The Media History Digital Library

The online Media History Digital Library is an amazing open-access resource hosted by the Internet Archive. It consists of extensive runs and select holdings of periodicals from 1904-73 covering cinema, broadcasting and recorded sound. The website is a pleasure to navigate and the collections are growing fast. The future of research libraries has arrived. Click on image below to access the site.

Notes from meeting re: future of BFI national library

Notes from meeting @ bfi Stephen Street 10 October 2011.

Present: Richard Paterson (Head of Research and Scholarship), Gabriele Popp (Head of Information), Emma Smart (Library Manager).

Ed Buscombe, Richard Collins (notes), Pam Cook.

Apologies: Annette Kuhn, Amanda Nevill, Heather Stewart.

Pam asked the bfi for an update – what had happened since our last meeting? How would the bfi undertake its consultation? What was planned for the South Bank and Berkhamsted?

The bfi said:

*       Consultation was about to begin and would be done using the bfi website during October with a processing of findings during November and publication of results late in 2011/early in 2012.

*       A focus group would take place on October 24th at 6.30pm. (GP clarification: A number of focus groups are being held throughout October, with a specific one for academics on October 24th.)

*       FAQs on the website would be updated and a newsletter issued to bfi members.

*       No further library staff reductions were envisaged.

*       Service had been maintained with the exception of the loss of one late evening closing.

*       The bfi acknowledged that accessioning and cataloguing may have fallen behind but it was committed to maintaining a comprehensive acquisition policy and the acquisition budget had not been cut.

Bfi plans are to:

*       Move the library to the South Bank by 2013. Establish some kind of segregated access – perhaps by membership, perhaps by user needs (eg a space for researchers separate from that for walk-in users) to be informed by consultation.

*       Accelerate digitisation of the printed collections.

*       Foster integrated access to the collections (including printed) on digital platforms.

*       Establish a study centre at Berkhamsted for “in depth” research.

*       Update equipment to access library holdings (eg microfiche readers, digital scanners).

*       Enable users to book materials online with a day after order delivery target.

*       Develop library staff’s digital skills including creation of an e-resources post. (GP clarification: we created a dedicated Serials & e-Resources Librarian post as part of the 2011-15 restructure which was filled with an existing library staff member. We continue to improve all library staff’s digital skills.)

The bfi wished to broaden the profile of library users but recognised that research was a key activity and that researchers were “core users” of the library.

Plans for layout and space utilisation in the South Bank library were not fixed and would be informed by the findings from the consultation.

Pam thanked the bfi, stated that the record of the meeting would be posted on the bfiwatch blog and agreed to send the draft note of meeting to Gabriele for comment prior to posting.

Changes to BFI member governor criteria

This year, the bfi has made an unprecedented change to the procedure for election of one of the two member governors of the Institute. When David Thompson steps down on expiry of his term of appointment, the bfi has ruled that the replacement member governor must reside outside London and the South East and further that at least 10% of bfi Members must vote in the election for an appointment to be valid.

In the recent past, we understand only about 8% of members have voted in such elections. Given that this time round the majority of bfi members (most of whom live in London and the South East) have been disenfranchised it seems more than likely that, under the new rules – which have not been the subject of consultation with members – there may be no candidate with a mandate deemed valid by the bfi – still less by all the membership.

Member governors date from the 1970s when, in response to widespread disquiet by bfi members at bfi management policies, a majority of members attending the bfi AGM voted not to approve the remuneration and reappointment of the bfi’s auditors. This was, and remains, effectively the only democratic sanction which members are able to exercise. The bfi Members’ Action Group, which had organised the AGM protest vote, subsequently agreed that it would support a motion to remunerate and reappoint the auditors if two member governors – each of whom would be elected by and answerable to the whole bfi membership – were appointed. This year’s changes are an unprecedented and unilateral break with the long standing precedent and agreement dating from the 1970s.

The bfi management’s changes to the election procedure are not ones to inspire membership participation and identification with the bfi. Rather they suggest an intensification of the top down, non-consultative and industry-not-user oriented policies of authoritarian management.


Update on future of BFI national library

Ed Buscombe, Richard Collins and Pam Cook had a meeting yesterday with senior BFI staff responsible for taking forward plans for the BFI library — the notes from the meeting will be posted as soon as they’ve been agreed.

Meanwhile, the BFI has begun a process of public consultation about the future of the library, starting with a series of focus groups on 24 October at BFI Southbank in which invited participants will be able to air their opinions and suggestions. A survey of public opinion is also planned.

Guardian article on film education and film policy review

From the Guardian blog yesterday:

It’s not so easy to establish the study of film in our schools

Most teachers either don’t feel they have permission to teach the subject, or don’t know how

Cary Bazalgette, Thursday 6 October 2011 19.00 BST

Don Boyd says the study of film is as important as literature and science, and rightly calls for “a system to empower schools to teach film” as “one vital responsibility” of the BFI-led film policy review (Now we’re all film-makers, 26 September).

I worked at the British Film Institute for 27 years trying to get film study established in schools, with limited success. Film can and should be taught from the earliest years in primary schools, as well as at secondary level; but I don’t believe the review, with its focus on film production and distribution, can achieve this.

Film has been taught in many British schools for 60 years. It now sits within a widening circle of moving-image media consumption and creation, and need not be limited to what’s shown in cinemas. But most teachers tend to just use films for mainstream curriculum work, like “the film of the book” in English.

Boyd cites “the intellectual heritage” of film, saying “kids can benefit from its history in the way they might study the Renaissance in art”. He’s right: but most teachers don’t know how to teach film in its own right. Boyd points out that “affordable technology exists: cameras, computers, digital editing systems, the internet”, but this connotes a professional model of film-making that frightens teachers. The barrier isn’t funding so much as attitudes: teachers don’t think they “have permission” to teach film, in the context of school league tables and directives on the curriculum.

There’s evidence of transformative film education, especially in primary schools. For example, Lincolnshire is committed to film education for younger learners, and the BFI’s short film compilations have probably reached two million children. Yet schools still don’t feel empowered to buy in the resources and training that are already available.

Why haven’t the BFI and the UK Film Council made the government recognise the importance of film education? The BFI has a small and marginal education department which is ill-placed to engage properly with the school curriculum at policy level, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) can offer it little support in doing so. The UK Film Council found it hard to figure out an effective education strategy, labouring for years to produce the remarkably un-strategic Film: 21st Century Literacy. Under the council’s watch, film education has been devolved to a lamentable patchwork of unrelated schemes and funded bodies with differing agendas.

The same people who supervised all this are now running the film policy review. They certainly need to clean up their act on what’s funded and why. But even more necessary is a clear directive from government, informed by the already abundant research that shows that when schools build on children’s early moving-image learning, all-round attainment can improve. However, if this comes from a DCMS-funded body, it’ll look like “special pleading” from one creative industry. So will education secretary Michael Gove want to endorse it?

Response: It’s not so easy to establish the study of film in our schools | Comment is free | The Guardian