British Library on strike

Last night via it’s twitterfeed the British Library announced that, due to strike action as voted by its union members, it’s ‘Maps, Manuscripts and Asian & African Studies Reading Rooms’ will be closed and that other reading rooms may also be closed at short notice.

Unfortunately this is not the first time such radical action has been undertaken, with reading rooms closed back in 1999 and 2002. Closed reading rooms have the potential to have a great impact on the library’s users. It has been surprising to see that this tweet barely made a plonk in the social media ocean… why are people not talking about this issue? If industrial action does not get the attention of library lovers everywhere – what will?

BL and Google

Google announced a couple of weeks ago that it was ceasing digitising newspapers, due somewhat to copyright issues.

However, it has not ceased digitising books.

The British Library and Google today announced a partnership to digitise 250,000 out-of-copyright books from the Library’s collections. Opening up access to one of the greatest collections of books in the world, this demonstrates the Library’s commitment, as stated in its 2020 Vision, to increase access to anyone who wants to do research.

Selected by the British Library and digitised by Google, both organisations will work in partnership over the coming years to deliver this content free through Google Books (http://books.google.co.uk) and the British Library’s website (www.bl.uk). Google will cover all digitisation costs.

This project will digitise a huge range of printed books, pamphlets and periodicals dated 1700 to 1870, the period that saw the French and Industrial Revolutions, The Battle of Trafalgar and the Crimean War, the invention of rail travel and of the telegraph, the beginning of UK income tax, and the end of slavery. It will include material in a variety of major European languages, and will focus on books that are not yet freely available in digital form online.

British Library press release

2020 Vision

The British Library has just released its Vision 2020 at: http://www.bl.uk/2020vision.
For a good precis read the Press release.

The key themes are:

1 Guarantee access for future generations.
2 Enable access to everyone who wants to do research.
3 Support research communities in key areas for social and economic benefit.
4 Enrich the cultural life of the nation.
5 Lead and collaborate in growing the world’s knowledge base.

The Vision statement also looks at how technology and access are changing the landscape and environment for libraries.

We estimate that by 2020, 75% of all titles worldwide
will be published in digital form only, or in both digital
and print. Our ambition is to preserve digital content
for the long term in order to safeguard our intellectual
heritage so that it can be used by future generations
of researchers. In the digital world, an explosion of
user-generated content, the creation of more research
data and ubiquity of online search tools provide new
opportunities.

It may be that 25% of publishing is still in print by 2020 but not many of these works will be being written or published where western National Libraries have legal deposit or much collecting interest. Niche publishing will still take place, but it won’t be 25%. Traditional book (whether print or online) publishing is now and will continue to be a tiny fraction of the amount of cultural content being produced in all media. By 2020 very much less than 1% of content production will be in a non digital form. This really is the game changer for libraries, it is good that the British Library is going some way to realise this.

Btw the National Library’s newspaper digitisation gets a mention too here.