Library Policies

Our collections date from the age of the pre-cinema magic lanterns to today’s global entertainment industry, and they include some true one-offs that don’t exist anywhere else.

Our focus is on British film and television, but we have material in fifteen languages too, including books, journals, annuals, press cuttings, audio tapes and theses. Researchers, students and film fans of all ages access our resources daily.

General policy

  • The BFI Reuben Library collects books, pamphlets, periodicals and other printed materials, as well as published resources in microform and electronic media
  • We want the collections to contain the broadest range of information, research and study material for all aspects of the moving image (film, television,video, video games, interactive multimedia, virtual reality) as culture, industry, social indicator and influence
  • The collection has an international scope, but with a particular focus on the moving image in the UK
  • We choose pieces on the quality of writing, language and level of treatment, and other criteria including currency, accuracy, authority and overlap with other resources in the collections
  • We also consider whether pieces are useful for enquiry work and provide filmographic detail, because the collections drive everything we do at the library and lots of the BFI’s activity too
  • We collect every individual BFI publication
  • We try to collect materials in all available media (and packs that include a mixture of media) where possible
  • We generally keep only one copy of any item
  • We collect some materials on wider and related subjects (such as radio, mass media and communications, popular culture, advertising, lifestyle magazines) if they’re relevant to our main subject areas
  • We’ll make an exception to any of these criteria if an item has some unique information (e.g., it’s the only periodical from a particular country)

What we don’t collect

  • Materials in non-Roman alphabets unless it comes with a good translation
  • Novels, including novelisations
  • Technical manuals or periodicals
  • Children’s books and magazines
  • TV tie-ins, unless there’s substantial information about an episode or personality, or the visual content has some unique or distinctive information about programming
  • Fan literature, except as indicative examples, although we are reviewing this because of the distinctive information they can contain
  • Newspaper and magazine cuttings. We do hold a large collection of these up to the end of 2010 which are digitally available in the Edwin Fox Foundation Reading Room.


  • We should only need to think about disposing of items that have been donated to us, not that we’ve actively collected, based on whether they’re fit for inclusion
  • We would normally not accept donations that are not relevant, but sometimes a donation can contain a mix of materials, some relevant, some not. So we may choose to dispose of parts of a donation if:
  • 1. It doesn’t meet our acquisition criteria, because:
  • The content is outside the scope of our collections
  • The format belongs in one of the other BFI Collections (Stills, Special Collections etc)
  • 2. We already have the item already in our collection. We would keep the copy that’s in better condition in this case, but we would accept an earlier version of an item.

By ‘disposal’ we mean:

  • Transfer to another collection within the BFI
  • Sale to raise revenue for the BFI Reuben Library
  • Donation to other regional or specialist collections

Preserving the collections

Why do we need to preserve our collections?

The BFI Reuben Library is a major national research collection. Some of the items we hold are irreplaceable, but we face the same problems as other archives and libraries:

  • We generally have only one copy of our materials, and replacements are sometimes impossible to find
  • Brittle paper and paperbacks with weak binding
  • We have limited space
  • We want everyone to be able to access the collections in the future
  • We have limited funds which need to be shared between acquisition and conservation
  • We support a popular and fast-growing subject area

How do we try to preserve our collections?

Our collections could be threatened by major events such as floods and fires, but there are other, more gradual things that can damage items. So we always try to:

  • Survey our collections frequently
  • Devote part of our budget to preservation and conservation
  • Develop a disaster plan
  • Store items in the best environment
  • Set out guidance on good practice
  • Take care when displaying items from our collection

How can you help us preserve our collections?

We also need your help preserving the collections:

  • Handle documents carefully and respectfully
  • Follow the advice in our guidance leaflets
  • Always report damage or other issues to a member of staff
  • Report vandalism when you see it

We also welcome donations because the less we spend on acquisitions, the more we can spend on preservation.

Find out more about our Collection Enquiries Policy.

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