Back at the start of July I described the pressing need to get to the British Library’s newspaper repository at Colindale if you are based in the south-eastern corner of the country. This was triggered by an article I’d come across on The Guardian website from 2010 stating that this north London research institution was set to close before the end of 2012, owing to funding becoming available to transfer the holdings to a more modern facility in Yorkshire.
Later in July, another story appeared on the newspaper’s website. In the article, Roy Greenslade described the answers that historian David Kynaston was able to obtain when he posed the following two questions to a senior member of staff from the library: When is Colindale actually going to close? And what will be the state of access to newspapers after it does? (The answers to the questions were originally reported in a feature on the History Today website.)
“The answer to the first question is relatively straightforward: not before July 2013. The proposed state-of-the-art repository at Boston Spa, to house Colindale’s huge collection of hard-copy newspapers, has not yet started to be built; and given the current fiscal context it struck me… that the eventual closure date may turn out to be further away.
As for the second question he was keen to offer reassurance that post-Colindale there will continue to be access to hard copy as long as there are no surrogates readily available, which is the same as the position now.
Those surrogates are two-fold: the existing stock of microfilms (mainly national titles, but not entirely), which will be transferred to St Pancras and be available to be read on microfilm readers there; and digital surrogates…
Because of digitisation the demand for hard copy is already declining and that trend will intensify.”
That is excellent news for readers who can get to London easily, but of the newspapers for which only a hard copy is currently in existence, a good chunk (roughly 30%) are not in sufficient quality to allow transportation from the Yorkshire site to St Pancras. Moreover, for the 70% that might be transported, it’s not yet clear what limits might be set on daily allowances.
It seems that there is still some urgency to get to hard-copy-only materials, but we can ease our foot off the gas slightly where microfilm is concerned.
Next Project COBB book: Nine Aces and a Joker
The Project COBB winter research team is now in place, and the main task we will be tackling is underpinning the next Project COBB book. The book, which has a working title of Nine Aces and a Joker, will chart ten of the most engaging seasons by pitchers in British baseball between 1890 and the present day. The project will bring together contributions from various talented authors (including two of my fellow BaseballGB scribes) on different pitchers in their defining seasons. Fineleaf plans to publish the book in print and digitally late next year.
The first official Research Day for the book will be this Saturday, but I conducted a recce last weekend. This was not only to remind myself of the Colindale procedures, but also to ensure that there was a suitable place to host our post-research discussions. When I informed my fellow researchers of this noble act, one of them returned with the following comment: “I hope you don’t find the pub research too taxing.”
On a more serious note, I thought I might get a bit of a head start on the research for one of the chapters for which the background material was a bit patchy, and I was rewarded with a good omen. I selected a newspaper at random from the five that seemed like they might cover baseball in the particular player’s locality and carefully opened the bound volume somewhere near the middle. Right in front of my nose on the first page I looked at was a report on a game in which my quarry was on the mound. I felt like I’d thrown an inner bull from a 50-foot oche.