The British Library have published their strategy for the next three years. The document is admirably well-designed, clear and, at 16 pages, concise. It sets out the Library’s purpose and aims then summarises various “catalysts for change” and elaborating seven strategic priorities. Key objectives for each priority are delineated.
The British Library (BL) is concerned with the whole realm of knowledge but they do pay particular attention to science. They are developing a content strategy for Science, Technology and Medicine researchers and they are committed to focus more on the particular characteristics and needs of researchers according to discipline. They show awareness of current research fashion in their intention to develop an interdisciplinary focus. Nature Network readers will not be surprised to learn that the BL will support and sustain cross-disciplinary research by building virtual research communities.
The document is largely free of management-speak, though I was not too sure about change is gradually transforming traditional scholarly dependency on the physical library as a major source for meeting research needs into a complex network of options, with varying levels of accessibility, authoritativeness and depth. It started well but then gets a little vague. The rest of the Catalysts for Change section is a good overview of current currents. Here are some excerpts as a stream of consciousness:
Growth in multidisciplinary research … More large-scale scientific research through international collaborations … Research impact measurements… More research in Russia, China and India… Evidence-based research for policy making…Researchers want everything to be available on the web immediately, permanently and preferably free of charge…Large quantities of research data in digital form – should be preserved and publicly available…Demand for images and sounds in digital form…Growing demand among all users for information services to be consistent with the Internet experience…Many lack essential search skills and are far from fully information literate or Intellectual Property literate…Growth of Open Access…More born digital and e-only…Consolidation in STM publishers…Internet search industry is growing fast…e-book use is growing…The web is revolutionising the way researchers work…the roles of publisher, library, aggregator and author are converging.
The seven priorities and some of the action points are:
- Capture extensively and store UK digital publications (more e-deposit)
- Connect our users with content (better searching of BL catalogues, with web 2 stuff. Look at digitisation and textmining as alternatives to traditional cataloguing. Work with JISC more)
- Transform access and preservation for newspaper collection
- Support UK research with innovative services and
- Build our digital infrastructure (Continue to build our digital library system for storing
- Develop storage and preservation for the physical collection
integrated processes (work towards providing an e-infrastructure to support UK research; UKPMC; work with Research Councils on interdisciplinary themes; test the Research Information Centre; develop service models for shared library services to corporate libraries)
and preserving many kinds of e-materials; Enable long-term preservation of digital items)
- Develop as an organisation (ensure staff have the right skills to deliver the objectives)
On the same day that I saw the BL strategy document I also saw an announcement from the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR), or what used to be the DTI. This concerned an action plan to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications industries that the Minister, Lord Carter, is to develop by Spring 2009. The plan will bring together extensive expert analysis to develop a strategy for a fully digital Britain. The title ‘Digital Britain’ doesn’t inspire me – it sounds so 1990s.
The plan will also look at issues such as Internet user security and safety and a workable approach to promoting content standards. And it mentions Universal access to high quality, public service content through appropriate mechanisms for a converged digital age and work to deliver a digital copyright framework. These all sound like areas of interest to the British Library too, and I note that although BERR does not directly control the BL it does provide some funding to the BL. I wonder if the BL will get a mention in this action plan?