Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Living Knowledge: the value of national libraries

Caroline Brazier, Chief Librarian of the British Library, started her 2 May Library and Archives Canada Wallot-Sylvestre Seminar presentation “Living Knowledge: the value of national libraries” with a quote from Albert Einstein
"The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library"
The presentation more than lived up to the billing: "Ms. Brazier will explore the different ways in which we can look at the benefits which come from national libraries and the ways in which they are delivering their services and developing in a networked world."

A few notes:

The six core purposes of the British Library are first and foremost custodianship, and services for research, business, culture, learning, international.

A survey of visitors to the British Library at St Pancras showed the primary purpose of the visit was cultural (visiting exhibition, tour) for 32%, academic research  for 30%, personal escape (meeting friends, visiting cafe or gift shop) for 21%, individual research for 10% and work for 7%.

Economic surveys show the British Library returns about 4.5 times as much in national economic benefit as the government invests. (What would the equivalent benefit be for other government services and how much of that would find its way back to government?)

The British Library was recently voted as having the best coffee in London. No expectation of LAC receiving that accolade in Ottawa!

The British Library is a hub for The Alan Turing Institute and and a player in a network of knowledge organizations within a radius of one mile.

There are an estimated 750 million newspaper pages at the British Library Newspaper collection. (there are presently 14 million pages in the online British Newspaper Archive with a target of 30 million for the present digitization agreement. A long way to go yet!)

The British Library made a deliberate decision not to become involved in large scale digitization of its legacy book collection, although some treasures are available. That may change.

Librarian and Archivist of Canada Guy Berthiaume must surely have been envious of the potential that the British Library is able to capitalise on from its facility.

The seminar was streamed live to LAC facilities across the country. It's unfortunate there's a two or more month delay, if I understand correctly attributable to bilingualism requirements, in making the video of these presentations more generally available. For the time being see tweets with hashtag #RWSS

For an interview with Caroline Brazier and Guy Berthiaume on CBC Ottawa Morning go to National Archives and Head of British Library at http://www.cbc.ca/ottawamorning/episodes/

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