Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
MONDAY 29 APRIL 2002
80. Do you think sufficient is being done at
the present time to increase the linkagesand I totally
agree with what you are sayingbetween further education
establishments and higher education establishments because I think
it is definitely happier. I represent a part of the world which
is very badly served in terms of higher education establishments
in the coal fields. We have got some good university towns around,
I am on about the South Yorkshire coal fields area around Rotherham,
Doncaster and Barnsley and we have not got one bona fide
higher education establishment there so we depend, by and large,
on access to further education colleges. Is that happening enough
at the present time or does that need to expand drastically in
the near future?
(Sir Howard Newby) It needs to expand drastically
in the future and in a variety of ways. I am visiting Doncaster
in the next three weeks actually to look at the waterside development
there. That is an interesting example of one way forward which
is co-location of higher education and further education facilities
on the same site which is both saving in costs but also lowers
the barriers between HE and FE as far as the students are concerned.
We have just developed a centre in Medway where two FE colleges
and two universities have come together to form an integrated
campus in Rochester.
(Sir Howard Newby) I beg your pardon, it is an important
distinction in Medway. There will be other parts of the country
I have no doubt which will follow that pattern of co-location.
However, also, I think we need to look, and we are looking more
and more, at blurring the boundaries between higher education
and further education so that we might well see the growth of
some hybrid institutions. We are looking at experiments in Bradford
at the moment where the University is proposing to merge with
Bradford College and I think there will be probably be some other
takers elsewhere in the country as well.
82. What was that about Bradford College?
(Sir Howard Newby) Bradford University are proposing
to merge with Bradford College to form an FHE, a hybrid organisation.
Jeff Ennis: I find those comments very encouraging.
83. Very briefly. In trying to ensure the British
Library remains number one, and conscious that competition is
increasing, what lessons are you drawing from libraries abroad
in trying to ensure you remain number one or what concerns do
you have about initiatives abroad which we should be learning?
(Mrs Brindley) I am very happy to start with that
one. I think clearly we are very aware of what other major national
libraries are doing and take best practice from anywhere, we are
not too proud at all of adopting that. I think there are imaginative
things happening in the whole digital domain in, for example,
the National Library of Australia, which we are learning from.
They are, for example, archiving aspects of the web, that is of
value for research, and there are other European countries which
have got digital legal deposit. There are some countries who are
further advanced than we are in those areas. I think we are right
up there in the front in terms of the more traditional areas so
those are more on the digital side that we can learn best practise
from elsewhere. I have just come back from Singapore and whilst
it is a very small country, I think they are doing absolutely
leading edge work there in terms of the infrastructure and the
development of services. Perhaps a final one I would cite is the
Library of Congress, again in the area we have not perhaps touched
quite so much on, which is the digitisation of existing collections
because what we can offer through digitisation is part of this
enormously wide access to our material without having to visit
at all. The Library of Congress has had massive programmes of
digitisation which it makes available. It is material which is
both of value to the researcher but also we interpret it is of
value to the school child and to the FE college and so on. I think
digitisation, digital archiving, digital legal deposit and Singapore's
great infrastructure would probably be the four I would cite as
areas of best practice we can learn from.
84. Just taking it further, if I may, one final
question. Are there any financial arrangements in place abroad
which we can learn from as a way of generating revenue for the
(Mrs Brindley) I do not know that anybody has got
imaginative business models that are so advanced as ours, in fact
I think they look to us as one of the more entrepreneurial national
libraries because £25 million from trading is quite a lot
of additional income so I am not aware of that. Clearly in the
USA, the fundraising regime adds a significant amount but that
is a rather different donor culture in the USA. The British Library
is getting increasingly into fundraising. It is a very different
85. Are you really as entrepreneurial as you
think you are in the sense that some people have said that the
British Library has struggled and is exhausted through that development
phase with that wonderful new building you have. In terms of the
broader imaginative things you are doing, we have all heard on
the grapevine you might take over the National Film Archive, you
might have a National Archive for Oral History or whatever it
is called. Are you creative enough? Why are you not doing any
of these things? You have Boston Spa and all its 1,200 staff,
why can we not have a British Library in the north with a public
manifestation in Bradford or Leeds perhaps or even Doncaster?
Are you doing enough imaginative stuff that the British Library
could be a focus for, if you like?
(Lord Eatwell) Well, we have the National Audio Archive,
Chairman. Any time you want to come along and listen to George
Bernard Shaw you are very welcome.
86. I thought there was going to be a new aspect
(Lord Eatwell) One of the proposals that we are putting
forward at the moment to the Government is that we should have
on site an access centre.
87. That is what it was.
(Lord Eatwell) Where people can come in and have access
to absolutely everything in the Library that we can put through
electronic and digital means, which includes the audio archive
as well as those materials which have been digitalised. In that
sense we are trying to create a new feeling, if you like, up at
St Pancras where people feel they can drop in. It is a very open
and accessible environment. One of the things that I find distressing
as Chairman of the British Library Board is a lot of people think
they cannot go there. They have this imagine that only Karl Marx
sitting there in his chair scribbling away with his reader's ticket
can actually get in, well this is not true. Anyone with a need
to use the collection of the national library can obtain a readeres
ticket to get into the Reading Rooms. You can get into the exhibition
areas, you can go and see anything from the first folio to the
Magna Carta to James Joyce's manuscript of Finnegans Wake, an
extremely violent piece of work, it is amazing. Anybody can go,
the public can walk in and see these things.
88. Not many of them know that.
(Lord Eatwell) By bringing the silent electronic dimension
into this we feel we can draw the public into the British Library
and give them the opportunity to have access to our extraordinary
collections. With respect to the business side of the Library,
I can assure you that we are determined to develop the document
supply service, to develop it first of all in terms of investing
in the delivery systems and modernising the delivery systems for
document supply but also marketing it vigorously. If we can expand
the charging rules suitably we hope to be able to see that we
can actually make a greater contribution to the overall funding
of the Library through our business activities.
89. Can I just push you on the one. When is
this public access to the audio archive going to take place? Is
this just a pipe dream? I want the access thing to be stressed.
That site cut off by the Euston Road does seem inaccessible to
the ordinary public or the people we represent. It would be wonderful
if there was something more which drew them on to this wonderful
fine public building with all the treasures that it has. When
are we going to get these new things that will drawn them there?
(Lord Eatwell) There are two things happening. First
of all, we are discussing with the Government right now the development
of the access centre that I have just described.
(Lord Eatwell) The land is available to put it on.
You may know that to the north of the library there are four acres
of land which were originally designated to be part of the Library
but then were not used. About three quarters of that is now a
port-a-cabin city supporting the work on Channel Tunnel Rail Link
but there is a piece of land there which is available now which
we hope to persuade the Government will be the position on which
we could place our access centre. The other thing that is happening,
of course, is the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the whole development
of the King's Cross area. We want to see the British Library as
an integral part of that development. We want it to be part of
an area where people come to, where people come and they are not
just passing through and going to and from Continental trains
but also where they stop and go to the British Library, they are
brought in and have the chance to see the exhibitions and have
access to the collections which are there.
91. Is there any hope of having also the British
Film Archive on your site or on this new site?
(Lord Eatwell) That is not in our gift at the moment.
That is not held by us, we do not hold the British Film Archive.
92. There are rumours that it might be transferred
to that site, no?
(Lord Eatwell) There have been no discussions with
us as yet about that.
93. Two questions, Chairman. First of all to
Sir Howard. Are you confident that the existing HEFCE funding
methodology recognises the changes to the role of libraries which
are taking place as a result of the expansion of student numbers
and the erosion of the divide between HE and FE?
(Sir Howard Newby) No, I am not confident because
we have declared that we will review it and if I was confident
we would not be reviewing it. The reason being that we know the
additional 362,000 students we need to attract to hit our target
are likely to require more teaching and learning support than
most of those who are already in the sector now and that has implications
indeed for libraries and for the more generalised learning support
which we were talking about earlier. We will need to reflect some
of those additional costs in our funding methodology.
94. What is the timescale for that review?
(Sir Howard Newby) We have already completed a study
which tries to estimate the additional cost both of attracting
and then retaining students from poorer socio-economic groups.
Now we have a reasonably robust basis on which to do this in terms
of the cost. We await the outcome of the spending review. If some
of these additional costs can be met they will be reflected in
next year's grant allocations to higher education institutions.
95. My other question is to Mrs Brindley about
the digitalisation. You have mentioned that other countries have
started doing this. Has the British Library done any of this yet?
(Mrs Brindley) Yes, we have. All of the key funding
has come from outwith the grant in aid. We have, for example,
at the present time, one Lottery funded project to make available
100,000 images across a whole digital collection, so it is a major
project. We have also within our SR bid a bid to digitise about
four million pages of newspapers which we believe to be both an
enormous resource for research but a fantastic resource for school
children and for lifelong learners. We do wish to do a significant
amount of digitisation, yes.
96. If this was extended and became part of
the mainstream work out of your core grant, how would you prioritise
the areas to be digitised?
(Mrs Brindley) I think the first thing to say is that
we are very nervous about funding it from our core grant at the
present time because we see as a top priority, for the reasons
that we have been talking about, to keep the purchasing power
for our collections for wider benefit. In terms of prioritising,
if there is funding, I think we want very much to digitise parts
of our collection that can be repurposed right across that spectrum
of our user groups, hence newspapers are a very good example rather
than doing slightly more esoteric material. I think that would
be the main criterion we would use. Just to finish. The Lottery-funded
project is around the national sense of place, so national identity
and hence appropriate for the British Library. I think a second
area which we would like to prioritise that came home to me very
much when I was in Singapore that we are the national library
for most of the world, that is to say we have the best collections
outside any country of their materials, we even have better collections
than most. In term of shattered cultures like Afghanistan or even
our colonial heritage from Hong Kong, we have got the world's
material. I think we would take then themes relating to an international
sense of place from countries particularly that we have had historical
Chairman: The last word is going to Valerie
97. I do not want to open up a completely new
area but the one area of criticism you have made is that on the
quality of learning material, which is coming forward, as you
expand your remit to take in the FE colleges and schools, these
materials and how they are used in teaching is going to become
a whole new dimension. It is not just that you have got qualified
research people who know how to use it, whether it is manuscript
or electronic material, but you have got young people coming up.
What I am really saying is should not the DfES be part of this?
Is there not a role for them? Are you knocking on their door and
saying perhaps at this stage "The Select Committee has asked
us to give evidence, perhaps we should be giving you evidence,
(Sir Howard Newby) It follows from everything you
have said that at the funding council we do regard the work of
the British Library as an absolutely key and crucial resource
for higher education and further education now and even more so
in the future. I think it was remarked earlier that the British
Library is far and away DCMS's largest spending commitment. That
is when I startto use a word that was used by Lord Eatwellto
get a bit nervous then because I see a resource that is absolutely
crucial to our meeting both our commitment to sustain the UK's
position as a leading world nation in research and to meet our
commitment to widen access to higher education, a resource that
is crucial in both those things essentially being in a Department
which, with the best will in the world, may have other priorities.
I am making no criticism of DCMS, I am just trying to think of
scenarios going forward. Now we do have a strategic alliance,
as you have heard, and that does provide a very useful framework
in which we can identify together joint areas in which we need
to work together. This may be an issue on which the Committee
may wish to take a view.
98. I am sure we will. Can I thank you for not
only your attendance but we have learnt a great deal and I hope
it has been useful for you as contributors to this session. Thank
(Lord Eatwell) I wonder, Chairman, if I could round
up by inviting you and your Select Committee to visit the British
Library. We would very much like you to come and have the opportunity
to show you the resources which are available and also to brief
you on our plans.
Chairman: We would like that indeed. Thank you