Subject: Re: STOP THE BRITISH LIBRARY, FREE ACCESS NOW!
From: Brian Kefford (Brian.Kefford@mail.bl.uk )
Date: pe 05 heinš† 1996 - 12:28:54 EEST
Dear European Copyright Users Platform discussion list members,
I apologise for taking up your time with this message, since the topic raised
here is not a copyright matter. In my opinion, it is not a good idea to use
this discussion list to sound off on any library topic. However, since the
topic has been raised, I reproduce below Owen Fisher's original message to
the British Library and the reply that I sent to him.
Owen Fisher (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote to the British Library:
"Recently, I discovered that the British Library charges a fee for on-line
users (except university ISPs), to access to their catalogues! I believe this
policy to be contrary to the spirit of the information age as well as to the
very definition of what a public library's function is! The policy also sets
an alarming precedence, as I am under the impression that The British Library
is the only national library on line that charges fees to the general public.
Please consider this to be a formal complaint about this policy and be
forewarned that I also intend to urge others to lodge complaints not only
with you but with the British government, the European Union, the United
Nations, Her Royal Majesty the Queen, as the highest representative of the
Commonwealth as well as leader of the Anglican Church (the policy is also
inmoral) and the World Court in The Hague, (after all, is it not just
another form of extortion?) I also will be contacting various parts of the
mass media and informing them on this matter."
I replied of behalf of the British Library:
"Dear Mr Fisher
Thank you for your recent message about charges for access to the online
catalogues of the British Library. I hope the following comments will help
to explain the situation.
The issue of charges for services is a difficult one for all large research
libraries. The distinction between free and priced services is not
straightforward. The annual grant that the British Library receives from the
British government does not of course allow it to provide all services for
free, so the question is which services should be free and which paid for
wholly or partly by the users. The British Library is well aware of the wide
range of opinions on this issue and will attempt to achieve a fair balance
between priced services and those that are free at the point of use.
The British Library presently makes no charge for use of its reading rooms,
nor for use of its online public access catalogue which is currently
available to academic libraries in the UK and which will be extended to other
UK libraries and overseas when funds are available.
Blaise (the British Library Automated Information Service) has been available
for nearly 20 years and has always been a priced service. Blaise gives
access to a wide range of bibliographic information that includes not only
British Library catalogues but also complementary bibliographic databases,
some of which are produced outside the British Library. Blaise has other
value-added features, such as its link to the British Library Document Supply
Centre for ordering loans and photocopies and its ability to supply fully
formatted catalogue records for use in local automated catalogues. Blaise
has traditionally been used by trained librarians in other libraries.
Recently, Blaise has added a World Wide Web option, that makes it much easier
to use by untrained and inexperienced searchers.
It is pleasing to know that the British Library's catalogues are regarded as
a valuable resource. The Library has done much to increase local and remote
access to its own catalogues and to a comprehensive range of bibliographic
information and it will continue to seek new ways to meet the differing needs
to its wide range of users.
Manager, Blaise and Network OPAC,
National Bibliographic Service
I think that this message should interest the ecup-list subscribers. I think
that the British Library has taken a very serious step concerning the future
development of libraries in the information society. This issue is really
worth of discussion.
>>From email@example.com Fri Jul 5 02:49:32 1996
>Date: Fri, 5 Jul 1996 00:21:43 +0200
>From: firstname.lastname@example.org (owen fisher)
>Subject: STOP THE BRITISH LIBRARY, FREE ACCESS NOW!
>Dear ISOP list members,
>As this is my first message to the list, I would like to thank ISOP for
>providing this very important service. I hope it becomes one of the most
>important and emblematic devices on the Internet in terms of electronic
>The real motive for my contacting you is that recently, I discovered that
>the British Library charges a fee for on-line users (except university
>ISPs), to access to their catalogues! I believe this policy to be contrary
>to the spirit of the information age as well as to the very definition of
>what a public library's function is! The policy also sets an alarming
>precedence, as I am under the impression that The British Library is the
>only national library on-line that charges fees to the general public. (The
>only rates that should be going up are modem baude rates!)
>I would like to solicit your help in denouncing this policy. The
>effectiveness of pressure put forth by colleagues would be great.
>The British Library may be reached via email:
>the URL is:
>There are questions here that not only effect the tax payers of the United
>Kingdom but, also the European Union in terms of reciprocity, the
>Commonwealth, and indeed the entire world.
>I look forward to reading your replies as to how to get them to rectify this
>Owen J. Fisher
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