Featured comment on proposals for BFI library

Comment from Patricia Holland:

As a BFI member of many years standing I would like to add my voice to the many hundreds you have no doubt received objecting in particular to the reduction of the BFI Library.  A new ‘orientation’ towards ‘the public’ rather than ‘researchers and students’ poses a false dichotomy.  Researchers and students are members of the public, and any member of the public may engage in research.  I know from my own experience that  many people move between one and the other.  One of the great glories of the BFI has been its promotion of film culture for its own sake, as well as in the service of specific courses and qualifications. The BFI library -and the expert staff who run it- is a national resource which should not be reduced or cut back. (If the library is re-located in the much smaller Gallery space at the Southbank it is also unclear how the holdings will be accessed on behalf of readers.)

As a general point, the BFI is already the ‘lead body for film in the UK’.  Its future development into the digital era, following excellent initiatives such as the Mediatheque, should be seen as building on its long track record, which includes original and innovative research and publications.  The organisation’s strength has been the ability to make links between the different activities which are necessary to the promotion of a healthy film culture -including the Archive, the broad and innovative programmes mounted at the National Film Theatre, the books and DVDs, the website and so on as well as the Library. It should celebrate this broad range and make sure it is protected in the future.

The BFI should be careful not to fall into the trap set by the current government to push an important cultural activity, which depends heavily on public funding, towards an inappropriate dependence on commercial ‘business opportunities’ and ‘sponsorship’ which may change the nature of the organisation.