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

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Article about BFI library in ThreeD magazine

The MeCCSA newsletter ThreeD includes a feature about the BFI library in its April 2011 issue, which focuses on resistance to the cuts in Higher Education. To access a PDF of the article, click here:

BFI National Library: modernising or mothballing?

Library campaign letter to BFI governors

Today the following letter, together with individual copies of the campaign petition, was delivered by hand to each member of the BFI board of governors:

07 April 2011

Dear Governor,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Edward Buscombe

Professor Richard Collins

Professor Pam Cook

Professor Annette Kuhn

Notes from meeting with BFI management about library proposals

BFI management have asked that the notes of the meeting posted yesterday be taken  down until they have had a chance to amend them. We expect an agreed  version to be posted in the next couple of days.

Campaign petition now closed

The petition to keep the BFI Library together and accessible, which attracted 1143 signatures in one month, has now closed. The results, together with the comments, have been forwarded to BFI Director Amanda Nevill.

The campaign continues — watch this space for updates.

Letter about library proposals in THE

This letter appeared in the Times Higher Education on Friday 27 January 2011:

Rewrites required

27 January 2011

The British Film Institute plans to remove its collection from an accessible site in central London to its archive store in Berkhamsted – with no public transport running between the archive and the nearest railway station (“Fears of the cutting room floor: BFI plans alarm sector”, 20 January).

A few selected items may be retained at the BFI’s site on the South Bank; for the rest we are offered “digitised delivery”. But what can this mean when thousands of books in the collection do not exist in digitised form, nor is the BFI likely to ensure that they do?

The best way of serving the public is not to cut off the root that has fostered and sustained the UK’s lively moving image culture. We are not aware of any consultation with library users, still less with donors to the collection.

A merger with the British Library seems to be the most promising solution. The BFI must talk to users who are directly affected by this disastrous decision and who, like us, can see the long-term damage it will cause.

Tim Bergfelder, University of Southampton, Charlotte Brunsdon, University of Warwick, Robert Burgoyne, University of St Andrews, Edward Buscombe, former head of BFI Publishing, John Caughie, University of Glasgow, Richard Collins, The Open University, Pam Cook, University of Southampton, Elizabeth Cowie, University of Kent, John Ellis, Royal Holloway, University of London, Christine Geraghty, Glasgow, Christine Gledhill, University of Sunderland, Mark Jancovich, University of East Anglia, Dina Jordanova, St Andrews, Annette Kuhn, Queen Mary, University of London, Barry Langford, Royal Holloway, Laura Mulvey, Birkbeck, University of London, Steven Neale, University of Exeter, Murray Smith, Kent, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Queen Mary, Peter Stanfield, Kent, Sarah Street, University of Bristol, Yvonne Tasker, UEA, Terry Threadgold, pro vice-chancellor, Cardiff University, Ginette Vincendeau, King’s College London, Linda Ruth Williams, Southampton.

Times Higher Education – People news – Rewrites required