Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

3 posts from March 2024

26 March 2024

Gender, ethnicity and disability pay gap reports published

Since 2018 the Library has published annually its gender pay gap figures for staff working here, and this year’s report can now be viewed online - Gender Pay Gap Report 2024 (PDF, 5.2mb).

Last year the median figure stood at 0.21%, effectively eliminating the gender pay gap, and I’m delighted to report that this year’s figure is 0%, which is even better – fulfilling the ambition we set ourselves of closing the gap by the end of our Living Knowledge strategy period in 2023.

Closing the gap for good will continue to be an ongoing effort, and may of course be subject to a range of fluctuations over time. Through a range of measures we’ll continue to actively progress gender equity, not only within pay, but across all areas of working life at the Library. You can read about these in the report, in the section headed ‘Our commitment.’

This year, for the first time, we are voluntarily publishing pay gap figures relating to ethnicity and disability. From this point forward we will also be publishing these figures annually, with the goal of reducing and eliminating these gaps, and ensuring that the Library as a workplace is welcoming, fair and empowering for everyone, regardless of their background.

As publishing these pay gaps is currently voluntary, there are challenges in benchmarking both nationally and within our sector – however, these initial figures will serve as a necessary baseline for assessing our future progress. The Ethnicity Pay Gap Report (PDF, 6.3mb) shows a median gap of 5.33% for Asian colleagues and 13.03% for Black colleagues, while the Disability Pay Gap Report (PDF, 5.5mb) shows a median gap of 4.20% for colleagues with disabilities.

Clearly this is not where we want to be and so our target is to eliminate these gaps by 2030, the end of our current Knowledge Matters strategy period. Annual publication of these figures will ensure that we do so in a transparent and accountable manner, and in each report you can read more about the targeted measures that are currently underway that we believe will make a substantive difference.

By focusing our efforts, and tracking our progress in the coming years, we are determined to deliver positive change in these areas, as we have done with the gender pay gap.

Jas Rai
Interim Chief Operating Officer

Pay Gap Reports

08 March 2024

Learning lessons from the cyber-attack

British Library, St Pancras
Photo: Tony Antoniou

Today, we’ve published a paper about the cyber-attack that took place against the British Library last October. Our hope is that doing this will help other organisations to plan and protect themselves against attacks of this kind.

The threat of aggressive and disruptive cyber-attacks is higher than it has ever been, and the organisations behind these attacks are increasingly advanced in their techniques and ruthless in their willingness to destroy whole technical systems.

This is of especial importance for libraries and all those institutions who share our mission to collect and make accessible knowledge and culture in digital form, and preserve it for posterity. Though the motive of the attack on the British Library appears to have been purely monetary, it functioned as, effectively, an attack on access to knowledge.

The paper is informed by our expert advisers and specialists, but is our own account, updated and adapted from our internal investigations into the incident. It gives a description and timeline of the attack, to the best of our current understanding, and its implications for the Library’s operations, future infrastructure and risk assessment. Its goal is to share our understanding of what happened and to help others learn from our experience, with a section (‘Learning lessons from the attack’, pages 17-18) drawing out 16 key lessons. You can download and read it here.

We hope it will also help our users and partners understand why the disruption generated by the attack has had such an impact on our services, and why it is taking time for us to recover fully. Of course, every cyber-attack is different, and the best source of advice and guidance for individuals and organisations looking to protect themselves is the website of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). We will continue to share updates on restoring our services on this blog and via our website.

We remain conscious at all times of security, and have sought to avoid providing information that could in any way aid future attacks, or inhibit the law enforcement agencies in their task of tracking down the perpetrators. The paper does not go into detail about costs, as the net financial impact of the attack is still under review, nor have we gone into detail about the organisation behind the attack, Rhysida, as this information is better available from other sources such as the specialist technology press.

Wherever possible, though, we have tried to err on the side of openness, and not everything here makes comfortable reading for ourselves as an organisation. We have significant lessons to learn about matters such as our historic reliance on a complex legacy infrastructure, which has affected our ability to restore services as quickly as we would have wished, and the varying effectiveness of different security measures across our digital estate.

We are also conscious of our duty as data controllers and deeply regret the loss of control of some personal data, for which we apologise wholeheartedly to everyone affected. We have co-operated with the Information Commissioner’s Office since the start of the incident, and will abide by the findings of any report they may publish in due course.

Whatever your perspective – whether you are a member of the public, a British Library user or staff member affected by the attack, a peer institution in the library or cultural sector, or indeed any other kind of organisation concerned about these issues – we hope you find this report useful. If the outcome is increased resilience and protection against attack for the UK collections sector and others, then at least one good thing will have emerged from this deeply damaging criminal attack.

Sir Roly Keating
Chief Executive

05 March 2024

Helping your research

Angel with monk.
Shelfmark: Yates Thompson MS 26 f039r

While our services are starting to recover from October’s cyber-attack, we’re continuing to highlight ways you can access our collection and expertise, and alternatives you may not be aware of.

Recent improvements

You can now order up to six collection items in our Reading Rooms, up from the previous limit of four. Our manuscripts limit remains at four as usual. You will need to come into the Reading Rooms to order items, and you can watch this film about how to access our collection at the moment:

How to use our online catalogue from British Library on Vimeo.

Online resources

Whether you’re looking for journals, researching your family tree or on the hunt for inspiration, you can find our collection and useful resources across multiple websites, including:

You can find more recommended resources on our website, and we’re adding more all the time.

Alternate ways to access our collection

Our curators have compiled suggestions for alternative ways to work while some of our collection is unavailable. Find out how to access:

Ask us for help

Our Reference team are here to help, whether you have a Reader Pass or not. If you need advice navigating our collection at the moment or aren’t sure how to get started, email [email protected] and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.