Inside the Library’s Labyrinth #2: Give me the money or open the box?

In the second instalment of Inside the Library’s Labyrinth, Stephen opens the box of Box of Broadcasts Database, available through the library catalogue, and explains its many offers.

Back in the 1990s Thames Television re-introduced everyone to an old TV quiz series from the 1950s called ‘Take Your Pick’.

In it, the studio audience were primed to call out to a contestant ‘Take the money!’ or ‘Open the box!’ as they wrestled with the decision at the heart of the programme: whether to accept the money being offered by the compere or open a box that could contain a prize or a booby prize (The word “boob” stems from the Spanish bobo meaning silly.  Booby prize literally means “idiot’s prize”)

So, this blog is a very loud shout out to you all to ‘Open the Box !!’  The box, in this case, being the Box of Broadcasts Database, which is available through the Library Catalogue here.


Box of Broadcasts is an ‘off air recording and media archive service.  It allows you to record TV and Radio programmes that are scheduled to be broadcast in the next seven days as well as retrieving programmes from the last five years from a selected list of recorded channels.’

So much for the advertising blurb.  When you get to BoB, its search engine allows you to look for subjects that might interest you with options to limit your search to certain dates or certain channels.

As well as an area that keeps your activity easily accessible called, inevitably, My BoB, there is a Guide which shows the list of recorded channels with planned programming for at least the next seven days that you can request to be saved to your area.

You can browse the guide and watch TV shows, documentaries, news programmes and films that have appeared on channels as diverse as BBC1 and 2, Film Four and Dave.  Programmes are either available to watch straightaway or can be requested.  Requests are made ready and you are emailed when the programme has been made available for you.

Two great features are Playlists and Clips.  Playlists allows you to put in one place a series of recordings under a current theme for you to watch at your leisure.  As well as these private playlists you can access public ones that have been made by others.  Clips, as the name suggests, allows to save, edit and use clips for your research, presentations and talks.

Inside the Library’s Labyrinth #2: Give me the money or open the box?

If all this wasn’t good enough, click on the link to Learning on Screen, BoB’s provider, and you open up a raft of interesting features including online Magazine Viewfinder and courses and advice on copyright.  Learning on Screen have extended the scope and availability of their resources during the Coronavirus outbreak. For all of you interested in documenting these unprecedented times, the expansion of their recording profile to all BBC News 24 and Sky News output will prove invaluable.  You can NOW view and request broadcasts from the BoB Electronic Programme Guide for up to forty days.

But for me, the shiniest diamonds in this fabulous treasure trove of output are the teaching resources. This offers BoB playlists that are curated and constantly updated by academics from different disciplines. This is inspiration and enrichment at the touch of a key.

The availability of audio-visual material in the digital age may seem, at times, to be overwhelming.  BoB and its associated learning resources can help you sift and sort it into something that is useful.  For all of us learn when we watch and listen to things, making Learning on Screen’s vision all the more relevant to us:

To make moving image and sound as important in education and research as the written word.

Inside the Library’s Labyrinth #2: Give me the money or open the box?

Des O’Connor, the compere of Take Your Pick, finishes one episode with the catchy throwaway line, ‘Join us next week when somebody may win a trip to the moon or an old wooden spoon!’  Anyone thinking of taking a look at the Box of Broadcasts database will not have such a hit and miss experience.  There is so much here that there is only one way I can finish this blog.  I’ll fill up my lungs, open my mouth wide and with the loudest TV quiz show audience voice I can muster, I’ll shout over and over and over again:

Open the Box !!  Open the Box !!  Open the Box !!  Open the Box !!  Open the Box !!  Open the Box !!

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