Today I discovered that there is a body in the UK called the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. The point of it is somewhat unclear, but it looks as if it might have some input to government policy on how the UK library service is run.
Two things have bothered me for some time about this. Firstly the cost of interlibrary loans is now so great that a reading list of 20 items costs around $180. Of course this means that you can’t pursue a course of study, at that price. Secondly, as databases of journals like JSTOR become the usual way to consult the academic literature, and as outsiders have no access to these, it’s getting more difficult for non-professionals to compete.
What to do? Well, I’ve found that John Dolan is ‘head of library policy’ and written to him. I’ve also written to David Dawson, ‘Senior policy adviser Digital Futures’ and pointed out the problem that the British Library won’t digitise its medieval manuscripts, or let anyone else do so.
It will be interesting to see what response comes back. Someone must be interested in these issues besides me.
Postscript: to his credit David Dawson got back to me very quickly with the following epistle:
The British Library is very active in digitising its collections, but these are obviously huge in scale and scope. I visited your site, and can understand your desire to see the relevant manuscripts digitised.
The BL have a set of standards for the way in which they digitise documents, to ensure that this is done once, and at high quality. I cannot comment on the figures that they gave you, but the BL is following best practice in digitisation.
They are in the process of making large numbers of resources available online – recent projects include millions of pages of newspapers, substantial holdings from the Sound Archive and the Microsoft digitisation project is under way.
‘Best practice in digitisation’… or gold-plated? Nothing online, tho, and no prospect of it. This is rather disappointing.
Postscript (21st May): John Dolan has written back to me, and it sounds as if he is indeed in the processing of looking at some of these issues. I will write more on this when I have read his reply.