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The British Library – rethinking physical storage

Andrew H. Appleyard (Operations (North) Department, British Library Boston Spa, Wetherby, UK)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 18 April 2023

Issue publication date: 8 August 2023




The British Library (BL) faces a significant challenge with storage space predicted to run out within the next three years. However, alongside a plan to create additional capacity, the BL also intends to take the opportunity to rethink the integration of storage and workflows in order to implement a fully optimised end-to-end model of content management. This approach will incorporate not only storage and workflow design and integration, but also the physical environments and facilities for staff and users.


This paper draws on years of experience in the context of systemic industry changes to lead the reader into new thinking and opportunities in relation to print preservation and access. It should be noted that some of the aspirational new thinking described within this article may not come to fruition due to construction market inflation and resulting budgetary constraints.


As the national library of the UK, BL, like all libraries, has the responsibility of storing (preserving) its collections while making them accessible to everyone. Traditional models of physical storage can often operate in isolation from the processes that accompany them – creating silos of materials, completely remote from either the acquisition and description processes that precede their storage, or misaligned with the processes in place to support access.

Practical implications

The presentation of this conceptual thinking could help inform other libraries planning to build new print repositories.


The strategic approach outlined within this paper has adopted ideas and concepts from non-library applications, bringing them together to form a holistic solution that delivers the ultimate aims of a library within a modern context.



Alasdair Ball (former British Library Head of Collection Management) Andy Groarke (Director - Carmody Groarke Ltd) James Urquhart The Boston Spa Renewed Programme.


Appleyard, A.H. (2023), "The British Library – rethinking physical storage", Library Management, Vol. 44 No. 5, pp. 333-350.



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