Living Knowledge blog

14 March 2022

Behind the scenes at the British Library: Tasha McNaught, Marketing and Communications Manager

This month we’re in Yorkshire with Marketing and Communications Manager, Tasha McNaught.

Tasha McNaughtTasha McNaught

What’s the role?

Tasha is based at our Boston Spa site, near Wetherby, where she’s in charge of publicising, promoting and developing audiences for the British Library’s presence in West Yorkshire.

‘I support our work to transform Boston Spa into a sustainable, visitor-friendly home for our growing collection. So far I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the site and all of the improvements we plan to make and thinking about what marketing and communications work the project needs for the next five years. Because we’re the national library of the United Kingdom, it’s really important that we tell the public what we’re up to – like sharing the approval of our planning application for the Boston Spa redevelopment.

Boston Spa is only half of my job though! We’re also making our mark on the city of Leeds. From taking part in Light Night Leeds and other city-wide festivals, to organising family activity days and teacher training sessions, we are connecting with thousands of people in the region. I book advertising to promote our programme of events, activities – and soon, exhibitions – to people in the city and beyond. It’s so wonderful to be part of Leeds’s buzzing cultural scene, and work with great organisations in the city like Leeds Museums and Galleries, Child Friendly Leeds and people’s theatre creators Slung Low.

Part of the Library’s Light Night Leeds 2021 installation. Photograph: Abbie Jennings.Part of the Library’s Light Night Leeds 2021 installation. Photograph: Abbie Jennings.

Tasha also supports a programme to establish a major new British Library site in Leeds.

‘Right now we’re investigating Temple Works – a disused textile mill in Holbeck – as a potential site. I’m conducting audience research to find out what people in the region want and need from us, so the project team can design a site and services that will make a positive impact.’

Exterior image of Temple Works, South Bank, Leeds. Photo by Harry ArcherExterior image of Temple Works, South Bank, Leeds. Photo by Harry Archer

How did you get the job?

Tasha studied Philosophy at university. A lucky choice of summer internship led to a part time marketing job with her university’s fitness and leisure facilities, which then turned into a full time job after graduating - ‘rather ironic considering I absolutely detested PE at school.’ Tasha then moved to a marketing role at the National Railway Museum, York.

‘I loved using my marketing skills to persuade people to learn and have fun! I love the idea of museums as centres for lifelong learning and inspiration, and the National Railway Museum’s focus on engineering and STEM skills fulfilled that for me. I loved spending time getting to know the enormous collection and all the human stories it contained, and using my communication skills to share those stories with the public. Now I can’t imagine working outside of the culture sector.’

What’s your favourite object in our collection?

‘I visited our St Pancras site a few years before I worked at the Library and was mesmerised by handwritten letters and papers in the Treasures Gallery. My job at the time was working with a collection filled with gigantic steam locomotives; feats of engineering. I think the contrast of a delicate, personal and intimate object is what drew me to the documents. The contents varied between the domestic, the official and the monumental, but it was their own hand that made them special to me. History felt more tangible.’

What do you love about the Library?

Tasha’s heart belongs to Boston Spa. ‘Between the brutalist architecture, the wartime history of the site and the automated storage systems, it’s impossible not to be fascinated by it.’

‘Boston Spa’s Urquhart building is stunning – the waffle ceilings, the tinted brown glass, the distinct shade of mid-century brown stained wood. I watched Marvel’s Loki last year and seeing the architecture of the Time Variance Authority in that was like walking around the Urquhart! Having said that – the low ceilings and lack of natural light aren't ideal. I’m looking forward to seeing the planned redevelopment works do justice to the architectural style, while making it fit for 21st century working.’

Urquhart Building
The Urquhart Building

There are also two storage buildings on site that use robots to move the collection around.

‘OK, they’re not technically robots. But the automated storage system is pretty incredible – and the next one in our planned new low-carbon storage building will be even better.’

‘The site has a really long history of being innovative and forward-thinking. In fact, one of my favourite photos of the site is from the 1970s and it shows a display that boasts about “the information storage and documentation medium of the future” – compact discs! Maybe in 50 years time someone will look at our automated storage technology and find it just as funny.’


Any book recommendations for our readers?

Tasha tried reading some of ‘the classics’ during the first lockdown and ended up with a new favourite book – The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

‘It really moved me, and I love how Hemingway uses such simple language and structure to communicate such profound ideas. It really shows that there’s no excuse for complicated and inaccessible communication!’

Click here to find out how to visit the Reading Room at Boston Spa.

You find out more about our plans for transforming Boston Spa by clicking here.