British Libary’s newspapers are moving

IF YOU'VE been putting off a project that entails reading a lot of old newspapers, the Newspaper Library is leaving London in the coming months, so you might like to get a move on.

Sculpture in the shape of a chained book; photo © Matt Salusbury
A sculpture in the foyer of the British Library St Pancras site showing a chained-up library book from the Olden Days. The sculpture's also a bench for BL punters to sit on.

The last phase of the Newspapers Library move out of the Colindale site will start in June. In the run up to that, large chunks of the 24,000 titles still there will be "embargoed" so you won't be able to access them as they are prepared for the move to storage in Boston Spa, Yorkshire.

Pretty much all the Newspaper Library "hard copy" collection will be inaccessible from June. Only around a hundred "high-use" periodicals - including TV listings magazines, fashion titles, trade papers and comics – are still available until the autumn. Lists of "high-use" titles about to embargoed will be published here, and the are regular Collection Moves Bulletins on the BL website already

After the move's finished this autumn, Colindale will close for good. Getting hold of print versions of newspapers will get much harder or become impossible - there will be a smaller selection of print titles you can order at the St Pancras British Library site (or via the web during reading room hours for delivery to St Pancras). Most print periodicals you'll still be able to get your hands on will take 48 hours to come by van from Boston Spa, Yorkshire, to St Pancras.

You can still get newspapers on the world's least user-friendly format - microfilm - to read in the St Pancras reading rooms. The BL is still backing-up copies of everything on microfilm for the moment, as the archival permanence of "digital" is still unknown. Although recently, doubts have been raised about how long microfilm will last.

An increasing proportion of the BL's newspapers are now available on "digital" which has the advantage of being easily searchable. There are six million pages of "digital" already at, and the BL claims it's still on target to digitise 40 million pages by 2020. Digitised newspapers delivered via the BL to your email will cost you, but if you go to the reading rooms in person as a BL cardholder, you can get to read there for free all their "electronic resources" for which they have a subscription. There are regular - free - courses at the BL on using all the tech.

And for current regular users of Colindale, the BL's laying on special tours of St Pancras, showing where the newspaper collection's got to, starting in April. (For details email

As ever, on production of a valid NUJ Press Card and two proofs of address, a three-year British Library reading card is yours.

Last modified: 03 Mar 2013 - © 2013 contributors
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