As part of my research, I went to the British Library and said I’d share the experience.
First off, I had to pre-register online and order literature. Literature needs to be ordered at least a day in advance and more if it is coming from outside London. Give yourself at least 5 days to order books if you do this.
Reading rooms (where you read your ordered books) are closed Sundays. I say this because I booked a train ticket to go back on Sunday evening but found out that the reading rooms are closed that day even though the library itself is open.
On the Saturday, I got the tube to King’s Cross. The Library is right outside one of the doors but I went outside the wrong door and ended up a bit lost. Never mind, I was in plenty of time.
The building itself looks a bit foreboding from one side but less so from another. The entire complex is about the size of a medium sized airport. All in all, it was a bit more modern looking than I was expecting.
When the doors opened, we had to go through security. They only checked some people’s bags though. I wasn’t checked.
Queue at the Library before opening.
Remember that online process? – when you go to the library you have to finish it and get registered so you can receive your library card/knowledge visa. This took a relatively short time and the staff were friendly.
Bags and coats had to be removed before entering a reading room. On a lower floor there are lockers that these are put into. The locker area reminds one of being at a swimming pool. Floors are dry, however, although there is a slight expectation that this shouldn’t be so.
On the way to my reading room, I passed rooms with books stacked high. The books could be seen through glass. It didn’t look as if the books would fall through the glass but it was one of the highest collections of books I’ve seen. Covers of the books were not dusty but were serious. There was a very modern café near the reading room, I didn’t go in for a cuppa so don’t ask about the coffee.
Then in the reading room, I got my books. They came out quickly thanks to the polite staff. Desks have those big green lights above them and there are plugs for laptops and the like. When I left with a bag (a plastic bag not a bag bag which aren’t allowed in as I said earlier) it was searched.
Photocopying was a bit of a pain. Only 5 % or a chapter of a book can be photocopied. That is really inconvenient if you need footnotes that are at the back of the book as well. No double-page photocopying either, only single pages. Staff in that part weren’t as helpful (are you listening BL?!)
There is a whole rigmarole of topping up your knowledge visa and then having to log in to a machine. Another option is to take pictures of pages on your smartphone. You can take as many as you want. I wish I had taken more care in ensuring that the pictures came out clearly. Some were a bit fuzzy.
I got what I wanted done, but probably would have given it an extra day. Hope there’ll be a next time!
Later on the weekend at Waterloo Bridge.
Currently, I am researching a book on Carl Schmitt. Any comments or suggested corrections to this post are welcome. I have already authored one book Mysteries of State in the Renaissance. My Amazon page is here.