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British Library
Britishlibrary.gif
British library london.jpg
The British Library from the concourse
Country United Kingdom
Type National library
Established 1973 (1753)
Location Euston Road, London, England
Branches 2 (Boston Spa, West Yorkshire and Colindale, London)
Collection
Items collected books, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings and manuscripts
Size 14,000,000 books[1]
Legal deposit Yes, since an Act of Parliament from 1911
Access and use
Access requirements Open to anyone with a genuine need to use the collection
Other information
Budget £100,000,000[2]
Director Dame Lynne Brindley (Chief Executive, since 2000)
Website http://www.bl.uk/

The British Library (BL) is the national library of the United Kingdom. The library is one of the world's largest research libraries, holding over 150 million items in all known languages and formats: books, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings and much more. Its book collection is second only to the American Library of Congress. The Library's collections include around 14 million books,[3] along with substantial additional collection of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 300 BC.

As a legal deposit library, the BL receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including all foreign books distributed in the UK. It also purchases many items which are only published outside Britain and Ireland. The British Library adds some three million items every year.

The Library is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It is located on the north side of Euston Road in St Pancras, London, between Euston railway station and St Pancras railway station.

Contents

Historical background

The British Library was created on 1 July 1973 by the British Library Act 1972.[4] Prior to this, the national library was part of the British Museum, which provided the bulk of the holdings of the new library, alongside various smaller organisations which were folded in (such as the National Central Library, the National Lending Library for Science and Technology and the British National Bibliography).[4] In 1974 functions previously exercised by the Office for Scientific and Technical Information were taken over; in 1982 the India Office Library and Records and the HMSO Binderies became British Library responsibilities.[5] In 1983, the Library absorbed the National Sound Archive, which holds many sound and video recordings, with over a million discs and thousands of tapes.[6]

The core of the Library's historical collections is based on a series of donations and acquisitions from the eighteenth century, known as the 'foundation collections'. These include the books and manuscripts of Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Hans Sloane, Robert Harley and King George III.[7]

The British Library in Thorp Arch, West Yorkshire

For many years its collections were dispersed in various buildings around central London, in places such as Bloomsbury (within the British Museum), Chancery Lane, and Holborn, with an interlibrary lending centre at Boston Spa, Wetherby in West Yorkshire (situated on Thorp Arch Trading Estate) and the newspaper library at Colindale, north-west London.[4] However, since 1997 the main collection has been housed in a single new building on Euston Road next to St. Pancras railway station, although post-1800 newspapers are still held at Colindale, and the Document Supply Centre is still in Yorkshire. The Library also has a book storage depot in Woolwich, south-east London. The new library was designed specially for the purpose by the architect Colin St. John Wilson.[4] Facing Euston Road is a large piazza that includes pieces of public art, such as large sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi (a bronze statue based on William Blake's study of Isaac Newton) and Antony Gormley. It is the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the 20th century.[8]

In the middle of the building is a four-storey glass tower containing the King's Library, with 65,000 printed volumes along with other pamphlets, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820. In December 2009 a new storage building at Boston Spa was opened by Rosie Winterton. The new facility which cost £26million will house seven million items, stored in more than 140,000 bar-coded containers, which are retrieved by robots,[9] from the 262 kilometres of temperature and humidity-controlled storage space.[10]

Legal deposit

Interior of the British Library, with the smoked glass wall of the King's Library in the background.

An Act of Parliament in 1911 established the principle of the legal deposit, ensuring that the British Library and five other libraries in Great Britain and Ireland are entitled to receive a free copy of every item published in the United Kingdom. The other five libraries are: the Bodleian Library at Oxford; the University Library at Cambridge; the Trinity College Library at Dublin; and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales. The British Library is the only one that must automatically receive a copy of every item published in the UK; the others are entitled to these items, but must specifically request them from the publisher after learning that they have been or are about to be published, a task done centrally by the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries.

Further, under the terms of Irish copyright law (most recently the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000), the British Library is entitled to automatically receive a free copy of every book published in the Republic of Ireland, alongside the National Library of Ireland, the Trinity College Library at Dublin, the library of the University of Limerick, the library of Dublin City University and the libraries of the four constituent universities of the National University of Ireland. The Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library, and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales are also entitled to copies of material published in Ireland, but again must formally make requests.

In 2003 the Ipswich MP Chris Mole introduced and passed a Private Member's Bill which became the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003. The Act extends United Kingdom legal deposit requirements to electronic documents, such as CD-ROMs and selected websites.[11]

The Library also holds the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections (APAC) which include the India Office Records and materials in the languages of Asia and of north and north-east Africa.[12]

Using the Library's Reading Rooms

The Library is in theory open to everyone who has a genuine need to use its collections. Anyone with a permanent address who wishes to carry out research can apply for a Reader Pass; they are required to provide proof of signature and address for security purposes.[13]

Historically, only those wishing to use specialised material unavailable in other public or academic libraries would be given a Reader Pass. Recently, the Library has been criticised for admitting numbers of undergraduate students, who have access to their own university libraries, to the reading rooms. The Library replied that they have always admitted undergraduates as long as they have a legitimate personal, work-related or academic research purpose.[14]

Catalogue entries can be found on the British Library Integrated Catalogue, which is based on Aleph, a commercial Integrated library system. The large reading rooms offer hundreds of seats which are often filled with researchers, especially during the Easter and Summer holidays.

Material available online

The British Library makes a number of images of items within its collections available online. Its Online Gallery gives access to 30,000 images from various medieval books, together with a handful of exhibition-style items in a proprietary format, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels. This includes the facility to "turn the virtual pages" of a few documents, such as Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks.[15]

The British Library's commercial secure electronic delivery service was started in 2003 at a cost of £6 million. This offers more than 100 million items (including 280,000 journal titles, 50 million patents, 5 million reports, 476,000 U.S. dissertations and 433,000 conference proceedings) for researchers and library patrons worldwide which were previously unavailable outside the Library due to copyright restrictions. In line with a government directive that the British Library must cover a percentage of its operating costs, a fee is charged to the user. However, this service is no longer profitable and has led to a series of restructures to try to prevent further losses.[16]

When Google Books started, the British Library signed an agreement with Microsoft to digitise a number of books from the British Library for its Live Search Books project.[17] This material was only available to readers in the USA, and closed in May 2008.[18]

Exhibitions

Bronze sculpture Newton, after William Blake, 1995, by Eduardo Paolozzi

A number of books are on display to the general public in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery which is open seven days a week at no charge. Some of the items there include Beowulf, a Gutenberg Bible, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur (King Arthur) Captain Cook's journal, Jane Austen's History of England, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and a room devoted solely to Magna Carta.[19]

Business and IP Centre

In May 2005, the British Library received a grant of £1 million from the London Development Agency to change two of its reading rooms into the Business & IP Centre. The Centre was opened in March 2006. It holds arguably the most comprehensive collection of business and intellectual property (IP) in the United Kingdom and is the official library of the UK Intellectual Property Office.

The Business & IP Centre is separated into two distinct areas:

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Business information

The collection is divided up into four main information areas: market research; company information; trade directories, and journals. It is available for free in hard copy and online via approximately 30 subscription databases. You must have a reader pass to access the collection and the databases.

Patent and intellectual property information

There are over 50 million patent specifications from 40 countries in a collection dating back to 1855. The collection also includes official gazettes on patents, trade marks and Registered Design; law reports and other material on litigation; and information on copyright. This is available in hard copy and via online databases. A reader's pass is required to access the collection and database.

Staff are trained to guide small and medium enterprises (SME) and entrepreneurs to use the full range of resources. The Business & IP Centre also offers additional services including:

  • The provision of a networking area for SMEs to meet and network with other SMEs, find out about the Library's full range of services and get inspiration from success stories about products and services conceived by other centre users.
  • Workshops and clinics run by the British Library and its business partners on subjects including: using intellectual property resources to check if ideas are novel, how to protect your ideas & designs, capitalising on market research resources, financing, marketing and selling skills, and pinpointing customers. Some of these workshops have a specific focus on supporting the needs of women, black and Asian minority ethnic groups, and entrepreneurs with disabilities. These are free or charged at a subsidised rate.
  • 'Ask an expert' sessions. These are one-to-one advice sessions with notable business figures. Previous experts have been the late Anita Roddick and Tim Campbell.
  • Events featuring successful entrepreneurs. Previous events have included ‘Winners – The Rise and Rise of Black British Entrepreneurs’, ‘The Asian Advantage’, and ‘Mothers of Invention’. These are available as webcasts.

Sound archive

The British Library Sound Archive holds more than a million discs and 200,000 tapes. The collections come from all over the world and cover the entire range of recorded sound from music, drama and literature to oral history and wildlife sounds, stretching back over more than 100 years. The Sound Archive's online catalogue is updated daily.

It is also possible to listen to recordings from the collection in selected Reading Rooms in the Library through their SoundServer and Listening and Viewing Service, which is based in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room.

In 2006 the Library launched a new online resource Archival Sound Recordings which makes over 4,200 hours of the Sound Archive's recordings available online for UK higher and further education.

Newspapers

British Library Newspapers, Colindale

The British Library Newspapers section is based in Colindale in North London. The Library has an almost complete collection of British and Irish newspapers since 1840. This is partly because of the legal deposit legislation of 1869, which required newspapers to supply a copy of each edition of a newspaper to the library. London editions of national daily and Sunday newspapers are complete back to 1801. In total the collection consists of 660,000 bound volumes and 370,000 reels of microfilm containing tens of millions of newspapers with 52,000 titles on 45 km of shelves.

Among the collections are the Thomason Tracts, containing 7,200 seventeenth century newspapers, and the Burney Collection, featuring newspapers from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Thomason Tracts and Burney collections are held at St Pancras, and are available in facsimile.

The section also has extensive records of non-British newspapers in languages that use the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. The collection is less substantial for languages of the Middle East and the rest of Asia, though some holdings of these are held at the main library in St. Pancras.

Philatelic collections

The entrance gate and its own shadow. The gate was designed by Lida and David Kindersley.

The National Philatelic Collections are held at the BL. The Collections were established in 1891 with the donation of the Tapling collection,[20] they steadily developed and now comprise over 25 major collections and a number of smaller ones, encompassing a wide-range of disciplines. The collections include postage and revenue stamps, postal stationery, essays, proofs, covers and entries, "cinderella stamp" material, specimen issues, airmails, some postal history materials, official and private posts, etc., for almost all countries and periods.

An extensive display of material from the collections is on exhibit, which may be the best permanent display of diverse classic stamps and philatelic material in the world. Approximately 80,000 items on 6,000 sheets may be viewed in 1,000 display frames; 2,400 sheets are from the Tapling Collection. All other material, which covers the whole world, is available to students and researchers by appointment.

As well as these collections, the library actively acquires literature on the subject. This makes the British Library one of the world's prime philatelic research centres. The Curator of the philatelic collection is David Beech.

Highlights of the collections

Collections of manuscripts

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.bl.uk/
  2. ^ "Budget Cuts Threaten British Library Services". American Library Association. 2007-02-02. http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/currentnews/newsarchive/2007/february2007/britcuts.cfm. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  3. ^ "British Library". British Library. http://www.bl.uk/. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  4. ^ a b c d "History of the British Library". British Library. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. http://www.webcitation.org/5nMvVlrFD. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  5. ^ Whitaker's Almanack; 1988, p. 409
  6. ^ "About the British Library Sound Archive". British Library. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. http://www.webcitation.org/5nMvMvV7b. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  7. ^ "Similar Projects - The British Library". Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. http://www.webcitation.org/5nMvFvVto. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  8. ^ "British Library - About Us". British Library. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. http://www.webcitation.org/5nMvdOGz0. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  9. ^ "Robots used at £26m British Library store". BBC. 2009-12-03. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. http://www.webcitation.org/5nMv4OvYh. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  10. ^ "Minister opens British Library’s new £26 million storage facility in Yorkshire – the most advanced in the world.". British Library. 2009-12-03. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. http://www.webcitation.org/5nMv4vDDB. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  11. ^ "Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003". Office of Public Sector Information. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. http://www.webcitation.org/5nNN5GQdv. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  12. ^ "Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections". British Library. http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/bldept/apac/apacoll/apac.html. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  13. ^ "How to register for a Reader Pass". British Library. http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/inrrooms/stp/register/howreg/howtoregister.html. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  14. ^ Brierley, Danny (2008-04-21). "British Library like a branch of Starbooks say the literati". Evening Standard. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23479468-british-library-like-a-branch-of-starbooks-say-the-literati.do. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  15. ^ "Explore the British Library". British Library. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/index.html. Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  16. ^ Socialist Worker article
  17. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2005/nov/04/microsoft.books
  18. ^ "Microsoft Will Shut Down Book Search Program". New York Times. 2008-05-24. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/24/technology/24soft.html?_r=1&ref=technology&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  19. ^ "Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library". British Library. http://www.bl.uk/whatson/permgall/treasures/. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  20. ^ British Library: The Tapling Collection
  21. ^ BL, Facts & figures
  22. ^ "Beowulf: sole surviving manuscript". The British Library. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/englit/beowulf/. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  23. ^ http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9707/tyndale.html

External links


Coordinates: 51°31′46″N 0°07′37″W / 51.52944°N 0.12694°W / 51.52944; -0.12694


Simple English

The British Library (BL) is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is on the north side of Euston Road in St Pancras, London, between Euston railway station and St Pancras railway station. The Library is a public institution and is one of the world's largest research libraries. Since 2000 the Chief Executive of the British Library has been Lynne Brindley.


The British Library contains over 150 million items in every language that is known. It has around 25 million books, more than any other library except the American Library of Congress. It has manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 300 BC. There are books, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings and much more.[1]

The British Library, by the law of the United Kingdom, receives copies of every book that is published in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including all foreign books that are sold in the UK. It also buys many books which are only published outside Britain and Ireland. The British Library adds about three million items to its collection every year. The British Library has about 388 miles (625 km) of shelves.[2]

History

The British Library, before it got its present name, started out as a group of collections made by several people in the 18th century and then given as part of a national library. The collectors were King George III, Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Hans Sloane, and Robert Harley. The national library was part of the British Museum and was kept at various places, with some of the most important items always being on public display in the museum.

The British Library was created in 1973 by the British Library Act 1972. Since 1997 the main collection has been housed in a single new building on Euston Road next to St. Pancras railway station. In the middle of the building is a four-storey glass tower containing the ‘’King's Library’’, with 65,000 printed volumes along with other pamphlets, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820.

Not all of the collection is kept in this new building. Part of the collection is at the Document Supply Centre in Yorkshire and all the newspapers from before 1800 are kept at the newspaper library at Colindale, north-west London.

In December 2009 a new storage building at Boston Spa was opened. It cost £26million and will house seven million items, stored in more than 140,000 bar-coded containers, which are retrieved by robots,[3] from the 262 kilometres of temperature- and humidity-controlled storage space.[4]

Highlights of the collections

[[File:|thumb|The beginning of the Gospel of Matthew from the Lindisfarne Gospels]]

References


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