Tuesday, 6 January 2009

National Maritime Museum Library

The newsletter of the Naval Dockyards Society report in the editorial of their newsletter the following shocking story - certainly a situation I am not aware that people in Greenwich know about -

"At the end of October 2008, the National Maritime Museum announced a 'temporary' closure of the Caird Library from 20 December 2008 until the late spring or early summer of next year. This announcement, made with such little notice and no meaningful consultation, naturally prompted a storm of protest, and I wrote formally to the Director of the Museum on behalf of this society to express our deep concern. I was particularlyconcerned about the effect that the proposed closure would have had on the superbly professional and enthusiastic team of volunteers working on the NDS-sponsored Navy Board Project, which since 1999 has been cataloguing the papers at Greenwich for the benefit of the Library. A complete closure also raised questions about the Museum's responsibilities as a designated place of deposit for public records, notably many important manuscripts on dockyard history. On 3 December, the Museum responded to the pressure by conceding that the library would remain open for two days a week during the first half of 2009, and at the time of going to press we are hopeful that our volunteers will be allowed access to the materials they need to continue their work; the announcement specifies, albeit rather vaguely, that the library will continue to meet its responsibilities for access to public records. However, until 2012 the library's hours will be severely curtailed to just three days a week and the first Saturday in each month, all by appointment only. These changes are part of the £35 million development of the new Sammy Ofer wing at the museum, which is to include a new research facility. We are glad that the Museum finally saw sense over this matter, but are appalled that the situation arose in the first place; many have suggested that this reflects a long-standing and less than positive attitude to those engaged in serious research in naval history. We also remain very concerned about the restrictions on access to the library in the period to 2012 - restrictions that are driven primarily by the imperative to get the new wing ready in time for the Olympics, as the library's website openly admits - and about the future use of the outstanding Caird Library. Therefore,we will continue to monitor developments atGreenwich very closely.

1 comment:

Tony said...

The situation is very far from resolved, and there is an online petition to the Prime Minister available to sign at petitions.number10.gov.uk/caird-library/.

The Library is now open only three days per week, for a total of approximately 20 hours per week. This is approximately half the minimum of 40 hours per week promised and promoted in the Museum's own current published Library Access policy.

In March, the Museum will close direct public access to the major part of its manuscripts collection while it is moved to off-site storage. Although the decant of manuscripts will be complete by June 2009, the reduced opening hours (of 20 hours per week) apply all the way through to 2012, and the service will be further limited by fewer document retrievals per day because of the retrieval from off-site storage.

In response to questions, the Museum has offered no explanation for the ongoing reduction in opening hours.

The reduced service is incompatible with the 2008-11 funding agreement with the Government, which commits the Museum to a strategic priority of maintaining a core public offer providing opportunity for research to visitors during the development.

None of the £35 million project budget for the Sammy Ofer wing has been allocated to this strategic priority of maintaining the core Archive and Library service provision to researchers during the development.

There is concern that the reduced opening hours may become permanent as, despite requests, no commitment has yet been made to restore or to increase the opening hours when the new research centre opens in the Sammy Ofer wing in 2012.

In its announcement on 19 December 2008 the Museum admitted that it "simply underestimated the ongoing demand for access" to its library and archives collections, but at the vey same time the Museum has been working on a 5 year Strategic Plan, and divisional business plans. The cuts in service are presumably based on its underestimate of demand.

Please make you feelings know by adding your name to the petition at petitions.number10.gov.uk/caird-library/.