Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

4 posts from May 2024

28 May 2024

Restoring our services – 28 May 2024 update

British Library Reading Room

Readers of this blog will be aware that in March we published a detailed paper on the cyber-attack that the Library suffered in late October last year. The report’s primary purpose was to share lessons from our experience, so that other organisations can be better protected from similar attacks in the future.

But it also laid bare, as candidly as we could, the scale and destructive impact of the attack. The damage we experienced was substantial and will be complex and challenging to repair. Although we are confident that our data, digital holdings and digitised collections are safe and intact – either through back-ups or because they were not targeted in the attack – many of our legacy IT systems were encrypted, damaged or deleted.

The sheer complexity of rebuilding these systems (or workable versions of them) has meant that for the researchers who depend on our resources the months since the attack have been deeply unsettling and frustrating – not least because of the inevitable uncertainties over the exact timetable for restoration of different Library services.

With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to provide an update on the service improvements users can expect to see over the next few months, as well as some context on the process that lies behind the work of recovery.

Access to more collection items held in Boston Spa – July

Work is currently underway to restore access to the collections held in our large automated storage facilities at Boston Spa, which will result in the vast majority of our collection becoming available to users once again. The work to restore access to the items held in the Additional Storage Building is advancing well, and this collection – comprising some 262 linear kilometres of books and other items – should become available again for use by Readers in both St Pancras and Boston Spa by the end of July.

The work to restore access to materials held in the National Newspaper Building is more complex and is likely to take longer. In the meantime, however, users can find a wide range of newspaper titles available in microform in the Newsroom at St Pancras.

Digital collections acquired through Non-Print Legal Deposit (NPLD) – August

Another of our priorities is to restore onsite access to digital collections that we have acquired through Non-Print Legal Deposit (NPLD), including e-journals and e-publications. Our loss of access to these collections has also affected the other Legal Deposit Libraries (the National Library of Wales, the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin) as their access systems depended upon our own, which has been offline since the cyber-attack.

We have been working with our Legal Deposit Library partners to restore access to NPLD materials that were deposited prior to the cyber-attack (October 2023) and we now expect this to be available, in some form, by August. We are continuing to explore different options for collecting and storing items deposited after October 2023, and will share more details about these arrangements as they are confirmed.

Learning websites and digitised manuscripts – September

For the Library’s global community of users on the web, the absence of our online and digitised resources has been keenly felt. Two early priorities for restoration are the web pages providing access to the Library’s unique collection of digitised manuscripts, and our popular Learning resources, including Discovering Literature. Work is under way on both of these, with the aim of getting them online again by September, in time for the start of the new academic year.

The complex work of recovery

Understandably, some users have asked why it was not possible for services such as these to be simply ‘switched back on’ following the attack.

The answer is that it’s because of the particularly destructive nature of this attack: all of these service restorations, and those to come further down the line, are dependent on the successful installation of a completely new computing infrastructure for the entire Library, to replace the servers destroyed by the attackers – a major operation which began soon after the attack and will complete next month.

Once that is in place, the reloading of all the Library’s data can finally begin – a painstaking process which involves the sampling and checking of each dataset to ensure that no malware has been left by the attackers that could be reactivated once a file or drive is accessed. We are as eager as all our users to see these vital resources returned to use, but I hope you’ll understand that we must take a ‘safety first’ approach to the process of restoration.

Please do keep an eye on this blog for future updates as the Library’s journey of recovery continues. For now, I would like to thank you once again for your patience and understanding as we recover from this dreadful attack, and to bear with us as we restore more and more of our physical and online resources over the course of the next few months.

Sir Roly Keating
Chief Executive

15 May 2024

Telling Stories That Help Children Learn to Read | User Stories

Telling Stories to teach reading

Salina Khatun is the founder of Kindle Corner, an organisation that runs free storytelling sessions at the British Library, and across Camden, for children aged 0 – 12.  

I taught for thirteen years as a primary school teacher: education has always been my passion. When London was in lockdown for the Covid-19 pandemic, I’d recently given birth to my third child. I started worrying about children whose parents weren’t teachers, and thinking about what I could do to support disadvantaged kids who were stuck at home. 

I believe strongly in the importance of education, and I know that storytelling creates a love of reading. If you’re creative in your movements and your facial expressions, children will want to engage. So I decided to start doing storytelling sessions on Zoom. Within three days, I had 250 attendees – not just from London, but from around the world. 


I held weekly storytelling sessions 

At the British Library, there’s a space called the Story Garden, which, as a teacher and as a mother, I would use to tell stories to children. After the lockdowns ended, Global Generation, the charity that created the garden in partnership with the Library, asked me to speak to Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, about why the space was important to the local community in our borough, Somers Town. After the talk, I told the director of the Story Garden that I’d be happy to hold weekly storytelling sessions for free, for the local children. We had a good turnout – up to 20 children coming to each session. That was the start of my storytelling organisation, Kindle Corner

In July 2022, the Library asked us if we would deliver sessions based on the themes of their exhibitions, and our relationship has grown from there. I love everything about the Library: it’s a gem, a space where everyone can learn. I’d like to see families using the Library to create a culture of reading for their young children as they grow. 


Group storytelling creates a feeling of togetherness

The sessions are popular because my team is passionate about telling stories. Group storytelling creates a feeling of togetherness for families. Our stories explore topics like visiting the dentist and taking care of nature. I especially like telling stories about emotions: how it’s okay to be happy or angrythe important thing is what you do with those feelings. I like to use humour, and let children take part, so that the sessions are fun. 

We focus on kids under 12 years old. Everybody, from all walks of life, comes to our sessions. We welcome a mix of every group you can think of who lives and works in Somers Town. We hope to raise a community of children that love stories. I believe that this will bridge the gap between children who aren’t read to, and children who come from affluent homes who are read to all the time. Children can enjoy Kindle Corner events even if they don’t speak English. 


We bring the world to children

The government’s 2022 literacy framework states that the two components for success in literacy are that children love reading and learn phonics. Children who don’t do this at an early age will not thrive in the education system and therefore won’t get the results they need to pursue a great career. When they struggle with a science text, or a maths question, they will be left behind. This is why I’m so passionate about what I’m doing. My vision of success is a child in Somers Town picking up a book every single day. 

We bring the world to children. Through a storytelling session, we can teach a child about Egypt; about the importance of looking after plants; about their own hygiene. We’re not just teaching them to love reading; we are planting the seeds of values. We also use the children to bring the adults along. For example, we want both adults and children to know about the concept of recycling. 


We empower a lot of mums

When you’re a teacher, parents don’t like approaching you, because you’re an authority figure. If they think I’m just another mum, they feel they can trust me. But as time is passing and they realise that I run Kindle Corner, that’s great because it’s inspiring. 

I've got a seven-year-old son, and daughters who are three and five. I don’t allow Kindle Corner to interrupt my time with my children in the afternoons. If you run a business or a charity, it can work really well around childcare. We’ve found that we empower a lot of mums. 


Storytelling is a powerful tool 

In spring 2022, I applied for the funding Camden Council offers to community projects, to grow my organisation. When our bid was successful, I was able to hire an administrator and another storyteller. Then we were spotted by the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research centre on Euston Road, and they asked us if we could do science-based storytelling sessions for them.

Next, Camden Council approached us and asked us to run storytelling sessions about the circular economy: recycling, sharing and upcycling. Storytelling is a powerful tool to influence and educate people. Rather than delivering a workshop and telling everybody that they need to recycle, we deliver a story showing why recycling is important. It’s a better way to communicate with people. These days, Kindle Corner has a brilliant team of 24, many of whom are volunteers. 

Last year, we started working with Google. They asked me to write a story about myself and my work, and I realised that I’d done a lot in only the first year of running Kindle Corner. We've also started delivering storytelling sessions for families in the Library's Last Word community hub every Thursday. 

As told to Lucy Peters

07 May 2024

Get into the heart of the Library with our new Bloomberg Connects digital guide

Bloomberg Connects app in the British Library

We’re pleased to launch our free digital guide to our London St Pancras site, which helps you explore our iconic Grade I listed building, taking in its history, architecture and collection items.

Users will discover the stories behind our artworks around the building, get a peek behind the scenes and find out about our dynamic event and exhibition programme.

Reckon you’re already an expert on all things British Library? Put your knowledge to the test with our quiz questions dispersed around some of our pages. How many red bricks did it take to build the Library? You’ll need to download the app to find out!

You can use the app during a visit to guide you around the building, before arrival to help you plan your way around, or after you’ve visited to learn more about things you may have missed. 

How to access our digital guide

You can access our digital guide from the comfort of your own home or via our WiFi onsite. Simply download the 'Bloomberg Connects' app from the App Store or Google Play.

Download the Bloomberg Connects app

Bloomberg connects logo NEW

Once you have downloaded the Bloomberg Connects app to your mobile device or tablet, search for 'British Library' to access our guide.

How to use our digital guide

On the app, you'll find floor plans, video content with transcripts, audio clips and more. Explore all floors of the British Library and discover some of the extraordinary artworks on display.

When visiting the British Library in London St Pancras, look for Bloomberg Connects Look-Up Numbers next to collection items in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library and next to artworks on display around the building. Use the Look-Up Number or scan the QR to find related content in the app.

Look out for further content being added to the app over the coming months.

About Bloomberg Connects

Bloomberg Connects is a free app offering digital guides to over 350 museums and cultural organisations around the world. We are delighted to work in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies to make this digital guide possible.