Knowledge, Inspiration, Innovation

From Magnificent Maps to Multimedia Pods - the British Library’s Annual Report 2010/11 is now available online - http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/annrep/2010to2011/index.html

Throughout the year, the British Library found new ways to extend access to the world’s knowledge, inspire visitors and users, and deliver service in innovative ways.

Among the many highlights contained in the Annual Report 2010/11 are:

  • The opening of the Harry M Weinrebe Learning Centre in September 2010. The Centre has since set a new onsite record of 26,566 participants.
  • The Library had over 812,000 visitors to its public exhibitions and events.
  • The Business & IP Centre exceeded its targets. A grant was submitted to the European Regional Development Fund and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with Newcastle City Library.
  • Use of UKPubMed Central, which the Library provided to bioscience researchers with the University of Manchester and the European Business Institute, increased strongly – one million downloads were recorded for March 2011.
  • Inspired by a mutual desire to strengthen and enhance cultural relations and provide cultural co-operation and exchange, an MOU was signed between the Ministry of Culture, India, the British Library, British Museum, and the V&A.
  • The Library achieved the £4 million a year reduction required by DCMS and laid much of the groundwork required to deliver further reductions in future years.
  • Baroness Blackstone became the ninth Chairman of the Library.
In her introduction to the Annual Report, Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library said: “I am particularly pleased at the great strides we are making in building productive partnerships with other organisations. By pooling our talents and resources, we believe our users can benefit enormously.”

Dame Lynne added: “The British Library will undoubtedly experience a number of years in a difficult financial climate, as public funding is constrained. I recognise that this puts additional strain on all our staff, and I thank them for their continuing commitment to the Library and their energetic and dedicated approach to their work. Together we will focus our energies to re-shape and develop our services, invest in our collections and realise the digital developments which underpin long-term relevance of the British Library for the 21st century.”

The year saw a strong emphasis on the future, with landmark innovations and major steps to increase digital access, as well as the launch of innovative services, many in partnership with other leading organisations.

There was continued digitisation, with a decision to fully digitise more than a quarter of the Library’s Greek manuscripts, 284 volumes in total, which are now freely available online. A ten-year partnership with online publisher brightsolid was announced to digitise up to 40 million pages of historic newspapers. The agreement represented a major step towards the Library’s strategic goal of securing long-term preservation of, and access to, the national newspaper collection.

The Library also launched its first smartphone App this year – Treasures of the British Library - featuring treasures from the Sir John Riblat Gallery. Created in partnership with Toura, it was recently featured as an App to watch in The Sunday Times.

The Annual Report 2010/11 also highlights a number of ways in which services for users were directly enhanced. Changes to ‘Search our Catalogue’ now offers faster access to more than 58 million records. The ‘Ask a Reference Team’ online service helps users direct their questions and track enquiries, enabling a knowledge base that can be shared with other organisations. When the Management and Business Studies Portal was launched (www.mbsportal.bl.uk), delivering access to management research publications, more than 1,000 users registered within three months.

The Library also made a number of acquisition announcements in the 2010/11 period, including:
  • The launch of a major £9 million fundraising campaign to acquire the 7th century Anglo-Saxon manuscript, St Cuthbert Gospel for the nation
The acquisition of the following collections:
  • Harold Pinter’s collection of awards and honours presented throughout his career, including the writer’s 2005 Nobel Prize medal
  • King Henry VIII’s Prayer Roll – a unique roll that contains one of only three surviving examples of the King’s handwriting before his accession in 1509
  • Letters sent by Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath to Olwyn Hughes – 41 letters and other literary papers including unseen early poetry
  • J G Ballard’s archive including the first draft of Empire of the Sun.
Spectacular highlights from the Library’s collections were showcased in a series of outstanding exhibitions, making 2010/11 the most successful year to date for the Library’s public programme which attracted over 812,000 visitors.

227,000 people visited Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art which showcased 100 of the world’s greatest maps in re-created original settings, dating from 200AD to the present day, making it the most successful exhibition ever held at the Library. This was followed by Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices, an exhibition exploring the English Language from Anglo-Saxon runes to modern day rap, that attracted over 10,000 visitors to contribute a recording of a page from Mr Tickle for study by the Library’s accents and dialects team.

At the centre of the Library’s Innovation Season was Growing Knowledge: The Evolution of Research, which aimed to consult Library users on the usefulness of future research technologies and showcase the latest research tools in a fully interactive environment, many for the first time. This exhibition was developed in partnership with Microsoft Research, HP, JISC, Haworth, Sony and many other partners.

This year’s Annual Report can be found here - http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/annrep/2010to2011/index.html


For more information contact:

  • Ben Sanderson
  • The British Library
  • t:+44 (0) 1937 546 126
  • m:+44 (0) 7810 056848
  • f:+44 (0) 20 7412 7168
  • e: ben.sanderson@bl.uk


The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.  



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