January 16, 2015

New British Library report suggests people crave physical books in digital age


Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.19.07 PMA new report released by the British Library attributes a 10% increase in the number of visitors per year (2014 numbers were up to 1.6 million visitors from 1,465,318 visits in 2013)  to the widespread use of smart phones and social media:

The more screen-based our lives, it seems, the greater the perceived value of real human encounters and physical artefacts: activity in each realm feeds interest in the other.

In a speech included in the report that was covered in The Telegraph this week, Roly Keating, the library’s chief executive, explained that digital culture does not necessarily need to clash with print collections at libraries.

“A set of values that have encoded the idea of the library for decades or centuries, in tension perhaps with the new values we live with all the time as we live our digital lives, our mobile lives, our social media lives… Of course I’m here tonight to say I do not believe there to be any such contradiction. The role of the library is proudly to do all of those things, and it’s our capacity to bring those dimensions together, however difficult it is, that gives the idea of the library such durability.”

The British Library will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its status as the national library of the United Kingdom in 2023, and has put forth a series of goals in the publication “Living Knowledge: The British Library 2015-2023,” with plans for its growth, innovation and development over the next eight years. New projects include plans to digitize sound archives, and build the Alan Turing Institute, a major new research center for data science backed by £42 million of public money.


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.