Thursday, 5 July 2012

Nine and Three-Quarters? Think you're being funny, do ya?

After taking a trip to King's Cross Station to see if we could catch the Hogwart's Express...

Sadly, I had just missed the train.

...we found our way to the British Library, where our tour guide, Kevin, regaled us with stories and poor attempts at American accents. The library itself is a site to be seen, with its most stunning attraction, the King's Library, prominently displayed through the center of the building. As we toured the building, Kevin spouted information left and right about the construction of the building, its contents, and where all the books are.

Here are some highlights:
  • The British Museum (which is where the Britich Library got its start) was founded by Sir Hans Sloane in the mid-18 century with the idea that 'information should be shared freely.' He allowed people to come into his house to look at books and, upon his death, left his book collection to the British Museum. (Good ol' Hans was also the man who brough chocolate to the Western Hemisphere- still not sure which thing I would consider to be the pinnacle of his career...)
  • The current building, which was designed to look like a ship, was the brainchild of Sir Colin St. John Wilson, who had served in the Royal Navy.
  • It took 36 years and £450 million to construct-- and as the building sits now, it is only half of the original design. 
  • The books were moved from the British Museum and the British Library was opened in 1997.  
  • It was the first library designed with the preservation of the books in mind, which means that a lot of the books are stored underground in order to maintain the most preferential atmosphere (17 degrees C, 50% humidity)! Books not stored underground are located in a varitey of depositories.
  • The library has 800-900 miles of books and adds roughly 8 miles of books each year- roughly 8,000 items a day.
  • These books are looked after by 1700 employees.
  • They have digitized around 400,000 items.
  • In order to access the books, visitors must present proof of identity and request each specific item- browsing is impossible. Books are retrieved and brought to the visitor in their designated reading room.
  • One of the library's grandest attractions is the King's Library, which is a collection of 85,000 books in at least 16 languages acquired from King George III and displayed in a glass tower in the center of the building. The King demanded the books be displayed in such a manner that they would be seen by the public. 
  • Other attractions include the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible, and Beatles memoribilia (guess which one was my favorite). 

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