§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ BARONESS LEE OF ASHERIDGE
My Lords, the discussion of proposals for a wonderful future British Library have been interrupted by a grave economic Statement. There may be those who feel that we are now returning to a relatively unimportant subject. I should like to say therefore, in passing, that a situation of economic crisis, or even of military crisis, is not an excuse for underrating either the world of scholarship or the world of the Arts. Looking back to the Second World War, it will be recalled that much was done in education for many men and women in the Forces, and many people had their first experience of great art and great theatre. Indeed, what could have been more wonderful than Myra Hess playing to an enchanted audience in the National Gallery even while the bombs were raining down on London? I say that, just in passing, because no one in 1291 your Lordships' House, I am sure, will underestimate the importance of the statement that the Paymaster General has just made. I congratulate him, and my congratulations are not untinged with envy. It is a marvellous thing to be able to promote a scheme such as this, which must command the support and encouragement of civilised people from every part of the House and from every part of the country.
I was not the Minister responsible for libraries during most of the last Parliament: another Minister of State was so engaged. But, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, knows, after the Dainton Committee was set up by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, my good friend and colleague in the other place, Mr. Edward Short, I became, in addition to my job as Minister for the Arts, Minister responsible for libraries. I was extremely fortunate, because when the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, and my noble friend Lord Annan were kicking up such a great hullabaloo in 1967 I was in no way directly involved. But during the last phase of the last Parliament, I was much concerned with the future of the British Museum and of this great Library project.
I am sure that the Paymaster General would wish to join with me in paying tribute to my right honourable friend Mr. Short, who as Secretary of State for Education and Science received the Report of the Dainton Committee. The Dainton Committee reported and, as the Paymaster General said, although we were enraged by delays, it was necessary to reconcile the interests of the British Museum with those of the other great libraries involved, and also with those of the Borough of Camden. Instead of having a state of war between the British Museum Trustees and Camden Council we shall now be able to have two great libraries, instead of one, on the Bloomsbury site, and with the good will and co-operation of Camden, they will still have their beautiful Square, their wonderful church, and the possibility of housing many of their people.
At the end of the last Parliament the state of play was that we had left behind bitter controversy. There was agreement 1292 among us that we were going forward with this great project of creating a National Library. There was some criticism over the delay between publication of the Dainton Report and the Cabinet's consent. But I assure your Lordships that the reason for the delay, after we had satisfied the Paymaster General, in his then capacity as Chairman of the British Museum, and his other Trustees, and when the Secretary of State also was entirely satisfied and anxious to get on with the job, was that it was not only the British Museum that had to be considered: three other great libraries were concerned.
I make that point, my Lords, to show that the delays were not the result of any doubts or hesitations about going forward with this project. Indeed, on December 13, 1967, the then Prime Minister, my right honourable friend Mr. Harold Wilson, took the rather unusual step of writing a letter to The Times. In that letter—written in response to an irate letter from the noble Viscount, Lord Radcliffe—my right honourable friend said that he was giving his assurance:that Government policy is to provide a fine new library building forming part of an efficient library system.So the Paymaster General goes forward with the knowledge that plans made in the last Parliament and supported by the present Government will have the wholehearted support from all parts of the House.
There are of course one or two further questions that arise. In dealing with the White Paper, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said quite properly that although the delays had been irritating we derived certain advantages from them. We were getting two libraries instead of one; better relationships; and modern technology had carried us forward a great deal. I am sure he would not like to be tied to a figure of 13 years for completing the building. That is a guess. It may be longer, but let us hope that it will be sooner. All one can do is to make an informed guess as to how long great new buildings of this kind will take to complete.
In the White Paper reference is made not only to London but also to what the Dainton Committee would have liked to see happening simultaneously in other parts of the country. The vision of a 1293 National Library was that we should not only relieve the congestion in the British Museum and the other great central libraries, but, by using the new magic of modern technology—microfilms, computers, tape recorders and the rest—we should be able to provide reproductions of many documents, North, South and East or West.
So although the National Library remains the Library of last resort, it will not need to be used by scholars if they can find what they require in the local or regional libraries. It will be possible in the future to do something that was undreamt of in the past. Scholars no longer have to walk great distances—sometimes across whole continents—in order to reach centres of learning. We shall be able to send out to the periphery reproductions of many of the most precious documents that formerly could be studied only by people who were fortunate enough to be able to reach the British Museum and the other great libraries. I hope that when we are making estimates for future buildings we shall keep in mind what is to happen about libraries outside London that will be co-operating with the British Museum, the British Library in London and the Reference Library in Yorkshire.
Another consideration which is allied and must not be lost sight of was touched upon by the Paymaster General when he said that of course there would have to be more books in the future than in the past. We all share the vision of this great library service: there is no difference among us on that score. But libraries exist to house books; books do not exist for libraries. We must be quite certain that we do not fall into the same difficulty on a national scale that we find in West Sussex, for instance, where we have some wonderful new library buildings but the stock of books is getting dangerously low. There has been no upward adjustment for rising costs of living since 1968. We must look at the subject as a whole. We are not planning a London Library; we are planning a National Library, and with great international links of many kinds. We are planning a library for books; and not only books but films and pictures. I am not an ardent supporter of those who say that the book is a thing of the past, and that in future everything is going to be 1294 either oral or visual. Like many other Members of your Lordships' House, I belong to the generation who are, and remain, book lovers and bookworms. We have to think in terms of what is to go into those improved buildings. It is quite true, as the Paymaster General said, that at the moment we are embarrassed by numbers. As new books come on to the market it is a fantastic business to find places to store them, and those places will of course have to be far from the centre.
At the same time—and this may seem a contradiction, but it is not—in many of our universities, and still more so in our higher technical colleges, a problem arises about the supply of books. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said that there would be a revision of the copyright law, and the purpose of this revision will be to enable authors and publishers to charge more for books that are used in libraries than for books sold over the counter to private people. Authors need to be given help, but what is worrying me, and quite a number of us, is: are we going to help the author at the expense of the supply of books? I admit that one of my failures in the last Parliament was in seeking to persuade my Treasury colleagues, in addition to the great generosity that they showed towards me—and they gave the Arts a higher priority than ever before—to give me £2 million that could be used to ensure that authors would receive a fairer remuneration for their work. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not going to give a sum of that magnitude, then where is the money going to come from to help the authors? The last thing we want to do is to cause antagonism between the authors and the librarians; we must ensure that the librarians, and the supply of books in our libraries, do not suffer. The only way that antagonism can be avoided is by the additional money which will be required to help the authors coming from central taxation. The details do not matter. That is the gist of the situation.
We come next to the problem of the cost of a great enterprise of this kind. The White Paper tells us, in paragraph 16:… the Government finance for the British Library will be provided by grant-in-aid from the Department of Education and Science.1295 That is a change, in a way. Formerly we had a division of labour: the D.E.S. was responsible for content and policy; the Ministry of Public Building and Works was responsible for building and costs. I do not think it matters—it is all coming out of one public purse—but it is just as well for us to be clear about it. The Department of Education and Science is undertaking to find the money, and we are told that it will cost on an average something under £3 million for the next 13 years.
I was delighted that the Paymaster General did not enlarge on that particular part of the White Paper to-day. On former occasions he has always told us, when speaking in your Lordships' House, in the country or elsewhere, that the Library was going to be partially paid for by entrance charges to our museums and galleries. I hope that the Paymaster General, having listened to our trustees, to our directors, to our artists, young and old, and to our students, in not enlarging on the part of the White Paper dealing with costs, is having second thoughts on how this cost will be met. It would be a sad thing indeed if we were told that we could go ahead with this wonderful library project only if about a third of the cost was going to be paid for by that special public, old and young, that finds its pleasure, instruction and inspiration in going to our great art galleries.
I do not know whether or not the Paymaster General would like to say anything on that point. It would certainly be a comfort and reassurance to many of us if we could be quite certain that, having listened to the voices—and there are many of them—having listened to all they have to say, he now feels that the D.E.S., with its budget, which I see for 1971–72 is £2,499 million for education—and not a penny too much—can take care of this matter and that rapid progress with the National Library is not going to be dependent upon gallery charges or other financial contributions from any other source whatsoever.
We are concerned, on all sides of the House, with the quality of life. A flippant friend suggested that if we could not afford to pay for our libraries we might start taxing betting shops or tobacco shops—and he was a little bawdier 1296 than that. There are all sorts of activities going on that we are told are injurious to our health. I am not putting forward seriously that we should accept my friend's suggestion. I say that the Minister, who has what I have always said is the best job in the Government, who has the pleasure and responsibility of promoting the interests of the arts, and now also of furthering this great scheme, must be depended upon not to provide for one of his offspring at the expense of another. At the end of the last Parliament I was asked to assist the Secretary of State for Education in his schemes for the Library, and I received a very warm welcome from the librarians. I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, will get that same warm welcome if they recognise that he is deeply concerned not only with what must be long-term building projects but with the fact that in the meantime the scholars must live. Thirteen years is a long time. Technological developments may bring in many changes in the meantime.
Surely now, in a period of very considerable economic difficulty, we need to promote the highest levels of scholarship; we need to give every encouragement to our students in schools, colleges, universities and technical colleges. I welcome wholeheartedly the statement that the Paymaster General has made about going ahead without further delay with this scheme that we have all helped to promote and all agree upon, but I hope that we can trust him to ensure that he does not at the same time cause himself unnecessary difficulties with a whole world of artists and art lovers. And let us keep in mind that libraries, however wonderful, exist for books. We must look carefully at the priorities which are now being given towards maintaining or, better still, improving their very lifeblood, the very meaning of our libraries—that is a flow of the best up-to-date books for all who require them.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT NORWICH
My Lords, the contents of this White Paper, and the words we have heard from the Paymaster General this afternoon, are balm to our ears. They are what a great many of us have been looking forward to hearing and hoping to hear for a quarter of a century or more. It would be churlish not to give them the enthusiastic welcome 1297 they deserve. I remember four years ago speaking about the British Museum Library and being horrified at the prospect which then seemed imminent of the splitting up of the Museum and the Library. At the same time, I remember hearing from the noble Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, one of the most blistering oratorical tours de force I have ever heard in my life. It seemed very unlikely four years ago that I should be standing up before your Lordships this afternoon saying how pleased and delighted I was with the news we now have about the plans for the future, and, in particular, to hear that the new Library as planned will be on a site adjacent to the British Museum. It will be, in fact, to all intents and purposes part of one single geographical complex, so that we shall continue to have one of the greatest, most remarkable and unique cultural advantages this country can boast; namely, to have its greatest Museum and its greatest Library together and interdependent.
Having said that, I have one or two small doubts about the White Paper. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, pointed out his reluctance to speak at any length on what was a very big subject. In fact, the subject is so big, so important, and so vital to us all that I, for one, could have wished that the White Paper had spoken at rather greater length. It seems to me to be sadly short and sketchy for what it itself heralds in its first sentence as a plan,to create a national library service without rival in the world.We could do with more than six pages of print in explanation and elaboration of the plans being drawn up.
One or two other small points worry me a little. I read in paragraph 3(a), under the main heading "Objective of the British Library", that:The aim will be to provide as comprehensive a reference service of last resort as possible. If a reader cannot get what he wants near at hand he will know he can find it in the British Library.Admirable. Unexceptionable. I hope he will. But two paragraphs further on I read that:… relations with the other national libraries and specialist collections … will have to be continuously developed to ensure that material not collected by the British Library will be made available elsewhere.1298 Completeness is of absolutely vital importance, and I do not consider that the present British Museum Library, magnificent as it is, is in fact anything like as complete as it should be. I shall have a few more words to say about that later on.
The other point I should like to raise this afternoon concerns paragraph 9 of the White Paper and the appointment of Trustees. Here again I quote:One part-time member will be appointed by the Queen with special responsibility to the Board for the Library of King George III which was presented to the British Museum.I wonder whether that is really necessary. The Library is now a part of the British Museum. It was given by Royal gift to the British Museum. I cannot think it is necessary to have a member of the Trustees appointed by the Queen with specific responsibility for that Library. More important still is the following sentence, which reads:The other members of the Board will be appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science from persons having experience in the management of libraries, in university affairs, and in finance, business and administration.That is all right. The paragraph continues:Four of the part-time members will be appointed after consultation respectively with the Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry, for Scotland and for Wales, and the Trustees of the British Museum.This means that one member of the Board, and one only, will represent the interests of the Trustees of the British Museum. If I may elaborate that a little further, I would quote to your Lordships just two sentences from a leading article of The Times Literary Supplement of January 15:It is perhaps permissible to inquire why the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales need to be consulted, seeing that the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales are to remain outside the British Library system; and it is certainly pertinent to hint that, if they must be consulted, they could do no better for some little time to come than to put forward the names of any two Trustees of the British Museum who are respectively sufficiently Scots and sufficiently Welsh to qualify for their notice. The Trustees have, indeed, collectively more experience and accumulated wisdom in the kind of business with which the Board will be concerned than any other body in the world, and the proposal that they should have only one representative on the Board (they will not, after all, live for ever) will be an offence and an outrage to many.1299 That last sentence is possibly putting the case a little too strongly, but I am nevertheless certain that the noble Viscount, the Paymaster General, who has done so much in recent years for the British Museum, will have sympathy with what I have just said.
The other point I should like to make, which was not raised in the White Paper and not raised in The Times Literary Supplement, is a little plea that perhaps it might be possible for one member of the Board of the British Library to be selected, not on the recommendation of any of the learned bodies or Government Departments, but as a representative of the readers of the British Museum. I should like to think that someone such as a distinguished historian, who may have spent the better part of his life working and researching in the British Museum Reading Room—who knows better than anybody else what the readers, for whom, after all, the Library principally must exist, need and want—would be able to have a say and give a first-hand opinion in the deliberations of the Board.
Finally, speaking for myself, without any expertise, as a fairly regular inhabitant of the British Museum Reading Room, I should like to say that there are three things which the average reader asks for from the Museum Library. We want first of all completeness; we want that above all. I have to say that at present, while the British Museum can clearly provide virtually any book in the English language which any of us can conceivably think of wanting, it seems to have a very surprising lacuna in foreign books. I do not refer particularly to recondite foreign books, but to perfectly ordinary foreign books in French, Italian or German, which one can hardly believe should not appear there. I worked quite a lot at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. I have never not found an English book which I have looked for there. Just for interest, last Friday I looked through the bibliography of the last book I happened to write, and at a quick count (I am not sure it was exhaustive) I found 11 titles, nine of which were French which I had not found in the British Museum but which I did find in the London Library. With all respect and gratitude to the 1300 British Museum, I do not think that that is good enough, and I should like to think that in the future in the Library which we are shortly going to be able to welcome a great effort will be made to collect more foreign titles.
Also, I should like to hope that in this new context it will be possible to include all the newspapers. It is sad and time-consuming, and frequently frustrating, to have to tool all the way out of Colindale every time one wants to find a copy of an old newspaper. Here is a marvellous opportunity, with a great new building rising in Central London, to deal with this need. Do, please, let us try to have newspaper files under the same roof as everything else.
I should also like to think that in the new catalogues which will have to be drawn up it will be possible to include not only all the books in the British Museum Library but all the books in the other principal libraries as well, in order that if by any chance we find ourselves wanting a title which the British Museum does not possess we shall nevertheless find that title in the catalogue, with a note against it of those libraries in this country where that book is to be found. I think that would be of enormous value to scholars and researchers, and I cannot think that it would be difficult to arrange.
I did not intend to make this point, but when the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, spoke about the sound archive it suddenly struck me that I might be excused for mounting momentarily my own hobbyhorse. I would suggest that here might be a wonderful opportunity for including in the new archives not just sound archives but also an archive of the theatre, in the form not just of a copy of the script of any play produced on the commercial stage in this country but also possibly a video tape or a direct film version of what went on, on the stage, on one particular night; because it seems to me that the theatre remains the only major art in this country which is entirely ephemeral and that once the curtain has come down on the last Act on the last night that production is gone and is lost for ever. I should like to think that this would no longer be so.
Completeness, therefore, is the first thing that we readers look for. The second thing we look for—less important, 1301 but nevertheless still of importance—is speed of service. It is getting worse in the British Museum. Two or three hours is no longer an exception. I know that it is not the fault of the staff—they are hideously overworked and on occasions life must be an absolute nightmare for them. I have all sympathy and pity for them, but I hope that in the new Library, which I trust will be fully automated, it will be possible for the directors of the board to arrange for quicker service in the future. In particular, I should like to think that the catalogues will be readable by machine, in order that the time taken in looking for a rather difficult title may be minimised.
Finally, what we readers want is space. It is almost impossible to find space in the British Museum Reading Room. Those of us who have had the misfortune to try to research in the Public Record Office find it a hundred times worse. Here at last is a wonderful opportunity for giving us all the space we need, and I should like to think that we shall have at least three times the space in the new building. It would be helpful if some of the more popular and the more frequently used material in the Public Record Office could be made available on semi-permanent loan to the new Library in order that more space would be available to people who wish to consult that material.
I am a little disturbed to read in paragraph 18 of the White Paper, the following sentence:In addition it should be possible to make space available for at least as much housing on the site, unconnected with the library, as under the earlier plans …My Lords, I somehow feel that that sentence was put in as a sop. If it was a sop, I think it was a misplaced sop because I cannot believe that seven acres of space are going to be too much. I think that if housing unconnected with the Library is built on the site all too soon we shall most bitterly regret the positioning of that housing. We are going to need all the space we can get for the new Library. We have the most tremendous opportunity at last promised us. Now that we have it, please let us make the fullest use of it and from the very outset—from this afternoon—let us think big.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD TREVELYAN
My Lords, I should like first to say a word on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Annan. He had intended to speak this afternoon, but he has been called away to a statutory meeting and he may not be able to get back in time to speak. If he is unable to do so he would like me to make his apologies to your Lordships and to express thanks to the noble Viscount for his kind references to him.
I am taking part in this debate as Chairman of the Trustees of the British Museum in order to give the warmest possible welcome to the White Paper. At long last, after a sad delay, there is a firm decision, supported by all Parties, as has been made clear this afternoon, to build a new Library, in two parts, to house the British Museum Library and the Science Library on the site which the Trustees have all along considered to be the right one. I am glad to know that this decision is also warmly welcomed by the Standing Conference of National and University Libraries. The Trustees are profoundly grateful to the Government for their decision. We are especially glad that the British Museum Library will retain its name and separate identity within the general framework of the scheme. We can now forget the disputes of the past and look forward to the creation of a great centre of intellectual endeavour in the centre of London. This has been expressed much more eloquently than I can express it by the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge. This is indeed a landmark in our national life.
The Trustees of the British Museum are also grateful to the Paymaster General for his promise to maintain close consultation with them through the intermediate period while the new Library is being built. They will give every possible co-operation to ensure that the transitional arrangements work smoothly. I do not think it necessary to work out in precise detail at this stage all the arrangements which will be required during the transitional period. I think the way in which the White Paper was written is perfectly correct in that regard. We do not agree with every detail of it, particularly in paragraph 14. Broadly speaking, the Trustees' position is as follows.
1303 The noble Viscount has explained about the period until the Act comes into force, when planning of the new Library will be undertaken by a special Committee established by him. We should wish to be represented on this body by some of our Trustees and by the Director and other senior officials of the Museum concerned with the administration of the existing libraries. This will be a very important point in the transitional period of organisation of the new Library, and many of the most important decisions, I feel sure, will in fact be taken by this Committee. This co-operation has been foreshadowed by the Paymaster General to-day.
After the Act is passed, the new Libraries Board will be constituted and will have statutory responsibility for the whole complex of Libraries, including the British Museum Library. There should be no difficulty in transferring the complete administration of the Science Library, which is already housed in buildings outside the Museum and has its own separate administration. But it will be impossible, as the White Paper recognises, for the British Museum to divest itself completely of responsibility for the British Museum Library in the period until the new Library is built and the books are taken there. During this period there must clearly be joint executive responsibility between the new Board and the Museum. The White Paper implies a division of responsibility. What we contemplate is rather a sharing of responsibility, but our purpose will be to cooperate in this great enterprise and I feel sure that, with good will and common sense, we can make suitable arrangements which will ensure harmony during this period.
I have heard it suggested that the British Museum Library should be converted into a lending library. There are strong reasons against this. The Trustees have always held that the nation's reference and research library would lose half its value if a proportion of its books were liable to be away on loan. Lending, even on a small scale, would destroy the guarantee that any book known to be in its stock would always be available, and would, therefore, make the Library even less complete than the noble Viscount, 1304 Lord Norwich, has suggested it is at present. Lending would also add greatly to the administrative problems of managing a great Library, and it would greatly increase the loss of books.
But the reference library can give important help to the lending library by providing photo-copies of such items as articles and short reports, as the Trustees of the British Museum suggested in their evidence to the Dainton Committee, and this will often be cheaper for the researcher who does not live in or near London. Moreover, photo-copies of a volume can be supplied to the lending library for loan by them if there is no copy of it anywhere except in the reference library.
There is one point of organisation of the new Library that I should like to raise. It will take not only our Department of Printed Books but two other departments, of manuscripts and of Oriental printed books and manuscripts. These will be very important parts of the new Library. It is, in our belief, essential that they should have separate and equal status with the Department of Printed Books and that the keepers of these departments should be directly subordinate to the Director of the new British Museum Library.
The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, has suggested that it will not be enough, when the books are in the other Library and it is fully constituted, for the Libraries Board to include only one representative of the Trustees of the British Museum. I am not sure that I entirely agree with him on this point. It is certainly very important that we should permanently be represented on the new Library, because of the continuing connection which must be closely maintained. Whether numbers make a difference I am not so certain. In any case, it may well be that a man who is Trustee of the British Museum may be appointed Trustee also of the new National Library in his own right.
We are fully aware, of course, of the defects and shortcomings that there may be in our existing Library, and we shall, as we always do, consider many of the points that have been raised to-day by the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich. I personally have very considerable sympathy with the point that he raised about 1305 foreign books. On the newspapers, I doubt whether it will ever be possible to have the newspapers in the main Library, but I think that this problem can be solved by extensive microfilming.
Meanwhile, I can assure your Lordships that during the intervening period, we shall continue our efforts, within the inevitable limitations imposed by our existing buildings, to meet all the demands of scholars. We are now taking steps to increase our staff. We hope very soon to have at least 70 more places for readers. We will make every effort to keep our cataloguing up to date and to keep the period of waiting for a book as short as possible. We are making special efforts to deal with the problem of books misplaced on the shelves, and we are taking measures to improve security. In return, we ask the readers in the Library to realise the problems with which we are faced, and to make allowances for the obstinate fact that library facilities which were adequate 50 years ago, and which cannot be greatly improved for reasons of space, become less and less adequate to the demand each year. That is why we want a new Library.
I have already spoken in your Lordships' House on the question of entrance charges, and I do not wish to repeat myself. All I would say again is that, so far as the Library is concerned, so long as a free library system is maintained in this country, readers in the British Museum Library must be allowed to use it without any charge for entry to the Museum. Finally, I may say, now that we are at last on the right road; let us build our new library quickly. Can we not have the new Library working, at any rate, by 1980?
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
My Lords, like the noble Baroness and all noble Lords who have spoken, I welcome the White Paper and I do not propose to detain your Lordships by gilding what I would look upon as an undoubted lily. But, speaking as a Trustee of the National Central Library, and as one who has had fairly considerable experience of being concerned with the library of a learned society, I think there are one or two points which arise out of the White Paper which ought to be considered before legislation is introduced.
1306 I welcome primarily the decision to rehouse both the British Museum Library and the National Reference Library for Science and Invention on one site in Bloomsbury, because I have always felt that when the history of the British library comes to be written, one of the major blots would be thought to be the decision taken in the 1950s to separate the British Museum Library from the Science Reference Library and to build the latter on the South Bank. But I can see that a hangover from that original decision—although the noble Viscount recognised that it was then mistaken—seems still to persist in the White Paper. It really is quite impossible to make a clear cut decision between the arts and the sciences so far as their literature is concerned, more particularly, of course, when you get to that sort of no-man's-land between the two which is now occupied by the social sciences, so called. This difficulty is much greater in the case of books than in the case of periodicals, because periodicals usually fall pretty distinctly to one side or the other; but it is exceedingly difficult to say whether the works of any one author ought to be housed in a library for the sciences or the arts.
I can give your Lordships one or two rather curious examples. I have no doubt that many of your Lordships will be fairly knowledgeable in the works of Rabelais, which you may well have consulted because of your interest in sociology. They are just as interesting to a botanist, and for purely—and I accentuate that adjective—purely botanical reasons. Rabelais was one of the first people to describe cannabis indica, commonly known to-day as "pot", which he calls pantagruelion; and in the same place he went into a long dissertation on the origin of plant names which is of the greatest interest to a botanist. Indeed, some of those Rabelaisian names have been carried forward to to-day and are now the modern generic names of a large number of plants.
Another person is Voltaire, who did such admirable work investigating the regeneration of decapitated slugs and snails. He was elected a Fellow of our own Royal Society, although he could not resist at the same time having a little dig at the Church by wondering what would have happened to some of the sanctified early fathers had they been capable, like 1307 slugs and snails, of regenerating the members which caused their beatification. Where do you put, for instance an incurable hortus sanitatus? Does it go to the arts or to the sciences? And Darwin's Voyage with the "Beagle" is as interesting to the historian as to the sociologist and scientist.
While, therefore, I welcome the functional division between the National Reference Library to be and the National Lending Library, and the setting up of two separate directorates for each, I must confess that I regret the proposed establishment of two separate reference libraries on one site, with two separate directorates and two separate advisory committees; and, with the greatest respect, I was a little disappointed in the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, when he expressed himself as gratified that the British Museum Library was going to continue as an entity in itself, quite forgetting, if he will not mind my reminding him of it, that he and his fellow trustees are as responsible to-day for the National Reference Library of Science and Invention as they are for the Library housed in Bloomsbury. They are one and the same thing. They should be one and the same thing, and indivisible. Of course there should be two reading rooms, because open access, particularly to periodicals, is of vital importance to the scientist and to people dealing with trade and industry and the like, though not so necessary where the Arts are concerned. There must therefore be a reading room like that at the Patents Office Library, ready access to all the shelves, and another one like an improved British Museum reading room to-day.
For the same reason I should regret the setting up of two separate lending libraries, which is suggested as a possibility at one place in the White Paper, one for the Sciences and one for the Humanities. There especially, if there is to be a division, it should surely be a division by function and not a division by disciplines. It would be perfectly sensible to set up one lending library for periodicals and one lending library for books, with a clear-cut functional division between them. That might well be the solution so far as the Bloomsbury site is concerned, if there must be a division—have one reading room for periodicals, 1308 another for books and, as I think the noble Viscount said, have a common and joint bookstall. So much for that division at the Bloomsbury site. I hope that the noble Viscount will be able to have another look at that matter before legislation is introduced.
There are two other proposals in the White Paper which have rather wider implications than appear at first sight: first, the almost parenthetical suggestion, to which the noble Baroness opposite referred, of the setting up of an efficient photocopying service, but with no reference to the Copyright Act, although the noble Baroness referred to it. That Act allows for fair copying of single copies of articles or passages from books for individual study and research. There is no objection to that; it is generally recognised as being desirable. But to-day there is an increasing tendency to demand multiple copies, not for private study but to provide copies of articles, very largely in learned journals, for the members of classes and courses at colleges and universities. Indeed, the Parry Committee on University Libraries went so far as to call the Copyright Act a restriction on scholarship, just because it should prevent colleges and universities from trying to cheat authors and publishers of the fruits of their work.
I know that the noble Viscount is sympathetic to this new idea of having special copies of books for lending libraries at an enhanced price which will enable authors to draw their copyright fees. In the case of articles which are usually copies for study purposes—they usually come from scientific journals—the authors concerned are only too pleased that they should be copied extensively and given the widest possible circulation, because, after all, that is the reason for which they were written: to advance science and not for financial gain. But all too often these articles come from journals of learned societies which have got to pay their way; the members of those societies have to make up the loss if sales do not cover the cost of production. That situation cannot go on for ever. And where they are published by commercial publishers, of course, the position is the same. I hope that when the noble Viscount is considering Amendments to the Copyright Act to deal with copyright for authors 1309 whose books are in lending libraries, he will also consider this very difficult but important question of copyright in reproduction from scientific journals.
The other suggestion concerns a review of inter-library lending, in regard to which I think the noble Viscount made some small reference about books which are found in other libraries and are not found in the lending library at all, and are available only for reference. Here again, the private libraries of learned societies are deeply involved, usually through the offices of the National Central Library, through the work of their librarians, and, what is more important, in the wear and tear on what are usually rather old, rather rare and rather fragile hooks and journals which some of the older societies have and which are obtainable nowhere else in this country. It is suggested in the White Paper that the Organising Committee should look into this matter and that some payment should be made to these special libraries. I welcome that suggestion, and hope that the Organising Committee will deal with it very soon.
The suggestion that all the lending services should be concentrated at Boston Spa is perhaps rather dangerous. Most of these special libraries are in London, and a close personal contact between the staff of the Central Library and the staff of the providing libraries is necessary. That may well be difficult to secure from Yorkshire, and difficult to maintain, even if it is once secured; and it may well be necessary that some part of the lending side of the Library will have to be in London.
Lastly, I should like to refer to the constitution of the Board, a matter to which other noble Lords have referred. I have spoken already of the tendency, which still exists to-day, to separate too far the Arts and Sciences. That is shown by the fact that there is to be no representative of the Royal Society on the Board. The noble Lord on the Cross-Benches suggested that there should be a member of the Royal Society on the Organising Committee. I think it is far more important that there should be a representative of the Royal Society representing the Sciences on the Board than the two or three representatives of the Trustees of the British Museum, a 1310 matter to which the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, referred.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, if the noble Earl will forgive me, my suggestion did not exclude the point that he is making.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
My Lords, I am quite certain that it did not exclude it, but the noble Lord did not, in fact, firmly mention it, as I wish to do. In his introductory speech the noble Viscount reassured me to some considerable extent on the way he saw the Board developing, because the suggestions made by the Dainton Committee were altogether syndicalist, and I could not believe myself that any man of parts would have been prepared to serve on the advisory committees or as one of the pseudo-Trustees of the British Museum Library which were proposed by Dainton. The noble Viscount, like me, has experience of the system of trustees which has grown up in this country, and which Dainton says—I am pleased to be able to quote him instead of blowing either the noble Viscount's trumpet or my own—has been of considerable practical benefit to the British Museum Library and to the nation.That is based fundamentally on the same principle of any Parliamentary democracy, that the ultimate control is not handed over to the professional specialist.
The Government's proposals, as set out in the White Paper, could go either way. They could go as syndicalist as Dainton; they could go as far as almost repenting the existing set-up of the Trustees of the British Museum. I think that the noble Viscount had it in mind to go somewhere between the two. I felt reassured, but I should like more reassurance when he replies, because I attach considerable importance to the managing body of this Museum. I hope that the noble Viscount does not think that I have been critical of his White Paper. I welcome it, and I wish I was going to live long enough to see the Museum established on that site.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ LORD IRONSIDE
My Lords, I should like first to congratulate the Government on the way they have outlined the principles of this new institution in the White 1311 Paper. After so many years of deliberation, I think it is really surprising that such a short document has appeared, but nevertheless I welcome the contents wholeheartedly. As the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, knows, the proposals have wide acceptance in professional and academic circles.
Speaking as a member of the N.R.L.S.I.—that is, the National Reference Library for Science and Industry—Advisory Council, I can only say that the course of action now proposed is most satisfactory. As this Library has been virtually living in temporary lodgings ever since it started, the encouragement now given by the Government in stating that rehousing is the priority task is heartily welcome.
May I for one moment refer to some figures to show how this Library has been bursting at the seams? The total stock in 1965 was 450,000 volumes. In 1970 it was 640,000 volumes, and it will be growing at the rate of 40,000 volumes or so a year until 1980 when one million volumes, which is the final total, will have been reached. In passing, I might also mention that the photocopy service to which my noble friend Lord Cranbrook referred is in pretty good use at the moment. The extent to which it is used is shown by the fact that in 1965 113,000 photocopy items were produced, and in 1970 234,000 were produced. This number will go up considerably by 1980. If the Copyright Act is amended in such a way that it will mean charging more for this photocopy service, then of course industrial costs will go up, because the N.R.L.S.I.—or what will now be the S.R.L.—is a Library essentially for trade and commerce. Surely, there must be some way of building into the Amendments in the Copyright Act some clause which will cover the copying which comes from reference libraries as opposed to the lending libraries.
I am also very glad that my noble friend Lord Eccles has been able to bring forward the British Library proposal, as he has been very much linked with the developments in recent years, and having taken part myself in the dialogue that has been carried on between the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee and the previous Administration—and the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, knows 1312 all about that—may I say that the willingness of the right honourable lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science to continue this dialogue as the need arises is very much appreciated. The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee will, in fact, continue discussing these matters in the future.
If there are any omissions in the White Paper they are not so much matters of principle but matters of detail. I do not propose to cover old ground but to draw attention to matters which arise from the White Paper. The first point is to emphasise the need for good facilities to meet the requirements of industry and commerce. These matters are referred to in paragraphs 5 and 6 of the White Paper, and largely revolve around the Science Reference Library and the question of the efficiency of library services as a whole. The British Museum Library, which is described as a library of last resort (some will say only resort), is somewhat different from the N.R.L.S.I. which, at the moment, is not really a library of last resort in the same sense as the British Museum Library is. The coverage is not designed to be absolute, but is defined within certain limits, and within these limits it attempts to be comprehensive. One of the simple limitations is that it will hold approximately one million volumes of material, but its strength lies in its inter-disciplinary nature and its relationship with other technological libraries and specialist collections.
The handling of scientific and technological literature is characterised by needs which are somewhat different from the Arts and Humanities, and because of its coverage and role the new Science Reference Library must ensure the availability of certain material at other places. This, to my mind, does not mean building up duplicate libraries regionally but improving communications (and in due course such things as data transmission facilities) so that regional users can make the best use of the system as a whole. One of the biggest problems that the Organising Committee will face will be determining to what extent the existing public libraries and universities can be used to strengthen the national organisation and whether, in fact, the universities themselves are willing to help in doing this, because primarily they are there for students and teaching purposes only.
1313 Perhaps I may give an example here. Because of local government administration, one finds now that a council or corporation may be spending a lot of money maintaining a public library, whereas industry in that same area may be inclined to go to the technical college library, or even the university library, by special arrangement. Every user has his pet librarian, whom he thinks is the "bee's knees", and frequently he never knows to what extent his librarian has made use of other libraries or information services. I feel that there is a case for rationalising the scope of regional libraries to obtain better value for money.
There is much to be studied before reaching conclusions, but I hope that the organising committee will tackle this work at an early stage. In any case, I think that the Government's proposals for the reorganisation of local government in England will help to solve many of the problems of administering regional libraries. This point was referred to by the noble Viscount, and I note that in the White Paper on that subject the responsibility for libraries will come at the top tier of the county councils, with the exception of the metropolitan areas. I should like to say here that all the difficulties of the use of industrial libraries, or libraries by industry, are likely to appear in the metropolitan areas, and that is where the problem is going to lie.
It appears that the organising committee, on the whole, are expected to achieve a great deal in a very short time, and will have to commit their successors to courses of action which they have not been able to determine for themselves. It is, therefore, most important, to my mind, that the organising committee should have from the start a number of members on it who will ultmiately be expected to be members of the Libraries Board itself, in order to ensure continuity of operations. The White Paper provides for this contingency up to a point, but I note that the Science Reference Library representation is not specifically mentioned, in spite of the separate directorate which is mentioned in paragraph 11(c) of the White Paper. This is possibly an omission. I should like to hear the view of the noble Viscount on this point. It may well be that he believes that the National Reference Library of Science 1314 and Invention, as constituted at the moment, has its affairs looked after by the British Museum, so that during the interim phase no special representation will be required, other than that provided by the British Museum Directorate itself. I suggest that there is a case for the Library being represented as an entity at a very early stage.
I now come to the question of buildings, particularly the part which will be the Science Reference Library. I see that the Government have appointed a chief architect for the project—the noble Viscount mentioned the name of Colin. St. John Wilson. I sincerely hope that, before the project is completed, in 13 years' time, thorough consideration will be given to laying out the building in such a way that it will meet the requirements of the modern trained user, who may be expected to employ techniques of data transmission and mechanised information retrieval as routine procedure. For example, the provision of conference and study rooms on a short-term rental basis should be studied. I think this would help the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich. I am not here trying to advocate entry charges, but I am considering the broader aspects of the British Library as an institution. Adequate facilities will have to be allowed for data transmission terminals, for example.
I was going to say that I do not believe that an architect can be found at the present time to design this Library, but assurances have been given by the noble Viscount about the architect who has been appointed. However, I still hope that the Organising Committee will be able to draw on Government assistance, to enable them to commission the necessary feasibility studies which will then lead to final designs. One of the new considerations for the building will be the inclusion of facilities for the disabled, and the outcome of the National Libraries' A.D.P. study must have a substantial effect on the means to be adopted of meeting growing demands.
I should like to ask my noble friend at this stage whether he will examine the desirability of reopening the old Museum Underground station, thereby providing the British Library with a direct outside link. I believe that the tunnel must pass very close to the planned new building, so that at relatively low cost good access 1315 could be established. The station could even be renamed, "Library". Further, I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether he anticipates that the Libraries Board will be the responsibility of any one Minister. So far as I can see, the White Paper seems to imply that it will be the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
In passing, I should like to refer to one point which was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich; that is, the Queen's appointed representative. Like him, I wonder whether this appointment would be better held at the British Museum Library Directorate level, rather than at the Board level. I should be interested to hear the noble Viscount's reasoning for the decision in the White Paper. Finally in welcoming the White Paper I would say that I hope the necessary legislation will proceed without further delay, and that users will be able to pass through the entrance without charge. To my mind, the framework for future planning depends on the deliberations of the Libraries Board's precursor, the Organising Committee, which must be as strongly based as possible.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD SANDYS
My Lords, I also should like to give a welcome to the White Paper, which is a very notable contribution. More especially, I would congratulate my noble friend Lord Eccles on his speech this afternoon, and on his very memorable speech of December 11, 1967. This afternoon my noble friend, Lord Cranbrook said that he was not going to gild this undoubted lily, and I suppose that it is very impertinent of me to say that it is my intention to do that. However, I hope he will forgive me.
My reason for intervening is largely a historical one. One of my forebears was one of the very early Trustees of the British Museum, and I suppose that this will be the last occasion when I shall have the opportunity of mentioning the British Museum in its present context, before the new Library is formed. I should like to mention this connection because a most important document links this new Library, whose birth pangs we are witnessing to-day, and one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world; that is, the Library of Alexandria. I refer 1316 to the famous Codex Alexandria and that highly important manuscript was brought to the British Museum in a curious way. Perhaps your Lordships will forgive this historical diversion, but I think it is interesting.
This document survived the Saracen destruction of the Library of Alexandria in 642 A.D., and it eventually reached Constantinople where it became the property of the Patriarch. In the year 1628 it was brought as a personal gift from the Patriarch of Constantinople by the hand of Sir Thomas Rowe, our British Ambassador in those days, to King Charles I; and it remained in the royal possession until the foundation of the British Museum Library in the reign of King George II. So important and so highly valued was this document in the very early days of the British Museum that in the year 1786 a special edition was printed under the Royal patronage not only of King George III but also of King Stanislas of Poland, the Elector of Bavaria and 350 notable scholars at libraries and universities, ranging from Rome to Lithuania. This very important document links the past with the present, and I feel sure that it will give great satisfaction to my noble friend Lord Eccles that, in a very real sense in this modern day, he is playing the part played by Ptolemy Soter, and his son, Ptolemy Philadelphus, in creating and founding this wonderful new Library.
There are two special points which I should like to make with regard to the composition of the Board. I regret that I differ from both the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, and my noble friend Lord Ironside in regard to the trusteeship and membership of the Board. It seems to me highly appropriate that the representative appointed by Her Majesty the Queen should be retained. Undoubtedly the position will be vested in the person most suitable to hold that office; and in a sense it would seem a little ungrateful if this link with the original foundation of the collection in the reign of King George II was not continued as a proper link.
I was delighted when my noble friend Lord Ironside referred to the special needs of the disabled in this Library. I venture to make the very tentative suggestion that it might be desirable to include a section of works in Braille. All of us who study and use the Museum's 1317 facilities are so fortunate in possessing our sight, and it would be an acknowledgement of that gift if one section of the Library were devoted to works in Braille. Another matter to which close attention should be given is the access to this new building complex. In this respect, disabled people are very important, and I hope that the architect will take due note of the advice which he will no doubt call upon from the societies for the disabled.
My Lords, I am not in any way further qualified to speak about the internal design of the building or about the communications system, but I should like to make one small point in regard to decoration. I hope that the internal embellishment of some of the important rooms will form the subject of a competition—possibly an international competition. This is an opportunity to draw together the graphic skills of many people who would undoubtedly be delighted to contribute. I feel that this is a very suitable opportunity to suggest to the architect that perhaps this might be possible.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I think we have had a very good debate. It has been a fairly short debate and, I think, a calm one, particularly when compared with the last occasion on which we debated this subject, in December, 1967, which was a long and extremely impassionate debate. Like other noble Lords before me, I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount the Paymaster General on his White Paper, and particularly its brevity. What it contains is extremely good and sound.
What I think is clear from this debate is that the appointment of the Dainton Committee by the previous Government at the end of 1967 has been fully justified. The question of the structure of our national library service is just as important as the site for the main National Reference Library. I always felt, if I may say so with all deference, that the previous debate in your Lordships' House tended to concentrate on the question of the site, to the exclusion of the structure. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, I do not want to revive this old controversy, and I am glad that it has now been resolved. Like him, too, I hope that we shall not dwell on the east.
1318 My Lords, not all the Dainton recommendations, of course, can be agreed, and some are controversial, to which I shall refer later; but the White Paper accepts the main recommendations, and much the most important of them. These recommendations had of course been accepted by the previous Government, and were announced to both Houses on April 7, 1970, just before the General Election; and I should like to join with my noble friend Lady Lee of Asheridge, to whose speech we listened with such interest, in paying a tribute to my right honourable friend Mr. Edward Short for accepting the recommendations. I think it is true to say that except perhaps for one or two details, if the Election had taken another course this would have been the Labour Government's White Paper. I think, therefore, that the Labour Government can take much credit, although one would not think so from some of the comments that were made during the previous debate.
The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, who I am sorry to see is not in his place to-day, but who told me that he very much regretted that, he could not be present, said during the course of the speech to which the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, alluded with such enthusiasm: "Why a committee?" He then went on to say:I think this alleged desire to have a committee to tell you what you ought to know or find out yourself is another of those ideas that have been cooked up".—[0FFICIAL REPORT, 13/12/67, col. 1138.]The Times of October 27, 1967, said:Mr. Gordon Walker's 'small independent Committee' to plough the field of a national library all over again is a piece of Whitehall flannel'.My Lords, flannel or not, it is warming to have these recommendations accepted by the present Government.
I must emphasise also, my Lords, as I think the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, accepted, that the delaying of this decision until the Dainton Committee had reported had very considerable advantages. As the Paymaster General has said, all the main listed buildings as well as those on the west side of Bloomsbury Square will be preserved. Furthermore—and I think this is even more important—the National Reference Library of Science and Invention will be included on the 1319 main site. The original plan did not include this. I know this was probably not the fault of the trustees, but it is a fact that the last plan did not include it. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, is perfectly right when he says that it is wrong to divide knowledge into two halves, and I very warmly welcome the fact that now the Science Library and the Humanities Library will be on the same site. I also welcome the fact that there will be as much housing as in the original plan in spite of the fact that the Science Reference Library will now be included. I am afraid that I cannot agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, said about the housing. I think we ought to have some housing on that site. I think it would be a pity for the whole of that part of London to become dead and institutional. I therefore welcome the White Paper proposals, and the fact that this operation will be centred on two complexes: the reference, research and bibliographical reference in London, and the lending services at Boston Spa.
I should like to ask the noble Viscount the Paymaster General a few questions—and I have given him private notice of most of these. First of all, I wonder whether it is wise to retain, mainly for sentimental reasons, the name "British Museum Library" alongside the renamed Science Reference Library. Would it not be better to give what is the main library for the Humanities in the reference division a name more in keeping with the new structure? Also, several noble Lords have asked why it is necessary to have a part-time member appointed by the Queen responsible only for the Royal Library of King George III. I agree entirely with the points which the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, raised, and I do not understand why it is necessary for this Crown appointment to be made to look after a library which is by royal gift the property of the Museum anyway. I am sure there must be good reasons, and I should be glad if the Government could tell us why this appointment is considered necessary.
I was also surprised that there is no place in the White Paper for the British Library of Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I should like to ask the Government: what is to be the future of this library? The Dainton Report drew 1320 attention to the dangers of possible duplication between the British Library of Art and the British Museum Library, and suggested that the B.L.A. (which contains, I believe, over 400,000 volumes, many of which are not available elsewhere) could possibly be integrated within the national organisation. It recommended further examination by the Department of Education and Science in association with the national libraries organisation. I should therefore like to ask what the Government propose to do.
I also see from paragraph 7 of the White Paper that it is not intended that the Science Museum Library should be absorbed into the Lyon Playfair Library of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, as recommended by Dainton. I am sure, my Lords, that this is right. But the White Paper proposes that the Lyon Playfair Library should take over a major part of the Science Museum Library. Certain bodies, including the staff association representing all the staff in the libraries which will form the British Library Organisation, believe that this would be a mistake. May I therefore ask the Minister whether this transfer relates to only a few books or to a large part of the Science Museum Library? If it is to be the latter, this could be damaging to a library which is in effect the national library of the history of science and technology, and, moreover, the library which provides specialist services to the staffs of the museums and colleges in South Kensington. Furthermore, the Science Museum Library is open to the public; the Lyon Playfair Library is not. I should therefore like to ask the Government whether they would consider allowing the Science Museum Library to remain intact.
I should like to say that the Standing Conference of National and University Librarians welcomed the main provisions of the White Paper and they have told me that the Conference attached great importance to ensuring that practical librarians should be brought into the deliberations of the statutory bodies from the beginning. I therefore welcome very much what the noble Viscount the Paymaster-General said in this respect. I was also particularly glad to see from paragraph 12, under the heading "Advisory Councils", that special councils will be appointed to give advice on 1321 the acquisition of rare books, maps and manuscripts. If I may say so, I detect here the personal hand of the Paymaster-General. I know how interested he is in this field. I hope that this policy will lead to some exhibitions in the new building devoted to authors and related subjects, following the splendid example of the Victoria and Albert Museum who have recently, as your Lordships know, put on the most memorable exhibitions to celebrate the centenaries of Berlioz and Charles Dickens. I therefore should like to ask the Paymaster-General whether the new building will contain a special exhibition hall so that London will be able to enjoy this kind of exhibition which is also so well done by the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.
My Lords, some of the Dainton recommendations were quite unacceptable. The White Paper does not mention these; and I should like to ask the Paymaster General for an assurance that it is not intended in these consultations to implement them in any way. The first recommendation to which I take exception is that dealing with outhousing. Dainton recommended, in view of the high cost of storing library material in central London, that lightly used material in the British Museum Library and in the Science Reference Library should be out housed in stores on lower cost land. I admit that the costs in Central London for book storage are very high. I believe that they are about £5 per square foot per year compared with just over £1 per square foot per year in low cost sites, for example, Boston Spa, outside London. But I think that this consideration should be overruled by the necessity to keep reference libraries intact and the inconvenience to users which results when books are sent away, an inconvenience of which I have personal experience.
I should like to support what the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, said about the newspaper library at Colindale. I referred to this in my own speech in 1967. I am glad that he is still taking this up. I suppose the reason is the high cost of storage, but here again I should like to ask the Paymaster General whether there is any chance of having the newspaper library in the main complex in Central London. There have been very 1322 many complaints from people who are required to go all the way to Colindale to consult what is an extremely important reference library.
The other Dainton recommendation which I hope will not be accepted is that relating to lending. Dainton recommended that in certain circumstances the National Reference Library should allow some books to be borrowed from its stock. It recommended these should be what it calls "lightly used foreign books". It think that if these are borrowed there will be even fewer foreign books in the British Museum Library than were found by the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich. As someone who goes to that Library mainly to consult foreign material, I have great sympathy with what he said. As Gertrude Stein might have put it: "A reference library is a reference library is a reference library". It is not a lending library. I support what Lord Trevelyan, the chairman of the trustees, said in this respect.
I welcome the fact that in paragraph 8 of the White Paper we see that the British Library will be able to retain the income from its own services, and I was glad to hear from the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that the Science Library is expected to be open by 1978. I should like to ask the Government whether, in order to attain this objective, we shall be seeing some legislation during this Session. As the White Paper says in paragraph 4, the British Museum Library and the Science Reference Library are "bursting at the seams".
I was glad to see that the noble Viscount has appointed Mr. Colin St. John Wilson as architect, and I hope that the whole Bloomsbury Square scheme will be modified very considerably. I never cared very much for the previous design; I hope that the new one will be well in keeping with its surroundings. On sentimental grounds, I am sorry that so much of the old Museum Street quarter is to disappear. It was a charming and useful adjunct to its great neighbour. But I feel sure that the new complex will be well designed to harmonise with its surroundings and that this whole structure will be something which, in the words of one of our greatest librarians, Sir Anthony Panizzi, "will enrich the civilisation of all nations".
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like briefly to reply to a debate which has been a real satisfaction to me and to all those in the Department who are set upon making this great project worthy of the assets entrusted to us. It is a very different debate from that we had four years ago, and I think there is not a single noble Lord who spoke who has not done something to help bring about the sweetness and light which is now taking the place of what I am bound to say was an emotional occasion. I am also very grateful for the many points of advice, which we shall certainly take up very carefully. I do not know whether it is inexperience on my part or what; but in facing this project I saw that there was an enormous number of questions to be examined and settled before one would really know what should be the structure of the central reference libraries and the lending libraries and, furthermore, their relations with the whole of the library system in this country.
The library service in this country costs almost exactly £100 million a year. It is something of very great importance in our cultural and educational life; and, given the rise in costs which we all know about, it is of the utmost importance not only to secure—if we can—some more money, but also to see that all the money we have now, and the money we get in future, is well laid out. This will very largely depend on the way in which we are able to organise the British Library, and therefore I think it must be right to spend a very considerable time consulting everyone who can lend us experience in this matter before we finalise the shape of the new institution.
My Lords, I can at once tell the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, that the £36 million, which is our estimate for the acquisition of the remaining parts of the site and the building costs, has nothing whatever to do with any money raised from museum charges. It is an undertaking by the Government in exactly the same way that we shall, I hope, be able to provide the money for some of the very large extensions to the Museum, and to other museums who are asking for such extensions. There will be no direct connection between charging 1324 for entrance and finding these very large capital sums, and the consequential recurrent grants.
The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, made a very interesting speech. Thinking back on his past support, I thank him for that support, and also for his support to-day. I think he felt that the White Paper was a little sketchy. I hope that I have given the House the reasons for that. It gives the main outline of what we want to do, but I fully realise that it would have been a very attractive thing if we could have produced an organisational plan such as the Dainton Committee produced in their Report. But, frankly, my Lords, I believe that if we had done that we should have been wrong. One has to remember that it may be 13 years before this institution actually opens its doors, and by that time, no doubt, the techniques of managing libraries—especially those of retrieval and copying—may well have changed very much. We shall have to solve these problems as we go along.
The noble Viscount, like the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and my noble friend Lord Sandys, raised the question of a part-time Trustee who is to be appointed by Her Majesty. I must say, my Lords, that this is not something that is necessary, but surely it is wholly appropriate. When King George III gave his great library—which I think contained something like one-third of all the books now in the British Museum Library published before 1750—it was at once recognised that it would be right and proper that the Sovereign should appoint a Trustee to the Board of the British Museum. When, therefore, this Library moves from the British Museum, as it is now, and becomes a separate institution, surely it is, as Lord Sandys said, right and proper that the appointment by the Sovereign should be continued. May I hasten to add that, in my experience, the Trustee of the British Museum appointed by the Sovereign does not confine himself to looking after the King's Library. Very distinguished people have been appointed in this way, and they have carried out very important functions in other directions; and I would suppose that this will happen again in the future.
Then I was asked by the noble Viscount, why consult the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State 1325 for Wales to get, as it were, a special trustee representing their interests. Well, of course, the relationship between the British Library and the National Libraries of Scotland and of Wales has to be very close. The Welsh and Scottish Libraries are both deposit libraries; they both have specialist collections relating to the history of Scotland and of Wales. It is already a convention (I think that the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, will agree with me) that when anything of real interest to the history of either Wales or Scotland appears on the market, it is secured and goes either to Scotland or to Wales. At the same time, there are historians who wish to have available to them documents relating to the two great parts of the United Kingdom; and I think it reasonable that the British Library should have representatives from those two areas so that there may be co-ordination. This is one of the instances of how a considerable saving in money might well be found to be possible. So I welcome the idea that we should have people on the Board with a special interest in Wales and in Scotland.
The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, was right in saying that we have some very big gaps in the collection of foreign books. A particular gap of which I am aware relates to Latin America. It is the fact that at different periods in the 19th century the Trustees of the British Museum either did not have the money to buy all the foreign books which one would wish they had bought; or, if they had the money, they preferred to spend it on something else. I really do not know what is the truth of the matter. But there are gaps. There are gaps in every great library, but I think that the librarians are well aware of it. The acquisition grants are larger now than they used to be, and I hope that perhaps some of the gaps may be filled.
I thank particularly my noble friend Lord Trevelyan for his warm welcome, and I would assure him that the cooperation from our side will match that from the Trustees. I agree with him that we have to share responsibility in a period in which the staff are still in the building of the present British Museum and the wardens who are going to look after the security of the Library are employed by the Trustees of the British 1326 Museum, although after the Act is passed the books will have passed in legal ownership to the new Board. But I am perfectly certain that, by putting our heads together, we can make that work very well. I can assure him that there will be no entrance charges to the British Museum Library, any more than there are going to be in the public library service. It looks to me as if someone who has a reader's ticket will get a free walk round the galleries of the antiquities. But still, my Lords, there will not be all that number, and we shall have to look the the other way.
My noble friend Lord Cranbrook made a most interesting speech; and because of his knowledge of the National Central Library it was particularly important that we should listen to the advice which he gave. I agree with him that the old idea about there being a division between the Humanities and the Sciences should be allowed to die. I think that is well on the way to happening. To-day there is a general feeling that the idea of there being two separate cultures is a mistake. That we are still reflecting it to some extent, by having two separate buildings on the site, is, I think, not serious but rather necessary from several points of view.
First, so far as I understand the design, which is not yet complete, it would be a great advantage to have St. George's Church in the middle, standing isolated in a kind of piazza; and on the one side the building containing the Science Reference Library, and on the other side the larger building (since the site would also be much wider at one end than the other) containing the British Museum Library. I think that, architecturally, there would be a great deal to be said for having two buildings. So far, I do not think the architect has considered whether there would be an underground connection, or even a bridge, between the two. But then there is no doubt that reference books relating to the Sciences are different from reference books relating to the Arts. In the first place, the researcher wants to have open access. As a matter of fact, it seems that one can conveniently organise a library with open access, on perhaps several floors, with about one million books, but: not with much more
1327 Then there comes the question of the obsolescence rate of the scientific material. It is altogether different from the obsolescence rate of literature and the Arts. Therefore we need to organise the Science Reference Library in such a way that the new stock—journals and all the rest—comes in at one end, and the older stock goes to the other end, is weeded out and goes down into the sump; so that we keep in the middle something like one million books on open access. The experts in this field tell me that this is better organised in what one might call a specialist science reference library. I think that is worth remembering. It will not mean that there is a frontier between the two. The social scientist might work in one building or the other, and as there is only one sump in which the book stocks are located, he can call for a book from either side of the stock.
I was interested in what the noble Lord said about the photo-copying service and the multiple copies. I think there is a problem there which I should like to consider with those who are experts in copyright; and perhaps the noble Lord will allow me again to take his advice on this topic. We shall have to do something about it at some time.
The noble Earl said, quite rightly, that the management body of the whole is the really important thing. Are we going to get the right kind and the best kind of people to take on this job? A fact that is borne in on anyone in Government to-day is the scarcity of really first-class people of an age at which one could put them on to bodies of this kind and think that they had ten or fifteen years life in front of them. I am not quite sure what has happened, but I think that there was a generation of people who were tested by the war and, having had difficult jobs to do, came very quickly to the front and were singled out and promoted very fast. Those people are roughly of my age, and we are at the end of the line. There must be equally good people between the ages of, let us say, 40 and 55. We have to find these people. We shall need some here because of the length of time before the Library opens its doors. I do not think it possible that we can take too much trouble to try to find the right people for what will be a fascinating job of great importance.
1328 The noble Lord, Lord Ironside, who of course knows so much more than I do about the requirements of industry and commerce, and engineering in particular, was naturally anxious whether this system that we are setting up is going to meet the needs. Of course the Dainton Committee thought that it would be better almost to turn the National Reference Library for Science and Invention into the Regional Library for London and the South-East, and then to build up a series of regional science reference libraries throughout the country. We looked at that idea as carefully as we could in the time, and we came to the conclusion that the duplication of stocks involved would be too expensive to take on at this time.
We felt that the first thing to do was to reunite in one building the fragmented National Reference Library for Science and Invention; to make sure that it held as comprehensive a stock as possible, and then to make the copying service and the lending service as good as we could. Then, when we had done that, we should be able to look round to see whether there ought to be duplicate large stocks of, say, scientific journals in half a dozen other places in the country. I am sure that with the money available—and inevitably it has to be a great deal of money—the right thing to do at present is to make the Science Reference Library something of which we can all be proud. But in the end we may have to come to regional libraries.
The noble Lord asked whether the National Reference Library for Science and Invention could be represented on the Organising Committee. I will certainly look at that. But, as he rightly said, this Library is a subsidiary of the British Museum; the Trustees of the British Museum know very well what is going on in it, and I should have thought could adequately represent it. The noble Lord made a fascinating suggestion that we should open the old Museum Underground station. I do not know about that. I will speak to my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport about it but my guess would be that that would put up the bill very considerably.
The noble Lord also asked whether the Board of the British Library will be responsible only to the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I think the answer to that must be, Yes. Your 1329 Lordships will notice that we are trying to create a structure which is much more like a university. It will be much closer to a university status than, say, the Victoria and Albert, which is run by the Department, and for which all the building work is done by the Department of the Environment. This, as I say, will be much more like a university. In taking that parallel, I think it is a good thing to have only one Department to deal with it; and, as I say, that will be the Department of Education and Science.
The noble Lord, Lord Sandys, compared me to one of the Ptolemies. I am not quite sure about that. But I think he is right in saying that the Ptolemies were interested in decoration; and so far as one can react about it, the library and the other Palace complexes in Alexandria were most beautifully decorated. Perhaps that is why he wants me to try to pay attention to the embellishment of the new building. There is nothing I should like to do more, and if the noble Lord will help us to get the additional funds for the architect we will certainly do that with both hands.
Coming finally to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, I was grateful for the tone of his speech. He asked me one or two questions. Why, he asked, do we retain the name the "British Museum Library"? I am afraid that this is great sentiment. Long before the noble Lord and I were born there were people all over the world who had the greatest affection for the British Museum Library. I do not believe it would be right—it is only a little thing, after all—to depart from a name which has won for our scholarship such a sure place in every academic circle throughout the world. I am glad to keep the name, "British Museum Library". And, of course, it distinguishes it from the British Library, which is the whole complex including all the other parts of the Institution.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
My Lords, may I remind the noble Viscount, before he sits down, that the British Museum Library has always been responsible for the Sciences as well as for the Arts?
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
Yes, my Lords. I thank the noble Earl for his observation. That brings us back, of course, to the problem of the two directorates. 1330 Questions of whether there should be a separate directorate for manuscripts, whether there should be a separate directorate for the Humanities and another for the Sciences, are surely things that we must work out as we go along and in terms of the personalities that we are able to persuade to come and join us.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said that there was no mention of the Victoria and Albert Museum Arts Library. No: that will remain exactly as it is. And a very fine library it is. It is true that the Dainton Committee suggested that some of the material might be removed and would be better housed in the British Museum. I would only suggest to the noble Lord that he would get a warm reception from Sir John Pope-Hennessey if he decided to go down there and remove some of the books to Bloomsbury. In fact, this library on art at the Victoria and Albert Museum is precisely the type of library that we ought to build up, because the foundations are so good. People who work there know so much about art, and can help the reader so much.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt. I never suggested that the books from the Victoria and Albert Museum Library, for which I have a great affection—just as much as he has—should be removed to the British Museum Library. All I was attempting to suggest was that consideration should be given to bringing the Library into the structure to avoid overlapping of purchases, and so on.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I am sorry; it was the Dainton Report and not the noble Lord who suggested that there should be a rationalisation between the two. It is quite clear that in the purchasing—especially of foreign books—there will have to be arrangements between the British Library and other specialist libraries, who also want foreign material. This is best dealt with by agreement, and this is the kind of agreement which the Board will have to enter into.
As the noble Lord will know, there has always been the greatest difficulty over Oriental books and books relating to Africa, and I am hopeful that in the future these matters will be solved. We cannot afford to buy more than so many 1331 copies of all the material published in the rest of the world—we can only buy a "largish" proportion of them. In Japanese books alone there are 25,000 titles a year and I think we buy 10,000. I do not see how we can afford to buy the whole lot. Therefore the selection is of the utmost importance, and then the accessibility of the copies, wherever they happen to be, must be guaranteed if the money is provided from central funds.
With regard to the Science Museum Library, one has to take account of the institutions concerned, their own past and their feelings on the matter. It is quite right that the specialist library for the history of science should be there. On the other hand, the Science Library, aided in the ordinary course of its work by the staff of the Science Museum and by Imperial College, is better and more economically and efficiently run if there is a combination, and that is what we intend to have. Otherwise, if we left the whole of the Science Museum Library where it is, and built up the Lyon Playfair Library, there would be duplication in very close proximity. I think our decision there is right. The noble Lord asked whether there would be exhibition space in the new building. Yes, there certainly will. It is interesting that ten years ago the limiting factor as to what could be done with the site was book storage below ground. Now techniques are so improved that storage is no longer a limiting factor; the limiting factor is what can be done above ground. There, I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, we shall have three times the readers' places we have now.
Finally, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, did not approve of the Dainton recommendations on either out-housing or lending from the British Museum Library, which was dealt with by my noble friend, Lord Trevelyan. He asked when legislation would come. I hope it will be next year but, naturally, I am not in a position to give any definite date. He asked whether we are going to have an entirely new design for the masses of the building, the heights, and so forth, and the answer is certainly "Yes". It is there that I have the greatest confidence in the architect, whom I believe to be someone of quite outstanding ability.
§ BARONESS LEE OF ASHERIDGE
My Lords, I do not want to prolong this debate. We are grateful to the noble Viscount for the long and interesting reply to our questions, but in the course of his first statement he said that changes in the copyright law would increase the cost of books to libraries. I was perplexed as to whether this increase in cost would be met my a lump sum from the central Government.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, the noble Baroness perhaps did not see the statement which I put out about that matter, in which I said that there were a number of difficult questions and I was setting up a Working Party consisting of authors, publishers, local authorities, librarians and so on. The people concerned have now been invited to form the Working Party, and we are going to work out exactly how this problem is to be handled. It is not easy, but it is a good deal better than a "slush" fund provided from the Treasury. This is a real public lending right, and will be in proportion to the value put upon a book by the library. This is a true public lending right which I think has been owed to the authors for a long time.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.