Thursday, 14 July 2016

The British Library

Photo courtesy of Dr Welsh

Cool bench near the entrance!

Our third day of class took us to the place most of us were super excited to see: the British Library! The British Library functions in a similar way to the Library of Congress in the States – after the Legal Deposit Act of 1911, the library became a deposit library, meaning everything published in the UK (books, magazines, newspapers, periodicals, etc.) must have a copy submitted to the library. That’s roughly 8,000 items a day!

Before 1973, the British Library was part of the British Museum – the reading room inside the courtyard of the British Museum was part of the library, but I’ll talk more about it in my next post! The building that the library is currently in was commissioned in the early 1960s, but wasn’t opened to the public until 1997. It took four years to move all of the books over to the new building – it’s not too far to the British Museum, but there were millions of books to move! It was designed to be completely environmentally controlled, at roughly 62 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity, with the majority of the book storage in underground reading rooms. The profile of the building is meant to look like a boat – none of us in my group noticed that till we looked at a scale model of the building!
If you want to read a book at the library, you have to apply for a readers card and know specifically what books you need. I didn’t apply for one, as all the materials that’d help me with my paper were digital journal articles and available elsewhere, but many of my classmates did and enjoyed having it. When you request a book, it gets sent to one of many reading rooms in the library for you.

Outside of the main library areas, there were a few interesting things! The lobby and atrium area had two gift shops, an exhibit hall, which currently had an exhibit on Shakespeare, a cafĂ©, a small display area containing an exhibit on the birth of punk, and a permanent exhibit on rare items held by the library – including papers that the Beatles wrote their songs on! There were many more historically significant things there, but I liked the Beatles bit the most J.

Of course, there’s also King George III’s collection: it’s literally unmissable. It’s a giant glass tower in the middle of the lobby/atrium that contains the king’s library. There was a stipulation that the library must be viewable by the public because of its beauty and value, so that’s why it’s in a glass tower. I think everyone in my group had a mini heart attack when our guide was leading us towards the entrance to the tower – but alas, only a few special people are allowed in to the tower. We were all content with just looking at it, though!
Oh, I can't forget the most important thing about this day: I went back to Platform 9 3/4!

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