London, Sep 23 (UNI) Funding cuts threaten free access to many of the most important original documents in world literature at the British Library.
Chief Executive of the world-renowned institution Lynne Brindley urged the government to protect the centuries-old resource -- ''the mind and memory of the nation''.
While the rest of the world moves into a digital environment on the internet, the British Library would be marooned in the analogue era. The library has calculated that for 3.48 pound -- the price of a cup of coffee and a muffin -- everyone in the country has use of a repository that contains treasures as diverse as the original Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Golden Haggadah, Sultan Babar's Koran and the jottings of Leonardo da Vinci, not to mention those of Lennon and McCartney -- and all free at the point of entry, Ms Brindley wrote in a strongly-worded article in the Observer.
She warned that Britain will soonbe left without a resource that it has come to take for granted.''I simply don't want to run a second-rate organisation. Slipping from world leadership to the second tier is not something that can be reversed. We can't fundraise at some future date to buy all this back again.'' Cuts to the tune of five to seven per cent were proposed to the 100 million pound budget of the library.
''Substantial cuts would restrict access to our collections as reading rooms reduced their opening hours and imposed charges for services that are currently free to users,'' Ms Brindley warned.
Fears that charges might be introduced at the library in King's Cross, London, provoked a storm of protest earlier this year from readers who use it.
While the Magna Carta and other historic manuscripts would be made available to researchers for a fee, the library Chief Executive says the real damage would be to the library's standing as a record of the modern age.
She says the Far East is generously funding new buildings and digital output because they understand the importance of libraries in the 21st century. But the cuts would mean large parts of the UK's digital output will be lost.