Letter: Overdue at the library

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Sir: Catherine Delano Smith's letter of 4 July ('British Library readers ill-served') raises the serious issues about services in the British Library's Bloomsbury reading rooms.

Services to readers are indeed much poorer than our readers require or deserve at a time of very high demand. While we are doing all we can to improve them, for instance by appointing additional staff for both retrieval and delivery, the environment is an unsuitable one from which we did not expect still to be having to run a service at all. Additional catalogue terminals are also being installed, but there are significant constraints on how much new technology can be put into Bloomsbury. In addition, storage conditions are inadequate for this world famous collection of books and other documents.

The heart of the matter is that, despite the deep love we all share for the Round Reading Room, only the building presently under construction at St Pancras will provide service conditions such that the answers to all of Dr Smith's questions will be 'yes'.

I hope I can reassure Dr Smith that the Library's staff share her frustration over the wait for better services. We shall continue to do all we can to serve her and others at Bloomsbury; when St Pancras opens we shall be on our mettle to demonstrate our commitment to serving research in a manner which does a great institution, and its readers, justice.

Yours faithfully,

BRIAN LANG

Chief Executive

The British Library

London, NW1

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