Thursday, 1 August 2013

Class 4: The British Library (04/07/2013)

Bench at the entrance
of the British Library 

Today's class took us to the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom. Housing over 200 million items, this library is also home to the world's second largest map collection. Our guide, Nigel Hobbs, led us all over the library and showed us some really neat behind the scenes areas.

Before even starting the tour, we learned about the library's collection and collection development. The most interesting thing I learned was about the copy right laws. Due to these laws, the British Library is required to retain a copy of any published material, like books, magazines, newspapers, etc., which are published in the UK or in the Republic of Ireland. Weekly, the library receives hundreds upon hundreds of new material which needs to be catalogued and stored. It's because of these guidelines, the British Library is forced to be quite selective in what materials it acquires from other parts of the world.
Overall view of the British Libray

Besides the collections, we learned about the physical make up and design of the library. Only about 40 years old, this building is relatively new. At the time it was considered an eye sore and there was a lot of negative feedback once it was constructed. In addition to this building, the library also has items in three other buildings, which anyone can access, either through requesting materials or having documents e-mailed to them.

Inside of the British Library there are 11 reading rooms containing seats for about 1200 patrons. Anyone over the age of 18 can register for a reading card as long as they have a need or specific reason to access the collection. Patrons are encouraged to apply on-line and pre-register and then come into get the card once it is done. Passes can be given for up to one year. What was really awesome was learning that one reader the library served was Johnny Depp! How amazing would that have been if he was there the same day we were?

From there, Mr. Hobbs took us to see the inner workings of the library. We saw the mechanical book handling system (MBHS), which is how materials are disturbed throughout the library. There are over 3,000 routes a book can take with this system to get to the desired destination. It's how requested materials get to where they need to be and it's an efficient system. Then there is the King's Library, which is the massive column of books contained in a glass case in the middle of the library. There are over 85,000 books which were left by King George IIIV in this room. He donated these books under some conditions, which include that the books be seen by the public and they be available for use by anyone that needs them. The British Library still honors his requests to this day.

Lastly, the coolest part of the tour was seeing the Klendke Atlas. Well over six feet tall, this atlas is the world's second largest one made. Just standing next to it was very impressive.

Klendke Atlas:
The world's second largest atlas
View from the bottom:
Looking at books left by King George
Learning all about the British Library, it's materials, the collections and how the MBHS worked was really interesting. Mr. Hobbs was a great tour guide who knew a lot and gave our group a lot of inside knowledge and facts throughout the visit.

If you want to learn more about the British Library, please visit their website: 

No comments:

Post a Comment