Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reporting from London; thinking about library access in comparitive terms

This week, the Accidental Archivist has been visiting the United Kingdom. While here, AA has taken the opportunity to visit such august institutions as the Bodleian Library and (tomorrow!) the British Library. There are striking contrasts to be found everywhere, most notably in architecture.

In thinking and reading about these institutions, I wonder if anybody out there has ever thought of making a library equivalent of a certain business index I had heard of. This business index compares how long (in days/weeks/months/years) and how difficult (measured by number of steps and/or organizations one must interact with) it takes to create a business. There is a general sense that it is easier and faster to establish a business in the United States than in many western European countries, for instance.

A comparable library index might measure how difficult it is for a user to become registered in order to access library services. Such an index may need to be seperated out by sector, or there would be significant distortions (e.g. public libraries are, by virtue of their mission, more open than other libraries as a general rule), but it would stillSome libraries seem to simply make themselves easier to access than others. There may be reasons for that, but it would understanding how access works would become more interesting in comparitive terms.

One final note before I conclude today. On the Tube, there are frequent advertisements for the British Library. However, all of these ads focus on this Library's business centre. It strikes me as very interesting that a) a National Library has a business centre at all and b) that this particular service is the one that is being advertised. I wonder if other National Libraries (or Archives, for that matter) have considered opening a business research/support office. I'm not sure what I think about it as I know very little about it, so I shall suspend judgement for the time being.

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