Dear Amanda Nevill,
We write to express our concern about the Institute’s plans for the
BFI National Library. We, and our students and scholarly peers, have
all benefited from access to the Library which, I’m sure we’re at one
with you in claiming, is one of the world’s great collections of books
and periodicals about cinema and television. Generations of critics
and scholars have enjoyed the priceless resource of the BFI library
and benefited from the expertise and dedication of the BFI library
staff. However the removal of parts, one of your colleagues has used
the word “much”, of the collection from an accessible site in central
London to the archive store in Berkhamsted threatens to reduce the
usefulness of the Library in very large measure.
On site access to books, journals, press cuttings and unpublished
materials such as the Library (and the allied Special Collections) is
invaluable. Increasing the number of works that will require fetching
from Berkhamsted will seriously reduce the useability and usefulness
of the BFI National Library’s collection. Providing an access point at
Berkhamsted will do little to mitigate the loss of access in central
London – a site at Berkhamsted with no public transport running
between archive and the nearest railway station will be used by
considerably few scholars and readers – as the BFI’s consultancy study
The BFI National Library has underpinned the growth of UK film and
moving image scholarship – which has in turn supported the UK’s
thriving cultural and creative industries. The Library attracts
significant numbers of overseas scholars testifying both to the
excellence and comprehensiveness of its collection and to the
contribution its users make to the “tourist” economy. Many such
scholars have spontaneously testified to the Library’s importance and
to their horror at what’s proposed for it. We are also concerned that
the BFI National Library will be reconfigured as part of the
Institute’s reorientation to ‘audience development’. No one would deny
the BFI has a responsibility to the general public. However, we
believe the best way of serving that public is not to cut off the root
that has fostered and sustained the UK’s lively moving image culture.
Our professional lives have been committed to developing moving image
knowledge and culture in the UK (and elsewhere). We are not opposed –
how could we be when we are in daily professional contact with
students? – to extending public access to the BFI’s collections. But
this is not a simple matter of opening the doors wider: rather it
involves maintaining the research on and curation of moving image
material which only a particular sort of library can foster. A kind of
library that the BFI has thus far successfully provided but, it seems,
may not do so in the future.
You will probably know of the online petition expressing concern about
the BFI’s proposals for its library – at
http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42006.html – and we have been
struck by how much support this has attracted in a very short time.
Our concern is shared by many and, as you may also know, the issue has
been covered in the national press – see the report at
We are not aware of any consultation with library users still less
with donors to the collection – some of whom made gifts because the
BFI offered central London access. Another solution must be found.
And if the BFI believes its priorities mean curtailing access to one
of the UK’s key intellectual resources then the BFI National Library
should find a home elsewhere. Merger with the British Library seems a
solution worth investigating further. We believe the BFI must talk to
users who are most directly affected by this disastrous decision and
who, like us, can see the long-term and wide-ranging damage which will
be done by such a decision. We urge you to meet a group of us to
explore how together we can preserve and develop this indispensible
From the following UK Professors of Film and Media Studies.
Professor Tim Bergfelder. University of Southampton.
Professor Charlotte Brunsdon, University of Warwick.
Professor Robert Burgoyne. University of St Andrews.
Professor Edward Buscombe. Former Head BFI Publishing.
Professor John Caughie. University of Glasgow.
Professor Richard Collins. The Open University.
Professor Pam Cook. University of Southampton.
Professor Elizabeth Cowie. University of Kent.
Professor John Ellis. Royal Holloway College. University of London.
Professor Christine Geraghty. University of Glasgow.
Professor Christine Gledhill. University of Sunderland.
Professor Mark Jancovich. University of East Anglia.
Professor Dina Iordanova. University of St Andrews.
Professor Annette Kuhn. Queen Mary College. University of London.
Dr Barry Langford. Royal Holloway College, University of London.
Professor Laura Mulvey. Birkbeck College, University of London.
Professor Steve Neale. University of Exeter.
Professor Murray Smith. University of Kent.
Professor Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. Queen Mary College. University of London.
Dr Peter Stanfield. University of Kent.
Professor Sarah Street. University of Bristol.
Professor Yvonne Tasker. University of East Anglia.
Professor Terry Threadgold, Pro Vice Chancellor, Cardiff University.
Professor Ginette Vincendeau. King’s College. University of London.
Professor Linda Ruth Williams. University of Southampton.