British Library to start charging





Its archives hold the Magna Carta, Beatles manuscripts and the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Visitors to its fabled reading room in the British Museum included Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and George Bernard Shaw. But the future of the British Library as a world-class, free resource is under threat fromplansto cut up to 7 per cent of its £100m budget in this year's Treasury spending round.

To survive, the library proposes to slash opening hours by more than a third and to charge researchers for admission to the reading rooms for the first time.

All public exhibitions would close, along with schools learning programmes. The permanent collection, which includes a copy of every book published in the UK, would be permanently reduced by 15 per cent. And the national newspaper archive, used by 30,000 people a year, including many researching their family trees, would close.

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