Visit to the British Library

I had a fascinating tour of the British Library today. The breadth and depth of the collections are amazing! The Library is housed in a new building in Central London and incorporates all of the latest technologies for acquiring, cataloging, and housing books. A state-of-the-art system of conveyors delivers requested items from the 108,000 item collection stored in an underground 8-story on over 200 miles of shelving to users in one of the 11 reading rooms. Virtually all items are in the hands of the user within 70 minutes of being requested.

When a user submits a request, a two-part bar-coded request slip is generated. One part marks the book’s place on the shelf, and the other travels with the book and is retained when the book is given to the user. When the user returns the book, the two parts of the slip are reunited, and the book is reshelved. For the first time in its history, the Library can collect and compile usage data on individual items in its collection.

The building also contains exhibition halls with a variety of wonderful treasures, including first editions of Shakespeare, an original copy of the
Magna Carta, original musical scores by Beethoven, Mozart, and other noted composers, a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, and similar works. The exhibitions are open free of charge to the public, and I highly recommend you visit them if you have time during the conference. They are extremely interesting and worthwhile.

David Brown, Director of Publisher relations has agreed to give an interview to the Information Today blog on Thursday. He will discuss some of the library’s digitization work, including its joint projects with Google and Microsoft. Be sure and watch the blog for this exclusive interview.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

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