Have you visited the British Caving library?

The BCA (along with the BCRA) supports and helps fund the British Caving Library, near Buxton in Derbyshire. The library is a fantastic resource full of caving and mining books, journals, magazines, surveys, DVDs etc from both the UK and abroad. Cavers can visit (by appointment only please, as it isn't staffed everyday) or enquire online to receive help with research and scans of relevant articles. One of the library dogs may even be there to help with your research!
Also there is a kettle and a biscuit tin...........
For more information see their website https://www.caving-library.org.uk/ or facebook page British Caving Library


BCL.jpg
 

Attachments

  • BL4.jpg
    BL4.jpg
    150.8 KB · Views: 74
  • BCL3.jpg
    BCL3.jpg
    140.1 KB · Views: 72

Graigwen

Active member
Can I ask how it has helped you.
The library provided copies of old obscure articles containing information that could not be easily obtained by other routes. Some of these described, for instance, water tracing undertaken by individuals who are now dead and had not left full accounts of what they had done. Sometimes it was negative, a case of confirming that something had not happened. In another case where the names of two caves had been confused over the years, the library enables me to piece together the history of the confusion, so that I could see which site was referred to in accounts that I already had.

.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
I recall when I was involved with BCA that a member questioned the expense BCA went to in support of the library. I believe it is a fact, that it is officially the BCRA caving library, but which the BCA members pay for. In my time it ran to about £12,000 a year, it may be more now. The essence of the question asked was of value for members money. A very small percentage of members used the library yet it cost a significant proportion of the annual BCA income and wouldn't it be better spent on something else. I don't recall how the question was officially answered but I do recall my thoughts at the time.

If BCA, or someone at least, didn't support the library, then what would happen to all the archived material there, including several large collections from deceased cavers. It would be a crime to skip it all, of course. I also wondered at the time why BCRA didn't contribute more when it too held large funds. It is a worthy concern to raise every now and again.
 

Jenny P

Active member
I recall when I was involved with BCA that a member questioned the expense BCA went to in support of the library. I believe it is a fact, that it is officially the BCRA caving library, but which the BCA members pay for. In my time it ran to about £12,000 a year, it may be more now. The essence of the question asked was of value for members money. A very small percentage of members used the library yet it cost a significant proportion of the annual BCA income and wouldn't it be better spent on something else. I don't recall how the question was officially answered but I do recall my thoughts at the time.

If BCA, or someone at least, didn't support the library, then what would happen to all the archived material there, including several large collections from deceased cavers. It would be a crime to skip it all, of course. I also wondered at the time why BCRA didn't contribute more when it too held large funds. It is a worthy concern to raise every now and again.
BCRA does contribute funds to the Library - BCA pays the rent of the building and some other costs.

BCRA pays for the equipment and services used: phone, broadband, scanners, printers, shelving, publications which we need to buy but can't get for free - all this runs to several thousands of £££'s a year.

BCRA manages the Library but it is funded by both BCA and BCRA and without co-operation and funding from both it couldn't provide the services it does. Most of the volunteers who give up their time to do all kinds of work on behalf of the Library, both on-site and remotely, are members of BCRA. All the facilities available through the Library website were created by BCRA volunteers.

The Library's services are not limited to BCA or BCRA members - anyone can use it and some of the users are not even cavers because we have a national and international reputation. We do receive donations from users in both cash and kind and have also been in receipt of substantial donations from the legacies of cavers both British and foreign who have used the Library's services and chosen this way of expressing their gratitude. We also support caving clubs by passing on duplicate publications acquired from donations to either enhance their Club Library or even, in at least one case, helping to replace a Library lost due to flooding.
 
Last edited:

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
Good to know. I do support the concept of a British Caving Library (if that didn't come across). As you know the cost has been criticised though. (by others).

How much does BCA contribute each year to keep the place running and how much does BCRA contribute for the same period. They'll be a record somewhere I presume.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2xw

ChrisB

Well-known member
The 2022 accounts of BCRA are available on the Charity Commission website. The BCA grant of £12k is just under half their total income. BCA part time staff provide support to BCRA, mainly collecting subs and library work, but the costs from this are all charged back to BCRA and set against the subs collected, etc, as a running total, so £12k is the net figure that BCA pay. BCRA is an autonomous constituent part of BCA (like the Regional Councils), not a separate body. BCRA supports BCA by insisting that you have to be a BCA member to join BCRA.
 

Andy Farrant

Active member
The British Caving Library is a fantastic resource, all the more so because of the dedicated work by Jenny, Mary and others behind the scenes. I have used it on many occasions to access material not easily available elsewhere, and more often than not, Jenny or Mary can deal with any queries pretty quickly. They can get stuff scanned and sent to you if requested. The library holds many archives such as the John Beck / Doug Nash Collection of surveys, articles and notebooks that are simply not available anywhere else. The library can also used to hold meetings, and has wifi, so worth thinking about if you want to host a workshop somewhere central.

As Jenny pointed out, BCA contributes £12K a year (unchanged from Tim's time, however many years ago that was) to the cost of running the Library, which is mostly rent and staff costs, whilst BCRA pays for everything else including buying new publications, and providing in-kind volunteer support. I think you would find it hard to find suitable space or high quality librarians any cheaper elsewhere. As to whether you think it is value for money depends on how much you use/value it. The more it is used, the better value it will be!

I should also point out that BCRA does not have unlimited funds. We had a couple of bequests some years ago which are used to fulfill our charitable aims, mainly by supporting the 'Cave Science and Technology Research Fund' and publishing 'Cave and Karst Science', but BCRA is a small charity with a limited income, and could not afford to run the library on its own as well as support cave science.
 

Pipster

Member
I've used the library several times and have to say it's been incredibly useful for researching sites where we've had projects, and the service has always been excellent.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
Andy, Chris. Thanks for the heads up. Since you asked Andy, I stood down from BCA at the end of 2020. Personally I support the concept of a British Caving Library. However, in a thread that asked about visiting the BCL, I just thought I would point out the criticism it had received over BCA members funding such a large part of it (when very few members actually use it). However good it is - I agree it is good.

I can see from the figures Chris linked to that the BCA grant is still £12,000. Library purchases and expenses are declared as £13,580. It is difficult to see whether this additional £1,580 is the entire BCRA share of the funding. I can see that BCRA still hold £150,000 in nett assets, which is exactly the same that they held when this was brought up 5 years or more ago. I think the only thing I would argue is that BCRA could afford to pay a greater share of their own library, especially considering the amount they have lost due to inflation by holding such large assets.
 

Andy Farrant

Active member
As Chris pointed out, BCRA manages the British Caving Library on behalf of BCA; it is not the 'BCRA Library' (Jenny can clarify the historical reasons of whay and how it was set up). BCRA pays for the rent, services, buying books, library expenses, postage, journal exchanges etc. directly. The staff costs & insurance is taken out of the subscriptions BCA collects on behalf of BCRA which last year was over £5K. BCA then provides a £12K grant which covers some of these costs. The actual amount BCRA spends on library purchases varies depending on what Jenny buys vs what is donated, but the costs of providing the services (eg phone) has gone up substantially in the past few years, whilst the BCA grant has remained static since 2019.

I should point out here that much of BCRA's assets are derived from specific bequests to help fund cave science, not to maintain the Library. Whilst the past few years has been tough, we try to maintain a healthy savings balance as the interest earned contributes to the CSTRF fund, publishing Cave & Karst Science, the Review, organising events (including underwriting Hidden Earth) and subsiding the costs of publishing books. However, because of its commitments to the CSTRF and Cave & Karst Science etc, BCRA currently runs a significant budget deficit and if we took on paying for the library, BCRA would soon be in a financially untenable position and would not be able to fulfil its charitable aims. My personal view is that the British Caving Library & Archive is a great asset of benefit to all cavers, not just those interested in cave science, and so should be primarily funded by BCA. It is up to BCA members how much they use it. Don't forget that all BCRA members are also BCA members.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2xw

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
Andy, interest rates have no where near matched inflation for a large part of the last ten years or so. BCRA will have lost the purchase power of a large part of its nett asset. The Bank of England inflation calculator shows that if you had 150K in asset ten years ago, you'd now need 200k to have the same purchasing power. It is not surprising that the library costs have gone up. Hanging onto large assets during a long period of high inflation does not make sense, but this is really a different subject.

I am with you regarding the BCL. I am just pointing out that not everyone is onside with the costs.
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
I suspect that a lot of cavers don't understand what a marvellous resource the BCL is and just how helpful the folks who manage it are.

Earlier in this topic I found myself wondering whether BCA might benefit from a spot of PR, to dispel various perceptions which seem to have emerged. Maybe this also applies to the BCL?

BCA should blow its own trumpet a bit more and not assume that all cavers realise what an excellent service it provides for us all.
 
Top