libraries during their studies to get their diplomas?

    This is like the university tuition fees robbery. MPs educated at university from world war 2 to the 1990s received some local authority help towwards their study. Now they force students to “pay their way” and leave university with a degree plus debt of £12K upwards (or for those who may do postgraduate work, £20K. Or for those trying to become doctors, architects, vets: £30K). Then they wonder why so many try to go abroad where salaries & facilities are better. And a house may be affordable.

    Government says its support for “the arts” cannot go on indefinitely. Why not? It is one of the most important institutions in the UK. Its remit is to keep much of its material (books, manuscripts, prints & drawings, technical journals and data, newspapers &c) in perpetuity for all of us. How can it do this, if state support for it cannot go on indefinitely? Supporting it is an absolutely right way to spend our taxes. This government is quite wrong to propose, or even encourage proposals. to reduce support for the BL.

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