Dame Lynne Brindley

Partnership is key to success

Being brave and bold in times of financial challenge not only shows strong leadership but also brings strength to partnerships. Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, shares her vision for the future and why partnerships are key to success.

Collections and resources created for you by JISC and the British Library

19th century British newspapers

Three million pages from 71 titles of nineteenth-century British newspapers have been digitised and are freely accessible in the British Library Reading Rooms and via portals in universities and colleges. There is also the option for online access with a subscription. JISC page.

JISC - British Newspapers 1620-1900 Showreel.

Burney Collection

Approximately three million pages from the 17th and 18th century Burney Collection.

Archival sound recordings

There have been 44,600 selected recordings of music, spoken word and human and natural environments, equating to 3,900 hours of recordings, have been digitised.


Offers a 'single point of access' where researchers the world over can access all theses produced and put online in the electronic store by UK higher education.

'The world's knowledge' and 'inspiring innovation' are the straplines of the British Library and JISC, two organisations that have worked together to digitise millions of items for teaching, learning and research, giving collections such as the 19th century British newspapers and archival sound recordings a new lease of life.

As technology makes the world a smaller place Dame Lynne is all too aware of the importance of enriching and enhancing online collections. In her role as the Chair of the government's Online Learning Taskforce she has a strong insight into the challenges facing today's learners, researchers and university managers in ensuring that their diverse needs are met.

'A key message from the OLTF report is that it is an increasing expectation from students whether they are working on campus or they are on the other side of the world, that they have a significant component of online working.

'In other words they don't want a significant shift in how they run their lives in the web 2.0 world to the way they interact with learning.'

Another important finding from the report is that online learning is not yet embedded in many institutions' overall strategy.

'There are pockets of really good things happening where there might be, for example, one faculty with an enthusiastic academic, but what we are saying is that we no longer think institutions can keep it [online learning] at the edges, but need to consider how they are going to embed it across their institution.

quoteClearly, the model for online learning, as we see it, does have a significant technology underpinning… which works with the content, the people and expertise including the pedagogical element.'

'Clearly, the model for online learning, as we see it, does have a significant technology underpinning (that's increasingly available in open source, various commercial packages etc.) which works with the content, the people and expertise including the pedagogical element.'

Moving resources online and incorporating an overall online learning strategy does bring with it a number of challenges in term of curriculum design and delivery. Brindley believes there will be the need for 'some significant cultural and organisational change'.

If online learning is adopted on an even wider scale then libraries themselves will become curators of that pedagogical content. Libraries then become not just a service that the university or institution provides for its staff and students, but a key player in its academic curriculum delivery.

'Libraries have got an important role to play in a partnership of experts, both in designing and delivering this kind of material. The kind of digitisation of quality resources, the licensing rights and all of that becomes central stage, if institutions move, as we hope they will, towards more online learning.'

'Impact at scale' is how Dame Lynne articulates what she believes the British Library is 'increasingly about' and 'digital resources and digitisation are critical in being able to do that'.

As the British Library launches its strategic plan for the next four years, following on from its 2020 Vision launched last September, Brindley sees partnerships as a way to deliver this impact during a period of quite tight finances.

'Partnership is very important and we value ours with JISC. We are moving forward with an increasing range of these and are developing an excellent media partnership with the BBC. So you may have seen the Beauty of Maps series or the new Beauty of Books series. It scales the audience that we can reach. We're reaching multimillion audiences and it helps people to appreciate their national library and the resources we have.'

This work is fundamental to bringing researchers, one of the BL's key customers, the services and products for which the British Library is renowned.

'Researchers need multimedia formats in other means. They no longer care if it is a book, whether a film or a piece of sound, they want everything. With the BBC, institutions like the BFI, the BUFVC – we will aim to develop our role to enrich research resources in many many formats. We can't do it all ourselves but we can work collaboratively.'

This approach is reaching internationally too. 'We are for example working very strongly with India, and Qatar, sharing our resources and putting interpretation around them and presenting in different contexts but relying very often on the digital presentation.'

The importance of online learning and the British Library's 2020 vision.
Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive, British Library.

Brindley goes on to explain that a major programme of work is taking place with the BL's counterparts, such as the Ministry of Culture in India, to open up collections held in India. The aim is to enrich research for the whole community that is interested in South Asian studies and Colonial history. This is possible through working in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council who have funded researchers to go out and run workshops with the BL in India to meet counterparts to see what joint research possibilities are.

'So I think it is an absolute win, win. Of course those resources are then open to the world as we need to make efforts that anybody who wants to research can access information.'

When asked what advice Dame Lynne would give to her younger self, she pointed out that one of the lessons she has learnt is to 'always exploit opportunities as they come along, even if you are a bit scared of them, or you think they are really stretching. Do anything that will open up possibilities and don't be frightened of that as you're continuously learning.'

Learn how to put your resources online

JISC Advance run a suite of training courses and infokits to help you put your resources online and get the most out of your existing content.

Whether working with JISC to digitise content, with schools to teach the next generation of researchers' digital literacy skills or internationally to open up resource for the world, Dame Lynne's ethos of pushing boundaries and make the most of opportunities is clearly one of success factors in the British Library’s opening up of the world's content.

Visit JISC's Content site where you can find all the collections which JISC deliver for you including those developed in partnership with the British Library.


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