Awards 2005: public sector report – British Library

It might be expected that the British Library, as with many public bodies,
might not produce an annual report that is of tangible value, because its
objective is not to generate profit.

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Instead, as its report reveals, the British Library’s value lies in
benefiting the British people. Its report, the winner of our Annual Report and
Accounts Award, Public and Voluntary sector, attempts to measure that value.

A tape measure, which encloses the document, is a motif that is continued
inside. It serves as a neat visual indicator of the British Library’s
achievements in 2004.

Each number on the rule represents a particular accomplishment. Nineteen
users search its online catalogue every minute, there are 606 metres of shelving
full of written material, and, at the very end of the scale, 53,483,537
international patents are held in the library’s collection.

The report even manages to put a value on its output: for every £1 of public
funding, the British Library generates £4.40 of value for the UK economy. This
figure is calculated from the perceived value to users of its services, as well
as the likely cost to the public of an alternative, equivalent service, if one

An economic assessment found that, not only does the library add value to
those who use its services directly, but it also adds value to the wider UK
population, who benefit indirectly from its existence.

The idea that the British Library generates hidden value for the UK forms the
core message of its 2004 report.

Lynne Brindley, CEO since 2000, has helped the British Library to achieve
efficiency savings of £17m, but it is still dependent on charitable gifts and

Modernisation has seen the library obtain revenue from some unusual sources.
As well as books, the organisation holds the world’s most comprehensive sound
archive. Last year, it licensed 80 recordings of animal noises to mobile phone
ringtone suppliers, through agent 3XGMobile.

Our judges were impressed by the clarity of the report’s design, which is
eye-catching without drawing the reader’s attention away from the library’s
numerous achievements.

‘An intriguing annual report that brings the organisation alive. It’s
innovative with inspiring artwork. It’s concise and nicely put together,’ said
our judges.

The report uses an understated design with interesting images to represent
sectors such as science and business. It is written in a concise style and the
most impressive statistics are grouped together on a colourful ‘facts and
figures’ page.
Statements of financial activities are presented clearly and accessibly, as are
performance indicators.

Anyone reading the report can judge at a glance how the library’s performance

compares to the funding it receives.

The challenge for the British Library is to maintain its level of service and
continue to invest in the face of future funding constraints. Although it has no
competitors, it has to operate efficiently to justify its existence.

The management strategy outlined within the report, and the success of the
board in obtaining revenue from its resources, suggests that it will be able to
achieve this.

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