Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published December 3rd 2010
What makes a great library? If it's having a vast catalogue, then the British Library has the world's largest collection of books and other resources. If it's having great research facilities, then the BL has hundreds of staff you can consult regarding their collection, including many international specialists, and plenty of space for people to work within its great, light and airy halls and corridors.
If a great library is made by the additional services it provides then the BL does well on that score also, there are always exhibitions, lectures and tours on to help you get the most out of their catalogue. And if a library is great because it's all geared up to facilitate your access to its collection and services then the BL is definitely a great library: there's plenty of power points for people to plug in their laptops, and free wifi, plenty of desks and tables at which to work and even a cafe, so you can fuel your body without having to stop fuelling your mind.
This is truly a fantastic resource to know about. Lots of people do know about it – each day there' a queue to get in at opening time, and if you spend much time there you'll being to spot the same faces beavering away around you.
The BL is a legal deposit library, which means that it has to have a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland – so, yes, even Harry Potter – but it also has books published internationally and not available to purchase in the UK. Part of the reason the collection is so large is that the BL has been a legal deposit library for a long time. And that's just the books.
As well as the vast collection of books, the British Library also has journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints and drawings you can access within its walls. So if you're not particularly savvy about internet research then this is the place to come – or if you just like to have access to the real thing. You can start appreciating their collection right now though, by searching their collection on their website. Which also has a shop.
The exhibitions feel as if they could cover everything and anything, from ancient treasures from the dawn of the written word to modern exploration of the evolution of language based on continuing studies that the library is involved in pursuing. For example. And everything in between.
You need to apply for access to the reading rooms but there are plenty of spaces you can have a look around if it's your first visit. In summer the courtyard outside is always full of people spilling out into the library's quiet, outdoor space.
Makes you feel lucky to live in London so as to have such a fantastic resource nearby.