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Happy 40th Birthday, British Library

The British Library celebrated its 40th birthday today.


The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom.  It is a legal deposit library, and as such it receives copies of every book produced in Britain, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK. This, plus its own acquisition programme, means that the Library adds around three million items every year, occupying 9.6 kilometres of new shelf space

The Library was originally part of the British Museum but was legally separated on 1 July 1973 as a result of the British Library Act 1972.  It has several locations, including the newspaper library in Colindale and the lending library in Boston Spa.  It is most famous, however, for its Reading Room in London.  Now in a purpose built home next to St Pancras Station, the Reading Room originally occupied a stunningly beautiful room in the British Museum.  This room is open to the public from time to time as it is occasionally used to display exhibitions.  I worked there as a trainee back in the very early 80s so I have a soft spot for the old Reading Room, but it really is worth taking a look when the opportunity arises.

The new British Library opened in 1997.  Not everyone is a fan of the rather stark exterior, but the courtyard is a large, attractive space, perfect for a moment’s rest or a snack at the coffee bar and the building’s architecture reminds me of a Thai building.  Inside, there is an exhibition space, excellent bookshop and a café/restaurant, all of which are open to the public.  In addition, anyone who can show they have a need to use the incredible resources can acquire a Reader pass.

Don’t for one minute think that the Library is old-fashioned.  As well as holding all British printed documents, it stores, since April this year, all .uk websites, e-books, online newsletters and blogs.

There are more images at the Library’s  birthday facebook page.

Posted as part of For the Promptless: Logomania.

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