Dame Lynne Brindley of the British Library came to Sheffield yesterday to deliver the Firth Lecture at the Univerity of Sheffield.
The title of her talk was Culture, Creativity and Research and she looked at how the British Library as a publicly funded cultural institution supports the creative industries.
Lynne began by outlining the importance of creative industries to the British economy. They employ 1.1 million people and contribute £60 billion to the UK economy - and these figures are likely to rise. She explored the concept of Knowledge Transfer as it applies to the creative industries, pointing out that there were differences from the science & technology model. Creative industries require a social architecture or a cultural ecology within which they can operate and draw on for information and inspiration. The BL has three core role; a resource for research; to underpin business and enterprise through the Business and Intelectual Property centre and as a cultural institution. Web 2.0 developments in particular have enabled the BL to provide a different Knowledge Transfer model for the creative industries which is social not linear and combines these three roles. Writers, artists, designers and other creative people have used the BL to support the creative process and to turn this creativity into business success.
Lynne then moved on to copyright stressing that there needed to be a balance between the protection given to the creative industries and the need for fair use exceptions to allow people to access and make use of this material.
The talk was a powerful argument for the importance and value of a publicly funded national library and it seems to me that with a few changes it could stand as an argument for public libraries in general. I am sure that the knowledge transfer model that Lynne described operates in our major public libraries as well. I suspect that the other roles of public libraries - e.g. lending books for general reading and as access points to the Internet via the Peoples Network - although valuable in themselves, do tend to mask and dilute this role so that the economic contribution of public libraries is harder to quantify and therefore not recognised by the funders and decision makers. Public libraries have always suffered from the lack of a champion who can speak on their behalf. Where is the public library "chief executive" who can speak on behalf of all libraries with the authority of a Lynne Brindley?