Newspapers on the Move

newspapersThe British Library announced in March 2007 major plans to move its historic newspaper collection from Colindale in North London to Boston Spa in Yorkshire. It is anticipated that by 2011 access to the Newspaper Library will be at St Pancras by means of microfilm or digital copies (referred to as surrogates), with access to the original documents being allowed only in exceptional circumstances.

In order to find out more about the implications of this announcement, Roger Lewry (Joint FFHS Archives Liaison Officer) spoke to Dr Simon Marcelli, corporate strategist at the British Library, who explained that the Library's responsibility to the collection and to the nation is not just about giving access today, but also ensuring that it is preserved for future generations.

Fifteen percent of the collection is already unavailable to readers because of its poor condition and a further 19% is at high risk, and will soon have to be withdrawn from use. Simon estimates that surrogates exist for about 34% of the collection already and in less than 1% of cases are they unable to supply either the original document or a copy.

However, Simon agreed that by the time the Colindale site is closed and access to original documents is virtually withdrawn, it is most unlikely that sufficient additional surrogates will have been produced to ensure a level of service comparable to that enjoyed at present. It could take a further five years before digitisation has caught up. Where the Library cannot meet a request because it does not have a surrogate, it will seek to assist the reader by tracking down other sources where possible. It may be that a record of unsuccessful requests for material will be maintained and used to determine future priorities for copying. Priority will be given to British material over that from overseas.

In a written communication it was stated that a member of the public will need to become a full reader at St Pancras to access the surrogate material. Anyone who can show that they have a reason why they need access to the collection can obtain a pass. More information, can be found at www.bl.uk/services/reading/admissions.html

Reader reference staff at St Pancras will have training in newspapers, and those currently at Colindale will be encouraged to move to the Reading Rooms in St Pancras

The full text of the press release can be read on the Internet at www.bl.uk/news/2007/pressrelease20070301.html

Article from the website of the Federation of Family History Societies