Letter: British Library fees

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Sir: It is not unfair to ask academics like myself to defray the expenses of the new British Library ("Fee plan for new library", 23 June). However the plan is short-sighted.

It is "penny wise, pound foolish" to invest heavily in a world-class institution and then adopt policies that will reduce usage. Only about one third of the seats are currently being used and fees will reduce the number of users.

The policy will bring some pounds to the library but will deter some foreign scholars who spend considerable sums while residing in London; to reduce the number hardly helps the balance of payments. Although for established academics the proposed fees are manageable, they will be a significant deterrent to postgraduate students and younger scholars, British and foreign.

Most sadly, the plan undercuts a long and honourable tradition that has made the British Library a mecca for scholars from around the world. What a shame to undercut that reputation and reduce the Library's influence just as the Queen opens the splendid new facility. The fees may be fair, but are they wise?


History Department

State University of New York at Brockport

Brockport, New York, USA