Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

3 posts from May 2022

23 May 2022

What’s in a name? Update on the Single Digital Presence project

Workshop 1Back in February, we updated on progress to develop a groundbreaking new digital platform for public libraries.

Since then we’ve been working with creative agency, FCB Inferno, to develop a name and identity for the platform. This work started in January with discussions with colleagues from across the sector, from the National Library of Scotland and Manchester Libraries to the Reading Agency and Libraries Connected.

We also conducted a YouGov survey with 2,000 people to develop our understanding of the use and perceptions of local libraries. Building upon all of our earlier research, this work helped FCB Inferno to understand in more depth the need and potential for the project, which will support local libraries in sharing content online and increase awareness of everything they have to offer.

Finding our purpose

This process helped establish a set of core values for what the new brand needs to convey. The many things that people can do at their local library. The creativity and innovation within libraries today. The role of libraries as a lifeline for anyone in need, from providing reading material in person and online to helping tackle loneliness and welcome refugees. And the fact that increasingly libraries are not only places where stories are kept but also spaces where you can create your own.

Everything we learnt we then distilled into one clear purpose: to empower every journey of discovery. Whether that’s tracking down your family history, researching your business idea or just finding a local reading group to join each week.

Developing an identity

In April work began to look at how we could bring this new brand to life, visually and verbally.  This kicked off with a collaborative workshop, with colleagues from both the Library and the Living Knowledge Network, where we explored the power of design language.

The workshop was a great opportunity for us to discuss how names and symbols help to create meaning for brands. We used the session to review some of the best brands delivering similar services to see how they’d developed their identity to capture their own values and purpose. To get an understanding of how and why brands have used different approaches, we studied a full spectrum of sectors from international archives and culture spaces to information platforms and community welfare services and charities.

Design workshop 1

In particular we took a revealing look at the importance of each element of these brands including colour and typography, and of course the all-important logo itself. Examining a number of relevant and well-known organisations, from Wikipedia to Spotify, we reflected on the decisions made behind everything from names and logos to their use of language and photography. This helped us to understand what brands are doing well, but also not so well, and to learn from their development journeys.


It was an eye-opening session that highlighted the thinking that goes into designing brands and how seemingly small details make a big difference. The key findings from the workshop are now being taken forward to help us develop the overall design direction for the new brand, which we’ll be sharing with colleagues from across the sector in the coming months.

Becca Mytton

Single Digital Presence Project Officer


16 May 2022

Library Lives: Morgan Wadsworth-Boyle, British Library St Pancras

A good librarian is a bit of a detective, I think – whether it’s hunting down a mis-shelved book or the answer to a question.’

In this month’s celebration of librarians, we’re back at the British Library to meet Morgan Wadsworth-Boyle.

Selfie MorganMorgan Wadsworth-Boyle

Tell us about your role

I’m one of the Loans Co-ordinators at the British Library. Our team organises the loan of Library materials to exhibitions around the world, and makes arrangements for borrowing items for British Library exhibitions. We get to see beautiful books, prints, maps, letters, photographs, from all areas of the library (there is no end to the incredible material the collection holds!) and make sure they are safe and secure to travel to new places to be seen by new people.

Where was your local library growing up?

My childhood library was the Ojai Library in California – it is a gorgeous library with a courtyard shaded by oak trees. Great for reading your new selections outdoors.

2022_05_03_Ojai LibraryOjai Library (Photo by Ron Solórzano, Regional Librarian, used with permission)

Why did you want to become a librarian?

I studied art history and was always interested in how art and books interacted with and influenced each other, from illuminated manuscripts to contemporary artist’s books. I think often the art of the book gave artists space to be a bit more playful or humorous – everyone loves a weird little dude! Murderous rabbits! Snail cats!

MarginaliaMarginalia from a 14th-century Breviary (Yates Thompson MS 8 f292r)

What is the most unexpected query you have helped someone with?

Working at my university library’s reference desk, I once had a panicked student rush up to ask, ‘Where are the books?!??’

Which library would you would most like to visit?

I’d love to visit the Joanina Library or the Library at the National Palace of Mafra in Portugal – they are both home to colonies of pipistrelle bats who serve as the pest control team.

Library in the Mafra National Palace, Portugal, used under Creative Commons licence

If you weren't doing your current job, what would you be?

I’ve done some exhibition design, and I loved creating an exhibition space that helped to tell the story as much as the items on display – getting to dig in and get hands-on to bring something from imagination to reality is such a great feeling.

Painting sign

Outside of work?

I love gardening – I’ve got a lot of learning to do, but I’m very proud of my massive dahlia! It reached 7 feet 4 inches last year.


How have things changed in libraries since you qualified?

When I was in library school, there was so much talk about virtual libraries and QR codes, which never really seemed very useful or possible to implement – but we’ve seen how far those have come in the last three years!

Favourite fictional librarian?

Irene from The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – or Evie from The Mummy – I love a librarian-adventurer with dubious collecting and object-handling practices (in fiction, not in reality!).

Can you recommend us a book?

I didn’t like short stories for a long time, but years ago when I was on maternity leave I came to appreciate being able to read something I could actually finish! Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women is a collection of stories that weren’t always easy to read, but were always powerful.

Interview by Ellen Morgan.

We’re interviewing people who have professional registration status as a librarian via the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals or who have an academic qualification such as a first degree, a postgraduate diploma or a Master’s degree in library and information studies or librarianship.

Is this you? If you’d like to feature in Library Lives, get in touch with [email protected]

Would you like this to be you? Find out more about becoming a librarian on the CILIP website.

03 May 2022

Behind the Scenes at the British Library: Janis Black and Ged Prior from the Public Lending Right team

This month we meet Janis Black and Ged Prior from the Public Lending Right (PLR) team, who are based in Boston Spa.   

Janis BlackJanis Black


Ged Prior
Ged Prior

First things first: what is Public Lending Right?

In short, it means authors, illustrators, narrators and other book contributors get paid when someone borrows their work from a public library.

Quote from author Philip Pullman about Public Lending Right

‘PLR legally entitles authors and other rights holders to receive payments from a central fund based on the lending of their books, audiobooks and eBooks from public libraries in the UK,’ explains Ged. This is funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and administrated by the British Library: authors and other contributors register their books, and this information – along with borrowing figures collected from libraries – is used to calculate the payments they’re due to receive each year, up to a total of £6,600.

‘It is always satisfying when statements are sent out and there are a flurry of tweets from those who have received a payment, however small. It is very often not about the money, but the fact that their titles are being borrowed,’ says Janis.

Ged agrees: ‘It’s great to know your work is contributing to something so positive: ensuring authors and contributors whose books are being enjoyed in libraries around the UK for free will get something back, whether that’s a modest financial reward or just the satisfaction of knowing that their work is being enjoyed by library users.’


2 PLR_QuotesTwitter-panels-v37

You can find out more about how PLR works on the British Library website. If you’re a contributor to a book and haven’t registered for PLR yet, move quickly – 30 June is the final date for titles to be included in the 2021-22 year.

What are your roles?

Janis is PLR’s Operations and Marketing Manager. ‘I oversee the team who help people register their titles, check they’re eligible, and make sure everything runs smoothly so everyone gets the right payments at the end of the year.’ Janis also approves each year’s library sample. PLR figures are based on loans data collected from at least 30 regional library authorities (around 1,000 individual branches) and at least seven of these change every year to make sure different regions are represented fairly.

‘I’m also responsible for keeping the website up to date and working with the Library’s marketing team to promote PLR. We produce an annual ‘most borrowed’ list which is always of interest to contributors and the wider public.’ James Patterson has dominated recent years.

Ged is a Business Analyst (BA) in the PLR team. He’s been working with the team, along with the Library’s Technology department and an external developer, to help design, build, launch and maintain a brand new online system for processing PLR registrations and payments. ‘The role of a BA can vary massively. During an average day, I might find myself acting as a translator, organiser, facilitator, data wrangler, researcher, problem-solver, process-mapper, tester, or any combination of the above.’

How did you get the job?

Ged started in local government as part of a graduate trainee scheme and worked in a number of teams before moving to the Policy team, with a focus on service performance and improvement projects. ‘Since joining the Library I’ve had the opportunity to gain experience in a more technical role while honing my skills with more formal training and qualifications.’

Janis has held various roles at the Library and joined the PLR team in 2018. ‘I have always been interested in reading so to have a job where I work with those who create the books is my ideal role.’

What do you love about the Library?

Janis feels a real sense of pride when she’s asked where she works and can talk about all the different things that happen at the Library: ‘Very often people are surprised that it is not just a larger version of their local library.’

Ged loves working with colleagues ‘who are genuine experts, trusted and relied upon as leaders in their fields and that everybody still finds time to share their knowledge and expertise with others.’

What’s your favourite object in our collection?

Janis finds it impossible to choose a favourite, but really likes the Library’s exhibitions. ‘My favourite one has to be Marvellous and Mischievous which highlighted young rebels in children’s books. I was able to see the handwritten drafts of Matilda by Roald Dahl, one of my favourite childhood authors. His titles never lose their charm and are still popular today, rating highly in our most borrowed lists.’

Visitors at the Marvellous and Mischievous exhibitionVisitors at the Marvellous and Mischievous exhibition

Ged has taken this question as a useful prompt to explore some of the highlights and learning materials available online at ‘Exploring the project on British accents and dialects has been a fascinating rabbit hole to be led down.’

Any book recommendations for our readers?

Janis suggests The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. ‘This is the first book of his that I have read and it was filled with humour and demonstrated the power of books. I will definitely be trying some more of his titles.’

Ged selects a heady mix of 18th-century French travelogue pastiche and football. ‘My recommendation is Journey Around My Room: having been arrested after a duel in the Spring of 1790, Xavier de Maistre answers the question ‘What do you do when you find yourself imprisoned in your room for six weeks?’ I’ve also enjoyed reliving Leeds United’s promotion to the premier league via Phil Hay’s And It Was Beautiful.’