Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0878. Tuesday, 1 November 1994.
Date: Monday, 31 Oct 94 18:37 CST
Subject: British Library
I am posting the following message from the British Library Regular Readers'
Group (RRG) to several lists since the information it contains may be of
general interest (apologies for the duplication in advance); mentions of the
library's problems have been turning up in various academic/scholarly
newsletters and journals such as the +East-Central Intelligencer+ and the
newsletter of the Johnson Society of the Central Region. For those who have not
been following the saga but are interested, this is a brief (and obviously
over-simplified) outline: the grand original 1978 plan has been so cut that
despite the unfortunate, disaster-prone new library's cost (450 million pounds
so far), its storage will be full when it opens, whenever that may be, and
there will be only 73 more seats for readers--a high price to pay for the loss
of the Round Reading Room and the King's Library. What follows is a digest of
the material contained in the October 1994 +Newsletter+ of the RRG.
The British Library's new St. Pancras building is perhaps even further from
completion: various essential elements of the building are either defective,
already out of date, or subject to disputes between the contractors and the
Department of National Heritage. There remains NO PROJECTED OPENING DATE.
The RRG has published a revised edition of its report: +The Great British
Library Disaster+ (copies can be obtained either by sending 5.00 pounds to the
RRG or by sending $5.00 to me for a photocopy of the report--addresses at the
end of this posting).
On 30 June the Commons Select Committee for National Heritage held a hearing
and called witnesses (among these were the RRG, Brian Lang and Sir Anthony
Kenny of the British Library, and Peter Brooke, then Secretary of State for
National Heritage). In the end the Select Committee called for: the retention
of the Round Reading Room as an integral part of the British Library "in
perpetuity"; an inquiry, chaired by an Ombudsman, to investigate what has gone
wrong at St. Pancras; the retention of the rest of the St. Pancras site for use
by the British Library in the future.
The RRG has been consulted by the National Audit Office about the framework for
their own enquiries. The RRG has also attempted to meet with the new Secretary
of State for National Heritage, Stephen Dorrell, but has been turned down. The
RRG has had talks with Labour MP Mo Mowlam (Shadow spokesman on National
Heritage) and Robert McClennan (President of the Liberal Democrats).
The month of November will be crucial. Gerald Kaufman, MP (Chairman of the
Select Committee) has made it clear he plans to pursue the matters; the
government, through the Department of Heritage, must make a response to the
Select Committee's recommendations by the end of the month. The RRG urges that
you write to Stephen Dorrell as soon as possible, no matter where you live (The
Rt. Hon. Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for National Heritage, 2-4
Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH). If you live in the UK, the RRG urges you
also to write to your MP.
Finally, the RRG is very short of funds and all donations will be gratefully
received. Cheques drawn on sterling accounts or other foreign accounts should
be made payable to The Regular Readers' Group and sent to the London address.
Checks drawn on US dollar accounts should be made payable to W. P. Williams,
with the Memo line indicating RRG, and sent to the DeKalb, IL address.
That is the end of the digest. If you have further questions or want further
information, please do not hesitate to contact me by e-mail, snail mail, or
In London RRG officers are: Etrenne Lymbery, Chairman, and Brian Lake,
Secretary. 46 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3PA; Telephone 071 631 4220;
Fax 071 436 6544. In North America: William Proctor Williams, President for
North America. Department of English, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL
Thanks for your patience with this long posting and WRITE STEPHEN DORRELL SOON!