Future of BFI national library

Plans to find a HE partner to take the BFI national library have moved on. As usual, the decision-making process is shrouded in mystery, and there has been no public debate or announcement. However, Goldsmiths University of London is currently in the frame as the lead partner to take forward a digitisation project of some (unspecified) BFI holdings, possibly with funding from HEFCE. A small, select group of other UK universities (currently Glasgow, Warwick, Leeds, UEA and possibly Bristol) would participate by testing the digitised material in its initial stages.

In January 2007 MeCCSA, the official body that represents those who teach and research media, communication and cultural studies in the UK, published a paper in response to the BFI’s plans for the national library expressing its concerns. Among them were the positioning of the library as a HE resource rather than a national resource, the implementation of short-term solutions to the financial problems facing the BFI and the lack of any clear strategy for collecting, preserving and accessing documentation on the moving image. (MeCCSA – Papers – The issues facing the British Film Institute National Library)

MeCCSA proposed a conference to address the need for a long-term strategy; in September 2007 a symposium on The Future of Screen Heritage in the UK was held at Roehampton University, attended by stakeholders and senior representatives of the BFI. Unfortunately it seems that the discussion had little effect on BFI management’s thinking. Rather than lead debate about long-term strategy, the BFI continues to pursue short-term, temporary solutions that could be disastrous for the national library and its constituency.

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