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November 6, 2013

British Library national newspaper archive in Colindale closing on Friday after 82 years

By Darren Boyle

The national newspaper collection is moving on Friday from its home in Colindale to a new purpose built building in Yorkshire.

The new building will have a special low-oxygen storage area that will prevent fire. It will also feature rigid temperature and humidity controls to provide the optimum storage conditions for newspapers.

According to the British Library, the oxygen level in the building will be reduced from 21 percent to between 14-15 percent, which is low enough to stop a struck match from catching light.

Fortunately, the automated robots working the filing system are not worried by the low oxygen environment.

Ben Sanderson of the British Library said the move was necessary to secure the future of the archive.

“Colindale might have the history but it is a 19th century way of doing things. Regular users of the service will tell you of ‘Colindale dandruff’. No matter how careful you are with the newspapers, they are slowly disintegrating. That is why we want a temperature and humidity control room.

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“We have been planning this move for six or seven years.

“Colindale opened in 1932 and we do not have enough space on the site when you consider the number of publications we are sent.”

The British Library continues to receive hard copies of all newspapers and there are no plans at present to cease collecting new editions.
The new building is located in Boston Spa in Yorkshire. Despite this, the British Library still plans to offer a 48 hour service to transport hard copies from the depository to the new reading room in St Pancreas.

“Ideally, we will offer either digital or microfiche versions of the paper and if the paper is able to travel, then we will supply the hard copy.

“Maintaining an archive such as ours is a massive challenge. Newspapers are designed to be read on day one and thrown out. Old papers made from rags can be stored far easier compared with papers made from wood pulp.

“If you leave a modern newspaper out in the sun for a few hours it starts to go yellow and becomes very brittle.”

As part of the move, the collection will be unavailable until March 2014 while hard copies will be available for request again in October 2014.

For more information on the move, click on this link.



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