Towards the global library: a new cultural history of the British library, 1972-2000

Sara de Freitas

Research output: Thesis (awarded by external institution)Doctoral Thesis


In 1972, the passing of the British Library Act formally brought to an end an institutional relationship between the British Museum and the British Museum Library, which had lasted for over two hundred years. Since its creation in 1753, the Library had, in its capacity as the national deposit, developed a range of services and an infrastructure, which centred on the acquisition, storage and preservation of material for the national collection. However, in addition to meeting its legislative responsibilities, the Library had, from the very beginning, made itself increasingly responsible for the organisation and provision of the national collection for a growing academic usership. This desire, to fulfill both the function of a secure repository and of an educational resource, had throughout its history, provided the Library with the majority of the practical challenges that it faced in its day-to-day operations. However, between 1972-2000, the internal policy documents of the national library, now renamed the British Library, indicate a period of significant change, in which this study asserts a radical reorganisation of the Library's services and infrastructure was taking place. This thesis sets out by asking what evidence there is to support the assertion of a radical reorganisation of the national library during this period. The reformation of the national library as an autonomous institution in 1972, and the lead up to its subsequent relocation in 1997, naturally enough serve as starting points for this enquiry, which goes on to examine the discursive practices and theoretical issues that accompanied the formation of the new British Library. The changes noted in this study therefore, chart not only the transition from analogue to digital library services, but also the increasing relevance of the central discourses of librarianship - the provision, storage and classification of information - to information science as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Sussex
Award date1 Jan 2000
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • british library
  • cultural studies
  • Foucault


Dive into the research topics of 'Towards the global library: a new cultural history of the British library, 1972-2000'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this