Protest over BFI library move

Rob Sharp,Arts Correspondent
Wednesday 19 January 2011 01:00
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Britain’s top film academics are protesting against plans to move one of Britain’s best film book libraries to a new location in a bid to save costs.

The British Film Institute (BFI) is mooting proposals to split the contents of its current library, at its base just off London’s Tottenham Court Road, between its National Archive Facility in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire and its premises on London’s South Bank. The move is part of a drive to cut costs by 15 per cent over the next year.

In a letter to the BFI seen by The Independent, 25 film studies professors, including the University of Southampton's Professor Pam Cook, whose cinema books are required reading for film students nationwide, have damned the move.

“It’s as if the British Library were to move to Hertfordshire,” reads the letter. “The BFI National Library has underpinned the growth of UK film and moving image scholarship, which has in turn supported the UK’s thriving cultural and creative industries. We are not aware of any consultation with library users, who, incidentally, pay an annual fee for the service, still less with donors to the collection – some of whom made gifts because the BFI offered central London access.”

The BFI claims the move will increase public access to its collections and make delivery of its library services more efficient.

“It is imperative the BFI builds on its successes and remains commercially astute in this tough new environment,” said BFI director Amanda Nevill upon announcing the proposals late last year. “We have an incredible opportunity in the months and years ahead to create something very special for film in the UK and these proposals are both bold and necessary”.

The BFI will also need to lose 37 staff in the cost-saving measures, which will see a portion of the BFI’s books digitised. The institution is discussing its plans with a design consultant to see if a greater number of books can go on display at the South Bank location.

“Another solution must be found if the BFI insists on curtailing access to one of the UK’s key intellectual resources,” continued the letter. “A merger with the British Library seems the most promising solution. And the BFI must talk to users who are most directly affected by this disastrous decision and who, like us, can see the long-term and wide-ranging damage done by such a decision.”

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