British Library considers new Leeds outpost

British Library considers new Leeds outpost

The British Library is considering opening a new facility in Leeds alongside plans to expand its existing reading rooms in the area.

As part of its British Library North programme, the organisation is investing money into its existing Boston Spa site near Wetherby. Plans are in place to expand its archival storage facilities and upgrade its staff spaces as part of the Leeds “2023” five-year programme to boost its cultural investment.

The library has discussed potential locations for a new building with the local authority, according to board meeting minutes released to the Guardian in a Freedom of Information request.

A spokesman for the British Library told The Bookseller any proposals for a new facility in Leeds were only in an “exploratory” stage.

He added: “The primary focus of our British Library North programme is to invest in the estate on our existing site at Boston Spa, near Wetherby, to expand archival-standard storage facilities for the collections under our custodianship, and to refurbish the staff areas, much of which is outdated. These plans are now well-advanced and we are in the process of developing an Outline Business Case for renewed investment in the Boston Spa site.

"Alongside this, we will work with local partners, including Leeds City Council, to deliver expanded culture and learning programming in the run up to the Leeds 2023 cultural festival – starting with this year’s Leeds Digital Festival. 2023 is our 50th anniversary so this will be an important milestone year for the Library. We will also be exploring subsequent opportunities to embed our presence in the city after 2023, and we look forward to further discussions with partners in the coming months."

There are also proposals for British Library Open, a scheme modelled on the BBC iPlayer to make library content available online.

Leeds city council said it hoped an increased presence for the library would help cement the city as a cultural “base” for the north.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds has ambitious plans for making the most of our cultural strengths as we work with partners towards 2023. We are delighted to have a strong relationship with the British Library, with their presence playing an important part in the Leeds cultural, digital and economic landscape, and we look forward to working them in the years ahead, as one of a wide range of organisations who see the opportunities available here, from Channel 4 to Burberry.

“Part of our aim is for national cultural institutions to recognise the city as a base to increase access for people across the North to assets which might otherwise remain unseen or unavailable.”