The British Library is planning a huge injection of private money that could see curators being sponsored by Tesco and services run for profit by big business.
The Independent on Sunday can reveal that barely four years after its £520m London home was finally completed, the library is to undergo a radical commercial makeover to attract more funds.
Sponsorship ideas being floated by library directors include creating posts that might include a "Tesco curator for cookery" or an anthropology librarian funded by Endemol, producers of reality TV show Big Brother. Even a "Railtrack wing" could be possible, the library confirmed last week. Private bidders may also be asked to pay the salaries of new specialists in other "fashionable areas" such as gardening, sport and DIY. The libraryis also considering plans to invite private investors to build and run new facilities.
Directors are also planning new merchandise, ranging from postcards of paintings in George III's watercolour collection to replicas of the leather and oak chairs used in the reading rooms.
Library chief executive Lynne Brindley last night denied that the use of public-private partnerships and more business patronage would lead to privatisation by the back door.
"There is absolutely no question of the core services of the library, the collecting, cataloguing and long-term preservation of manuscripts, being privatised," she said.
However, Ms Brindley said major new sources of funding were needed to finance the library's ongoing drive to digitise key items from its 150 million-strong collection to create an "online bookshelf" available anywhere in the world.
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