Thursday, July 16, 2009

ACADEMIC - British Library

My whole life I've wanted to visit the British Library and now I finally have. Yeah, my whole life I've been a dork who likes to read too...

It's a huge building with artwork and exhibits and of course books. Our tour guide pointed out that it can be hard to tell what the mission of the library is with all these other distractions. By law, anything published in the UK is to be sent to the British Library within one month of publication. So the library is a depository. This also means that they do not intend to get rid of anything. The library also strives to make it's collection available to the public through the use of reading cards and reading rooms. This way, the book is brought to you. We were shown the fancy automated system they have for tracking and delievering books and it was very impressive.

The library sorts all thier books by size, not by subject. I'm pretty sure I knew that but when the question was asked during the tour I had no idea what to say. It was interesting being in that kind of library because the patron can't browse the stacks. You have to know what you want before you go. The only library books I saw there were part of King George III's personal library through glass. Our tour guide was really funny and had a pretty decent singing voice.

The library began as part of the British Museum but was officially seperated in 1972. It holds 150 million items, with items in most known languages. It adds 3 million new items each year!

The British Library has an exhibit featuring rare books. I got to see a Shakespeare First Folio, a working copy of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, a letter written by Sylvia Plath, versions of works written by Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte oh AND original lyrics written by all four members of The Beatles!!

At the cafe I ate salmon with broccoli and potatoes and a chocolate tart. I wish all library visits included food like this.

We also got to tour the Preservation Studio. I loved this. What is so great is that you don't just walk by the workstations hearing something like, "This is where the conservators work." We actually got to hear from three of them about projects they are doing or just completed - at thier workstations. It was more like an academic visit instead of a tour because we weren't just rushed by. I loved that. Of course, that hour did go by really fast. I learned limestone is used to make leather thinner and I got to see a pamphlet on becoming a pigeon expert in need of repair.

It was a really great experience. To learn more about the British Library, click here.

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