As part of the He Who Knows Challenge, I was asked to visit the extension to the British Library. On Saturday I arrived there only to find out that the extension won’t be finished until sometime (most likely the end) next year. Having visited the place though, I thought I would walk around and see what it contained.
The British Library can be found halfway along Euston Street between the Euston Street and the Kings Cross tube stations. According to a pamphlet from the British Library the library has:
- 11 reading room providing over 1200 places for readers
- 4 deep basements, which house the bulk of the collections on more than 200 miles of shelving
- An online catalogue and mechanical book handling system providing rapid ordering and access between basement stores and reading rooms
- It covers over 1.2 million square foot on 9 floors above ground and 5 below
- Its basement floors are especially tall; making the entire building equivalent of a normal 17 storey building sunk 8 stories into the ground
The insides and outsides of the library have been well architected. Outside a lusciously green garden surrounds a nice courtyard with seating and in the middle is a giant statue of Newton, created in 1995 by a grant given to the library. When you walk in you are greeted by a large information stand, behind which, you can see the initial five floors all centered around the collection amassed in the Kings Library. Unlike most libraries you visit, you first need to register as a reader to access any of the floors with actual books, and given the nature of the library’s extensive and history collection I can completely understand. As I didn’t happen to have any proof of address in the UK on me, all I could do was really just walk around.
There are still several things that are accessible to the normal tourist though, and this includes the gallery containing scrolls, books and writings throughout time. Amongst the more famous ones, I managed to see the Magna Carte and several hand written copies of the Qur’an. As a visitor to the library you can also see the richness of the books contained in the Kings Library, visibly shown through glass windows on shelves and only accessible by staff members.
It is a pretty impressive place and I would be keen to join as a reader and see what things you get access to.
The Kua Rating: 7 out of 10 (I didn’t get a chance to form an opinion on the books or the extension)