The Paul Hamlyn Library is home to 50,000 books

BM confirms closure of Paul Hamlyn library

Gareth Harris, 11.08.2011
The future of the library's collections is still unclear
The Paul Hamlyn public library at the British Museum (BM), which is home to more than 50,000 books and journals, will close this Friday 12 August as part of a cost-cutting exercise.
 
A BM spokeswoman said it regretted having to close the library as part of its efforts to accommodate a 15% cut to the museum’s grant-in-aid budget. Nine members of staff have taken voluntary redundancy as a result of the closure, but the future of the library's collection is still unclear. 

The move was heavily criticised by Annie Mauger, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

“We are sad and very concerned about the closure of the Paul Hamlyn Library,” she said. “This collection is not only live and valuable to learners and researchers today, but also has great historic value in its own right.  I wrote to [director] Neil MacGregor about the proposals some time ago and did not receive a reply.
 
“We asked to know what the plans were for looking after this collection and that remains a great concern. However, above all we are concerned about the library staff and the loss of expertise to the British Museum. Librarians are the key to providing access to the knowledge contained in collections.”

A spokeswoman for the Historic Libraries Forum said: "[The decision is] very short-sighted in view of all the outreach work undertaken by the library, which is now lost to the museum.

"We are also disappointed that the museum made no public statement until the closure was announced."
 
The Historic Libraries Forum has also raised concerns about staff redundancies and the future of the library collection.
 
The BM canvassed 11 staff members as part of a 90-day internal consultation about the future of the library. Two members of staff have been redeployed to other roles and nine have accepted voluntary redundancy.

"A number are still serving notice periods and the museum will continue to keep them informed of future redeployment opportunities as they become available," the BM spokewoman said.
 
She added that the museum is now looking into how the books housed in the Paul Hamlyn library “can best be managed so that they continue to be used for the maximum benefit of the museum”.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation declined to comment but Robert Dufton, director of the foundation, told Museums Journal last month that he would be “disappointed” to see the library close, stressing the library’s role in “enabling effective and deep learning”.
 
The library's collections cover the range of world cultures represented in the museum and include material relating to the history and development of the BM. It also houses a collection of rare books from the House of Commons.
 
The museum's Centre for Anthropology library remains open to visitors while the curatorial department libraries may be accessed, by appointment, for research enquiries.

Update 12/08/2011

This article was updated to include comments from the Historic Libraries Forum.

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