Has anyone visited the British Library recently?

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Has anyone visited the British Library recently?

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1darrow
Ago 29, 2016, 12:22pm

I had a few minutes to spare before catching a train so I nipped into the nearby British Library. I was shocked! Every available seat was occupied by mostly young people. Laptops were on desks but not a single book was to be seen anywhere. The only books I saw were in huge glass towers. It looked impossible to reach them. Nobody was anywhere near the books. Perhaps books are picked by a robot. You have to register to get access to a book. Is it no longer possible to browse? Is everything digitised?

2Maura49
Ago 29, 2016, 12:36pm

I am a frequent visitor to the BL. Anyone(I believe) can register as a 'reader' and enjoy the rich book resources which are tucked away in immense storage facilities. When the library was housed in the British Museum Reading Room one needed to prove that one was an accredited scholar, so this is much more democratic.
Books are 'called up' as required. There are also specialist rooms where maps and other documents are kept and changing exhibitions free of charge where one can see the Magna Carta, Shakespeare Folios, beautiful examples of World Literature etc.
I recently saw their exhibition called 'Shakespeare in 10 Acts' and many of the documents and books were from the BL's own collection.

So, fear not darrow, real books are still very much part of this great collection although you may have to hunt around a bit to locate them!

3darrow
Ago 29, 2016, 6:21pm

Thanks Maura49. That explains a lot. I was expecting a conventional library experience with shelves of books that you can browse. Why did I not see anyone reading a book when I was there? Had they all just come in for free wifi?

4Maura49
Ago 30, 2016, 4:12am

Hi darrow- yes, I'm afraid that you are right there. The free wifi is a big draw. I comfort myself by noting the large numbers of people looking at manuscripts and books in the exhibition areas and imagining large numbers of others poring over books in the reading rooms!

I expect that you know about the London Library. This is much more the sort of library that you mention with huge numbers of books for browsing. It is used by many writers and researchers, and once one has paid a hefty subscription you can borrow as many books as you like. As public libraries dwindle and die it is my dream to be able to afford a subscription there.

5AlanPoulter
Sep 22, 2016, 5:17am

I used to work at the BL. My advice is to contact in advance the institution/library in advance as they can best advise on their resources' for your topic. If you are traveling far, ask if a seat can be booked.

6Auriger
Editado: Feb 17, 2017, 10:08pm

>1 darrow:
Yes, the BL is a disappointingly sterile place, and I'd imagine foreign visitors must sometimes come away from it thinking that libraries in England have little to do with books.

The sterility of the interior is complemented by the sterility of the architecture, which reminds you more of a very large public lavatory or Soviet Bloc mausoleum than a national library. Maybe that was the intention.

The main entrance is a perfect example of the British trend that has been in evidence for some time now of making entrances to large public buildings as low-key, unimpressive and uninviting as possible. I'm surprised they didn't go the whole hog and put the main entrance round the back. It's been known.

Someone probably got a knighthood out of it, nonetheless, and devotees of the style, if you can call it that, will no doubt want to praise the design's functionality and point out how well it "works" as a 21st century public library. I've no doubt it does; they spent enough of taxpayers' money on it. The point is they could have spent a lot less and made a much better job of it.

7Guanhumara
Editado: Feb 18, 2018, 8:59am

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