Sylvia Cowling on the role of the film library

The staff in the library were good, we got on well together and we had… people came into the library. We weren’t isolated. We were down the end of a corridor past the editing suites. But you see, editing, I think… editors and the directors used to get fed up with sitting in small rooms editing, I think, staring at a Steenbeck viewing machine.  And for light relief, they’d come into the library, and you’d find out all sorts about them. They’d tell you all sorts of things they’ve been doing. Yes, it was really good. So there was that part of it. 

The other part was we’d not long been transmitting in colour. And there were lots of good programmes coming in that were made in colour, and this was film, of course, we’re talking about, because in the first place we only dealt with film. It was later on that we came to deal with tape as well, but it was strictly film, and there were just brilliant programmes being made – and we were there responsible for cataloguing them, classifying them… and what we also did in film library was run a clip sales operation. We made extracts from the programmes and stock shots – that’s the material that didn’t make it into the programme but might be very marketable, for instance, World in Action goes to New York and while there, shoot some nice shots of New York – we can market those as background for other programmes. And we started to sell – well, they’d already started before I came – but certainly the clips sales increased considerably while I was there, not least because, of course, Channel 4 started up, additional channel to sell to, and then of course the independent producers started making programmes for the broadcasters, and that was a great outlet for our clip sales as well. So that’s what the job was about, initially at any rate. It was about keeping track of the programmes and making them available for reuse, in whatever form.

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