The British Library is the UK national library and known as the largest library in the world by number of items listed (approx 170–200 million!). It is a very interesting building to explore in London for both its history and its numerous treasures…but not only!
Today, DOYOUSPEAKLONDON invite you to discover the surprising British Library…
The British Library’s architecture
You can’t really miss the Library’s building: the red brick exterior (matching the nearby St Pancras International Station) will draw your attention.
I recommend you to pass through the gate on Euston road (above), which leads you to a large piazza. There stands a bronze statue based on William Blake’s study of Isaac Newton, made by Eduardo Paolozzi.
This site is said to have been “the largest UK public building project of the 20th century”, which design and construction took 37 years!
Also, prior to 1973, the Library was part of the British Museum. It is now centrally located on Euston road, in a purpose-built officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 25 June 1998 (as a Grade I listed building “of exceptional interest” for its architecture and history).
I love the spacious and bright ground floor, with its red bricks, white walls and high ceiling. It’s a very inspiring place for all photographers!
The Library is open to everyone who wants to use its collections (you can find items in many languages and many formats, both print and digital). All you need is a permanent address and apply for a Reader Pass.
There are 1277 desks in the Reading Rooms. But I also saw lots of young people working from the open working spaces scattered everywhere on the different levels of the Library, especially near The Café and Restaurant areas.
The Library is able to welcome over 1,200 readers.
1.6 million people visit the Library every year.
Who said nobody likes to go the libraries any more ???
The British Library is a legal deposit library, which means it “receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland, plus a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK”.
This explains the high numbers of items in the collection (to which the Library adds some three million pieces every year!)!!
I learnt that the Library building counts 4 basements, where most of the collections are stored, reaching 24 meters underground! (this is quite impressive to imagine how such depth was found available in the center of London…).
The British Library also exhibits its philatelic collection in the downstairs corridor. Given the high interest of some visitors that day, I assumed some stamps were particularly rare …
This is in my opinion the best part of the British Library: the Sir John Ritblat gallery (free of charge and open Monday to Sunday) exhibits some incredible major pieces! Don’t be afraid by the darker lights and cooler temperature, you will get very excited about what you are given to see there!
Among those treasures: the Magna Carta’s documents, some of the greatest musicians music scores (Mozart, beethoven…), papers and sound recordings from amazing rock stars (The Beatles), as well as books from Leonardo Da Vinci, letters from Ada Lovelace or some of literature’s greatest writers (Jane Austen, Charles Dickens…). The list is very long and I felt very moved (and grateful!) to admire all these surviving treasures!
No pictures were allowed inside, so you will have to go there for yourselves… but you will love it 🙂
There are regular thematic exhibitions at the British Library that enable to enhance some of the collections’ best pieces.
There are currently 2 temporary exhibitions: “William Wordsworth” (until 31 May 2020) and “Exquisite Patterns: Japanese Textile Design” (until 17 May 2020).
What surprised me more were the several workshops focused on various subjects, such as business (“Business advice clinic”), self-awareness (“How to Reduce Stress and Restore Balance in Your Busy Life”), work (“Networking for success”). I did not expect such themes, but looking at the very positive feedbacks online, I feel very interested by participating in them.
There are also special Screening plus Q+A organized (taking place at Regent Street Cinema) and public tours presenting the building history and architecture and also the conservation work.
On top of all these events you will even find adults learning courses, discussions and regular children activities. This program is so inspiring I highly recommend you to have a glance at the British Library’s website!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found inspiration here. If you are planning to explore The British Library soon, please share your experience and opinion on DOYOUSPEAKLONDON’s blog!
To go further:
The British Library: 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB