8.0302 British Library Readers' Group (1/80)

Thu, 17 Nov 1994 00:01:21 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 8, No. 0302. Thursday, 17 Nov 1994.

Date: Mon, 31 Oct 94 18:38 CST

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building are either defective, already out of date, or subject to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

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 telephone.

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 60115; Telephone (815)753-6608; Fax (815)753-0606; e-

Thanks for your patience with this long posting and WRITE STEPHEN