HL Deb 09 February 1972 vol 327 cc1132-3

2.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many books there are now in the British Museum Library which are not yet included in the Reading Room catalogue.]


My Lords, this is a matter for which the responsibility lies with the Trustees. I am informed that a considerable number of the most recently acquired books must always be awaiting inclusion, and about 150,000 other items, mainly special collections of minor interest have still to be included in this catalogue, which now contains nearly 6 million entries. Books needed by readers can, however, normally be traced by the staff before inclusion. The number of cataloguing staff has been increased and a further increase is under consideration. The future use of automatic data processing to speed up cataloguing is being studied.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, I do not consider that the Question has been answered. Considering that in evidence to the Dainton Committee a fairly precise figure of 337,000 volumes was able to be submitted, can the noble Viscount give a rough estimate?


My Lords, the only estimate that I can give is a rough one of those books which have arrived in the Museum and which have not yet been catalogued: it is quite a process to put them in the general catalogue. The number may be of the order of 30,000 or 40,000. But the main items not in the catalogue are 150,000, of which half are a 19th century collection of dissertations from Continental universities which never have been in the catalogue and might not merit the work involved to-day.


My Lords, may I ask the Government when the Report on Automatic Data Processing is expected? This was envisaged in the White Paper, the British Library, which was dated January, 1971—a year ago.


My Lords, before the Minister answers, may I ask a question which really goes with the previous question? Can he say when the new buildings to the Library are completed, or whether in the plans for the new Library, adequate arrangements for automatic data processing will be provided?


My Lords, I can answer,"Yes", to both those questions. The Report on Automatic Data Processing is now being studied by the Committee, which is due to give the architect the final schedule of requirements in April. It is highly important that new systems of cataloguing and retrieval shall be built in to the new Library.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord how, "Yes"can be an answer to a question which is,"How long"?


My Lords, may I ask one further question? What is the average length of time between the date of publication of a book and its appearance in the full catalogue? How many years is it?


My Lords, I cannot give the average period, but so far as my own information goes—and this is just a little out of date—eight months was the longest period between the receipt of a newly published book and its inclusion in the catalogue. I must ask the Trustees for an up-to-date figure if the noble Lord wishes it.