L&R 2014 – British Library

Part of my study abroad trip to London and Rome in September is a series of blog posts about the things we see and do while on the trip. This is the second of five required posts about London and is about going to the British Library.

Visiting the British Library was an impressive experience. One of the largest libraries in the world, my mind still boggles at trying to picture how many books are hidden away in the stacks underground. Checking around, it looks like 14 million books are hidden away in the stacks.

The British Library
The British Library

It was a change of pace getting my Readers Card there. I think the questioning was actually a little more serious than what I went through while going through customs to enter the country. A change from the libraries I am used to, instead of wanting you to be a patron they turned away several people in line in front of me for either not having their ID with them or not being able to explain why they were there.

Getting through it all, having my photo taken, ID card printed, and I have my new most favorite piece of ID:

My British Library reader card (little slip of paper covering up my card ID number)
My British Library reader card (little slip of paper covering up my card ID number)

The library museum was interesting, seeing manuscripts and maps and historically relevant books on display. Jane Austen bits had some of the girls almost in tears.

Researching itself was interesting. Going to the circulation desk, getting the books I had reserved in advance, finding a study carrel and being surrounded by the scent of old books and the sound of people quietly working.

It was a change. I am used to libraries being tall shelves that I can walk through, the feeling of being surrounded by books from floor to ceiling, and instead it was a bit more like a factory floor, people working away producing new knowledge and articles based upon the writing and works people have done in the past.

I didn’t really get a chance to sit back and enjoy being there, I had two books to take notes out of and not that much time before the trip to the Globe Theatre that night. As it was I typed up as many notes and clips from one book as I could, and xeroxed pages out of the other.

I could see spending days in there, going from book to book, working back through the bibliography of a volume to check out the original sources an author cites. I spent my times in the Humanities 2 room, I never even saw what the other reading rooms were like.

Leave a Reply