07 April 2011
We write to express our concern, a concern shared by many in the UK and international film and media community, about the BFI management’s proposals for the Institute’s incomparable library. We have hoped that the changes proposed would improve access to and care of the collection but they promise to do the reverse.
Our views are well represented in the documents which accompany this letter to you: notably, the letter to the Director, signed by us and more than twenty other professors, and the petition of more than 1,000 signatories (available at http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42006.html ). The concern, to which these documents testify, has been echoed in the press – eg in The Independent, Sight and Sound, The New Statesman and The Times Higher Education Supplement. Since writing to the Director we have met her and her colleagues and take some comfort in their assurances and the undertakings made by Heather Stewart, by e-mail and in her statement in Sight and Sound. These assurances include a commitment to the library being a top priority and head of the investment list, public consultation on proposals, maintaining the level of professional expertise and qualifications among library staff, not worsening access to the ITC collection and maintaining the library acquisition budget. Heather has also referred to the risk to collections of printed materials posed by basement storage and we share her concern on this matter – not least because a basement next to the river Thames is, obviously, a riskier location than one in Stephen Street.
However, the Director has referred to April 2012 as the target date for implementing the library’s move to the South Bank – this is now only a year away and if public consultation is to be meaningful and capable of influencing the Institute’s decisions we are convinced that clear and detailed proposals – perhaps with modelled options – need to be made public very soon. We write now therefore to bring to your attention the pervasiveness of a high level of public and user concern over the future of the BFI National Library and the need soon to bring forward clear and detailed proposals for its future so that public consultation can be meaningful. The BFI National Library is an incomparable resource – its integrity, comprehensiveness and accessibility must not be worsened.
Professor Edward Buscombe
Professor Richard Collins
Professor Pam Cook
Professor Annette Kuhn