The first morning of the ALIA National Conference started with keynote speaker Roly Keating, from the British Library, who spoke of the challenges that the Library faced as it adapted to the digital age. Roly is Chief Executive of the Library, moving from the BBC in 2012 where he was Director, Archive Content.
Although the collections cover the vast richness of not only British but indeed world history the British Library itself, as a national library, is a relatively young institution, having only been established in 1973 (by the British Library Act 1972). The Library was recently relocated to a new purpose built building in St Pancras, an unpopular move in some minds as this area is located in undesirable disused railway yards. However, as Roly pointed out using a Google Earth map – Google themselves are now taking up residence next door and so the neighbourhood is not as “bad” as it once may have seemed.
Roly gave an engaging talk about the many different roles that the British Library has in collecting, conserving and preserving materials and information. Firstly the Library has a pre-eminent place in preserving British history and in presenting Britain to the world. Whether this is through collaborating with scholars on a guide for young people for discovering British literature or the acquisition of a scrap of paper upon which John Lennon wrote the lyrics that Paul McCartney would appropriate to write “Penny Lane” or the plan to begin saving all sites with the .uk domain to preserve the “digital memory” of Britain, the idea is to showcase British history, life and culture to its people and the world.He also spoke about partnerships with outside organisations such as Google to digitise collections, and the future potential of crowd sourcing and open source labs to open up collections and materials for future use. Roly also spoke about the need for library staff to evolve in the way that we work. We need to rapidly develop new skills. We need to collaborate/connect/digitise and work together for deep, rich, interconnected archive.
For more insights on Roly’s talk see: