Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

06 October 2020

Our role in renewal: Living Knowledge For Everyone

British-Library-Re-Opens_174-smaller.jpgToday we publish a new document, called Living Knowledge For Everyone, that sets out the contribution we will make to the urgent task of renewal in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The hard work of planning and implementing the safe restoration of our spaces and services in the face of the pandemic has been our priority since lockdown. We have been delighted to welcome back readers and exhibition visitors to the Library in recent months, albeit with the necessary restrictions. And we are innovating vibrant new digital offers to ensure that throughout lockdown and subsequent social distancing restrictions, users across the UK are able to engage with and benefit from the extraordinary national collection as much as possible.

British-Library-Re-Opens_148-smaller.jpgThe Library's first Reading Rooms re-opened to researchers on 22 July. 

But we have also been working hard on the vital question of how and where the Library can deliver the most public value in the months and years ahead, in a time of national crisis. The launch today of our new Reset.Restart service for entrepreneurs and small businesses across the country, delivered through our Business & IP Centre national network, is one example. It’s an urgent response to the immediate challenges being faced by one of the Library’s key user groups – and who are a key engine of future economic recovery.

Likewise, the Treasury-funded expansion of the national network to 20 regional centres (outside of London) and 90 local centres in libraries across England (in addition to an existing service in Glasgow) over the next three years offers a unique opportunity to provide support at scale to those working at the coalface to restart the UK economy.

Our planned investments, in Yorkshire and St Pancras, in major new physical infrastructure offer further strategic opportunities to catalyse economic growth: transforming access to our collections and services and securing employment opportunities in the North of England, while attracting global inward investment in biomedical research, data sciences, and learning, in the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter.

But economic growth and innovation is only one part of our response for renewal. We also believe that social cohesion, in the face of the pandemic trauma, will be vital. We are fortunate to work with wide, diverse networks of partners across the library, culture, and research sectors who generate tremendous benefits for people and communities across the country. A key objective of our plans for the coming months and years will be to strengthen the infrastructure we provide to these networks as they respond to the current challenges, while at the same time opening up our content, services and spaces to more people and communities across the UK and beyond.

The vision, strategy and purposes set out five years ago in Living Knowledge remain our guiding light in the run-up to our 50th birthday in 2023, and what we’re publishing today is not a replacement.  Rather, it’s a commitment to re-double our efforts in delivering on some of our existing ambitions – like business support, science and innovation, regional impact, and inclusion and diversity – at a time when the UK has never needed them more. 

Roly Keating

Chief Executive