Visit to the British Library at Boston Spa

Nineteen volunteers from Kirkheaton Library (pictured) visited the British Library at Boston Spa, built on the site of a former munitions factory in early November. Whilst the site retains certain original features it is well landscaped and sympathetic to the environment.
The volunteers split into two groups of ten and were escorted by tour guides Denise and Darren.
The first location was the “Flashback lab” which contained out of date computer systems. This allowed access to redundant storage media and conversion to modern formats.
Our next location was the impressive  Automated Building which takes any published works and stores them in a safe environment. To avoid fire damage the storage section is maintained with a low oxygen atmosphere which does not support combustion and therefore eliminates the need for conventional fire protection systems. Books and publications are stored in special crates which are transported to an operator who removes the publication and the crate is then returned to its original location.
The system is totally automatic once the required publication has been selected on the computer. The item is then despatched to the customer either in the reading room, as a partial photocopy or by post to the British Library in London or other destination. The storage hold 7 million items and operates 20 hrs/day. The growth rate for new publications is 12 linear kilometres per year which means that further units are being planned.
In addition there is conventional storage for less important items where duplicates are available elsewhere. The library has modern AO scanners where books or periodicals can be scanned or posters made for special events.

Availability of books and document titles can be checked by consulting their online catalogues.

Finally Boston Spa is one of five “Legal Deposit Libraries “ in the UK where one copy of everything printed is sent for digitisation and storage. The decision for deciding which library holds the copies is made at Boston Spa. Hopefully our own Yetton News will soon be available there!

Our volunteers were grateful for the support received from “One 17 Design” to help subsidising our travel costs.
                                                             John Taylor [Friends of Kirkheaton Library]