Latest update on future of BFI library

Update circulated by the BFI last week:

BFI National Library January 2012  

Welcome to this first update of the year about our plans for the BFI National Library. We have been tremendously busy since the last bulletin and have two key developments to report on.The first is that the results are in from the research survey many of you took part in last November along with the findings from our focus groups.As you know, we are exploring ways to modernise and expand the offering of the BFI National Library, to increase our digital services and to deliver greater integration with our public and cultural programmes. Our ambition is to move the Library from its current home in BFI Stephen Street to our venue on London’s South Bank. This means we could develop a single, coherent creative vision across the venue to bring the whole BFI offer together in one place (incorporating Mediatheque, programming, Education and Collections), attract and grow new users and expand digital access.

Heather Stewart

Creative Director, BFI

Research findings and design update

As part of the scoping for this project, we wanted to find out how and by whom the Library was currently used, what were the inducements and barriers to engagement, and how could we improve on or expand its services?

In many areas, the results are as we anticipated, but in others some helpful insights have emerged. One of the clearest findings is that the BFI National Library is highly valued by users, especially for the expertise of its staff and its collections.

It is also very clear that there are two distinct groups of users with contrasting relationships and expectations of the Library. They are the frequent user group (academics, researchers, post-grad students, journalists) and the occasional users (teachers, young people, casuals/BFI Southbank visitors).

The survey results show that frequent users value the comprehensiveness of the Library collections, the knowledge of its staff, and the working environment. Film research for this group is a deep and intensive process.

Occasional users value the support of the staff in accessing the collections, they are supportive of a move to BFI Southbank, and they are interested in using the Library to learn more about the films they see. Film research for this group is a broad and light process.

A range of interests

In considering how to design a new space to meet the requirements of the various user groups, we face some interesting and unique challenges. The end solution also has to embody our aspiration for the Library and reflect the original impetus for its relocation which is to modernise, engage with new users and integrate with the BFI’s public programmes.

Issues to consider will include noise levels, collections access and the likelihood of a different ‘feel’ to the study environment. While some user groups like the current library ambience, others, by contrast, say they find it intimidating.

There is a range of other aspirations: many non-London based users would be willing to pay for remote digital access to collections, there is a demand for a book lending service, and all groups say they would welcome longer opening hours and more social spaces.

To read the findings of the full report, please click here. We value the feedback and ideas expressed throughout the research and the survey results will inform our final decision-making process.

Design update

The second development to report on is that we have received preliminary design ideas from the architects engaged to investigate the feasibility of housing the Library in the former Gallery space at BFI Southbank.

These designs show the proposition is a sound one and that we can achieve a first phase of Library modernisation and relocation in the spaces available.

The go ahead

There are a number of other issues to consider before we make a final decision on whether to proceed with the move. But based on the findings of both the survey and the architect designs, we are satisfied we have sufficient evidence to proceed with our ambition.

In the immediate future we are finalising the business case to enable us to make a decision on whether to proceed with the South Bank option, what would be entailed in supporting this move, e.g. digitisation, acoustic engineering, etc, as well as a timeframe and budget. Options we are considering will include both a fast-track and a longer-term development timeframe.

We anticipate making a final decision in late January/early February and I will keep you updated on progress.

 

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