New BFI library June update

BFI Library News  June 2012

The new BFI Library is open for business

We are delighted to welcome you to the reopened BFI Library in its exciting brand-new purpose-built home in the heart of London’s cultural quarter, ahead of its formal launch in September.

In just four months, the BFI Library has gone from design concept to a fully-realised modern library offering much greater access and free entry to one of the world’s leading centres of film and television knowledge. It also has a brand new Saturday service, regular longer weekday opening hours and increased digitisation of resources.

The move to the former Gallery space at BFI Southbank allows the Library, for the first time, to develop a single and coherent creative vision across the venue, bringing together the whole BFI offer in one place – from the Mediatheque and programming, to Education and Collections. It also enables us to take full advantage of the huge benefits of opening in time for the busy 2012 summer with the Cultural Olympiad and the Olympics creating an unprecedented focus on the capital.

Almost 30% more of the BFI collections are now accessible on open shelves in the new space and visitors can also access information on the collections from one central database. State of the art digital scanners will make it easier and quicker to carry out research as well as being more environmentally-friendly than traditional photocopiers. Among the first tranche of press cuttings to be made available digitally will be the entire Alfred Hitchcock collection – dating back to the 1930s when the Library originally opened and including up until 2010 – to support the BFI’s far-ranging Genius of Hitchcock Cultural Olympiad programme of restorations, screenings, talks and events. A core ambition of the digitisation programme is to make the entire press cuttings collection available as fully searchable digitised images by September 2012 to tie in with the official launch of the new Library.

We thank all our users for their patience throughout the construction period and during the Library’s four-week closure and we look forward to seeing you in our new home very soon.

Emma Smart, BFI Library Manager

New BFI library opening dates

The BFI has announced the opening date for the new BFI Library: 

The BFI Library is moving to a new purpose-built home in our venue at BFI Southbank as part of a major modernisation andrefurbishment programme to make it more accessible, to attract new users, and to integrate its considerable resources into our public and cultural programmes

Work on the project began in early March and is scheduled over three months. This notice is to let you know that the Library will close while we physically move its contents to the new site and we are setting up measures to provide alternative access during this period. The closure dates are Monday 14 May to Tuesday 12 JuneThe new Library will re-open for business on 12 June ahead of a formal launch in September 2012.

This significant investment includes increasing digitisation of Library material, free access, a brand new Saturday service and regular longer weekday opening hours.


Plans for new BFI national library go ahead

BFI National Library February 2012
I am pleased to start this bulletin with the exciting news that we have been given the go-ahead for our plans to modernise the BFI National Library.In the first phase we will relocate the service from Stephen Street to a new purpose-built space at BFI Southbank, we will increase digitisation and, from 1 April 2012, access will be free of charge. Following survey feedback from many of our users the new Library will also offer a Saturday service and regular longer weekday opening hours.This significant refurbishment will make the Library more accessible, attract new users, and integrate its considerable resources into our public and cultural programmes.

The project will be carried out over two to three months starting in early March. The new Library will be accessed from June 2012 with a formal launch in September 2012.

The final plans were noted by the BFI Board of Governors last week after months of intensive investigation into the design, costings, feasibility and business case including a tender process for architects and contractors.

Creative vision

The Library will be relocated to the former Gallery space at BFI Southbank enabling us, for the first time, to develop a single, coherent creative vision across the venue and to bring together the whole BFI offer in one place – from the Mediatheque and programming, to Education and Collections.

The relatively short build and relocation timeframe offers the BFI some great opportunities as well as a big challenge. Principally, it enables us to take full advantage of the huge benefits of opening the Library in time for the busy 2012 summer with the Cultural Olympiad and the Olympics creating an unprecedented focus on the capital. The South Bank will be at the centre of cultural activities and the Library can be launched right into the heart of our own contribution to the Olympiad.

Progress reports

For more information on the project and regular updates, including questions on membership refunds, changes to service hours, etc, please visit our website where we will also add news as the refurbishment progresses. For frequently asked questions about the proposed Library changes, click here.

Heather Stewart, Creative Director, BFI

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.


BFI National Library newsletter

Newsletter circulated by the BFI today:

BFI National Library update November 2011

The BFI is facing huge and exciting changes across all areas of its business since it became the lead body for film in April this year. It is a uniquely important time as we look to create a vision and framework for a new era for film.

As part of this new chapter for the BFI, we are exploring ways to modernise and expand the offering of the BFI National Library, to create the leading centre for film knowledge in the UK both as a physical place to visit and online for everyone. Key to this aim is increased digitisation and greater integration with our public and cultural programmes.

 You are receiving this newsletter as a friend, user, supporter or member of the Library to update you with developments to date and the options we are exploring.

As some of you already know, we have been investigating the options around relocating the Library from its current home in Stephen Street to our nearby venue on London’s South Bank. For the first time, this means we could develop a single, coherent creative vision across the venue that would bring together the whole BFI offer in one place – from the Mediatheque and programming, to Education and Collections.

World class

We want the new Library to continue to deliver a world-class specialist service for the scholarly film researcher, while also being a welcoming space for both the casual and first-time user. Our ambition is to integrate library services into the public offer at BFI Southbank by creating a space that sits well in the building, allows us to contribute and participate in existing educational, cultural and programming activities, and which encourages visitors to the BFI Southbank to use the facility and enhance their film-going experience.

We have been pleased with initial positive responses to our proposals while also acknowledging other concerns that the move will reduce our existing services or make access more difficult. The services will change but our committed aim is to improve, modernise and expand our Library offering.

Since we announced this proposal at the end of last year, we have set up a core project team to carry out detailed investigation and planning work, to explore funding and development options and to consider how best we could use the former Gallery space at BFI Southbank to achieve a phased roll out of our Library ambition.

To help us in this exploration and produce a great solution both for Library users and the BFI we have tendered and will shortly brief a firm of architects to draw up a creative concept for the space available at BFI Southbank. We want a modern and flexible physical environment through which a wider audience can connect to the knowledge resources held by the Library. The design response should be complete in December and it will be used to inform a decision on the next phase of the Library development – including timeframe, scope and cost.


We have also begun widespread consultation around a new Library and earlier this month we launched an online survey to around 3,400 targeted stakeholders, including many of the recipients of this newsletter. The survey will help build a picture of how and who the current Library is used by as well as visitor/member needs and aspirations. We have held a number of focus groups with further one-on-one interviews planned to inform future decisions.  Several communities of interest have already been involved in discussions and we will continue to publicise our ideas as the project progresses through this newsletter.

Heather Stewart, Creative Director, BFI