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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!
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.
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.
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