London Life Places

the british library

April 19, 2012

Staying with the theme of books and often talking about the british library, it occurred to me that some of you might never have been. Of course, it is a must for any tourist visiting our shores but i know many people living in london and its surroundings who have never had the pleasure of being in this fantastic space.

I’ll start at the beginning shall i?

I have always loved books so when i first came to london i started exploring its libraries. One day i stumbled across the british library and immediately felt a sense of beauty, heritage and the knowledge that this is unique. In those days the british library was housed within the british museum. Fast forward to 1998 when the new building at st. pancras was formally opened by her majesty the queen.

You can find 13.5 million books, 2.5 million map items and 300.000 manuscripts amongst the collections. It is the world’s largest library in terms of total numbers of items. It’s a major research library and you can find many items from many countries in many languages and in various formats, like for example, in both print and digital.

There is so much to write about this building. I will be brief but tell you some interesting facts!

The building is one of the largest public buildings constructed in the uk in the last century. There are 4 basements underneath the main building and the piazza outside, making it the deepest public building in the uk. You’ll find 11 reading rooms providing over 1200 places for readers and more than 200 miles of shelving. Total floor area is over 1.2 million square foot on 9 floors above ground and 5 below. Wow, right!

The move from the british museum and other 10 buildings to the site in st. pancras took 4 years to complete and was the biggest book move in history.

I use the library quite frequently and find the business & ip centre invaluable for anyone wanting to start, run or grow a business. They have really good talks, workshops and seminars and i always come away with tons of information. I also like sitting in the wonderful reading rooms doing research or use one of the public spaces and the  restaurant to do some work. Of course, let’s not forget the wonderful exhibitions within the library.

Here is a little tour for you. We start with the outside gate, through the piazza and into the building. No one is allowed to photograph the reading rooms. I hope you enjoy some of it and that it might inspire you to take a trip when next nearby. Oh, btw, the last photogarph is a painting by patrick hughes. Have a look at this film which explains his reverspective paintings.

Do you like visiting libraries?

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  • Reply Theresa April 19, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Oh, Tina, your library is breathtaking! One of my favorite things to do, alone or with the kids, is go to the library. I’ve loved going to the library from a very young age. It was always my safe place, where I lost track of time and lost myself in books. I could lose a whole day at your library!
    Our little city library, where I like to take the kids once a week, is nothing special. But, I am grateful we have one. As our government continues to cut funding for public services, I don’t see how neighborhood libraries will survive. Sad, but true.

    • Reply tina April 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      The lack of funding for public services is a major problem everywhere and I guess in the future public services will have to get better at fundraising themselves. It’s already happening and hopefully we will see better run public services.

      The British Library is unique. We have many local libraries that are probably like many of yours. I was lucky that when I moved to London I discovered the BL and also don’t forget that I buy a lot of books so I started my own tiny little…… 🙂

  • Reply Chi @ Carousel April 20, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Incredible photography, Tina – you have such a great eye for detail!

    L would absolutely ADORE The British Library. She loves books so much that she rarely plays with toys! Not that I’m complaining. 🙂

    The first time we took her to our local library (an impoverished relation in comparison) she was about 18 months and completely beside herself with excitement. She’d never seen so many books in one place and must have thought she’d just discovered heaven!

    I’ve never been to The British Library but I’d so love to – with L in tow, of course! 😉
    Thanks for the tantalizing glimpses and have a fab weekend! 😀

    • Reply tina April 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      Thank you Chi.

      Unfortunately you are going to have to wait to take L to the BL. Entry starts for 12-15 yrs old with accompanying adult and I think at 16 one can request a special pass…It’s not geared towards children. I think it would be too disruptive to have young children run about the place when people are trying to study or research. Oh well, something to go into her: ‘when you grow up’ file.

      Try and visit on your own one day if you can. I know you will love it.

  • Reply Toni April 20, 2012 at 8:58 am

    You have so captured the spirit of The British Library in these photos. I am a bit sucker for all centers for learning and no place more that the BL.

    • Reply tina April 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      It was hard to photograph as it’s dark in places and lots of people were about. There is no substitute for being there….

  • Reply Erin April 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I’m old school, so I love libraries. My mom took me to the library here as a kid for reading circles, and I loved using my library card as a kid to take out books. I couldn’t get enough of them, the way the plastic sleeves were all crinkly and the way they smelled. Goodness, it’s been ages since I’ve been to the library. Wait, that’s not true! We have many, many smaller branches within different neighborhoods, and one day about 2 years ago I went to a local one to use their computer for something (something PC related, maybe I needed Microsoft word or something) and ended up browsing for a while. I’ve shamefully never been to the British library (it’s enough of a hassle trying to drag my family to museums when I visit) so the next time I’m over i’ll be sure to pop in. I love the idea of having an enormous space full of books and information for public consumption. There’s something really romantic about it, to me. Falling in love with someone else studying in a quiet reading room, eyeing up what they have on their table…ah.

    Thanks for the tour, Tina. This was a lovely way to end my week!

    • Reply tina April 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      What happened to you? I wonder why you’re such a tech geek if you grew up with books and libraries.

      Actually the BL is like no other and is full of people sitting there with their laptops sipping lattes and looking clever. You would love it!
      I know there is J but can we just imaging for a moment he’s on a BF sabbatical!! You, in the library eyeing up the gorgeous young man and helping out with your Lisbeth style research. You’d have them queuing up..aahhhh…. ok, snap out of it! Dream over. Welcome back J.

  • Reply Jennifer April 21, 2012 at 6:20 am

    Wow Tina! That library is so lovely! What a treat to have something so wonderful at your fingertips. I grew up going to the library all the time and still love visiting them. Our local libraries aren’t anything special, but one of my favorites is the library at my undergraduate school, UCLA – it is over 100 years old and is just spectacular. I loved sitting there to study and thought about all the students who had come before me (including my grandmother). I hope we keep our libraries open despite the trend to go digital! Have a great weekend!

    • Reply tina April 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      100 years old library, where your grandmother studies. How cool is that?

      After graduating from art school I also liked going back to visit the college library coz they had such an amazing choice of art books and magazines but quickly discovered the BL so jumped ship.

      You know, I cannot imaging libraries closing. I think they will be less of them but there are still some wonderful libraries around. In London, around where I live, there are so many local ones. Let’s hope this continues so that young people grow up to understand books in print!

      Look at these:

  • Reply Sam Lennie (Interiorsam) April 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    I’ve never been to the BL, passed it a few times but I’ve never been in. I guess if I lived in London I’d be there often, what a wonderful and huge place. It looks so average from the outside, you wouldn’t know all this interesting stuff existed inside. Lovely images and those iron typo gates are fab.

    Have a lovely weekend x

    • Reply tina April 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      You are so right. It looks so bloody average from outside that I bet many people don’t bother going inside. It is truly magical so treat yourself to a visit if you can. Maybe when there’s an exhibition on that takes your fancy!

  • Reply Holly April 21, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Amazing post! I must visit this place. I do love libraries. I like just being in them. I like to do work among massive amounts of books. There’s something special about that – like as if I’m being possessed by knowledge and old souls …

    Hughes’ reverspectives are really something. So fascinating to look at.

    Thanks for another wonderful post Tina Xx.

    • Reply tina April 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      Ta very much! Well, when you next come to London… we’ll go:) and then you can feel ‘possessed by knowledge and old souls’.

  • Reply annie April 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Ah Richard took me here when I first moved to London. I hate the exterior too, dull dull dull (Richard loves it, we argue about it) but my, that treasure room! Being able to see Alice In Wonderland original and all those other things and the magna carta. The history in the building is extraordinary and we’re very lucky to have it. shame about the location and architecture though. never got why it’s a bit oriental?

    • Reply tina April 26, 2012 at 8:55 am

      I like the location of the BL. What’s wrong with it? Totally central between Euston and Kings Cross, 2 major train stations.

      Not keen on exterior either.

  • Reply Nicola April 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I passed this building so many times when it was a building site (which seemed like forever) and since it’s been finished I’ve never been in!
    I even used to be sent invites to the Josephine Hart readings.. and still no.

    Now I’m going to go, it’s next on my list and thanks for telling me about the business and IP centre too.

    • Reply tina April 26, 2012 at 8:51 am

      I cannot believe you haven’t been to the BL. That’s really surprising.

      Let’s meet for coffee there and I’ll show you round and take you to the business and IP Centre.

      Get onto their mailing list and you’ll find out what brilliant talks/workshops they’re running! x

      • Reply Nicola April 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm

        I’ve subscribed to the e-mail list x

  • Reply ursula (room to bloom) May 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I love going to the British library – usually for business talks and workshops (Women Unlimited run their Business Club there which I can recommend). And boy am I in love with that internal book column! What’s inside it though? I always feel very worldly coming out the new St Pancras station, walking towards one of my favourite buildings in London the St Pancras Hotel, and then disappearing into the British Library.

    • Reply tina May 2, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      It’s the Kings Library that used to be in the British Museum…. Kings Cross area is becoming the place to be. Next time go and check out Kings Place.

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