--- layout: post status: publish published: true title: Undergraduates in the British Library reading rooms wordpress_id: 23 wordpress_url: http://new.martineve.com/?p=23 date: !binary |- MjAxMC0wMy0yMiAxMzoxOToyMiArMDEwMA== date_gmt: !binary |- MjAxMC0wMy0yMiAxMzoxOToyMiArMDEwMA== categories: - Politics - Academia tags: - British Library comments: - id: 20 author: naomi_jacobs author_email: '' author_url: '' date: !binary |- MjAxMC0wMy0yMiAxMzo1MTo1OCArMDEwMA== date_gmt: !binary |- MjAxMC0wMy0yMiAxMzo1MTo1OCArMDEwMA== content: As a currently-freelance, pre-PhD researcher who has been using the British Library since before I started my MA, I agree entirely. We're fortunate to live in a society where institutions like the British Library offer educational opportunities to many people who wouldn't otherwise have them. It would be a real shame for these institutions to back-track on that.Nonetheless, the British Library clearly doesn't have the space for all the readers who want access to its facilities. Undergrads do have access to SCONUL when they're not at their own university, and the British Library isn't going to suit the needs of all of them. If the British Library wants to continue to admit undergrads, it needs to either expand its facilities - which will cost money that I doubt it has - or find ways to accommodate undergrads more appropriately, e.g. not allowing them access at 'peak times'. I'm not saying that either of these options is ideal. But if you're an organization with limited facilities and limited membership, you do need to match the two so that you're not trying to meet ridiculous levels of demand. Otherwise, people who rely on the British Library for key research materials won't be able to access it effectively. I'm really glad that the British Library admits undergraduates, but I do wish they'd think about ways to meet increasing demand, rather than ignoring it. ---
One of the long running debates regarding the British Library reading rooms has resurfaced this week. Upon entering the library this morning I was handed a letter of invitation to the Reader's Committee (or similarly titled initiative); it's self-purported goal, to discuss requirements of readers at the BL that have gone unheeded by management. Several of these items are, indeed, worthy of discussion. Noise from photocopiers and telephones being high on my list of irritations. However, the contentious article is, in my mind, the admission of undergraduates to the BL's reading rooms. On the one hand, yes, it is frustrating to encounter a group on unmotivated, inarticulate users hogging the facilities. Valid concerns have been raised by articles in both The Times and The Guardian. However, excluding undergraduates also allows those within to continue their scorn of undergraduates without challenge; they are not all useless, you know! I have always had a degree of disdain for a large portion of undergraduates, even when I was among them. However, there are a substantial number who genuinely do want to work hard. To suggest that university libraries cater for their "limited reading" needs, is based on the assumption that no undergraduate will ever produce anything of original value outside their prescribed course. Initiatives such as the JRA at Sussex clearly show otherwise. The British Library should allow undergraduates full access to the collections and reading rooms, when the individuals in question can show that their own institutions are unable to provide for them. We should celebrate the fact that there are students motivated enough to want to use the collections at the British Library. What should not happen is that those in the field, today, should become so complacent of their "rights" that they forget those who will be their colleagues, tomorrow.