Thursday, July 8, 2010

The British Library

The British Library is one of those places of yore even non-librarians hear tale of. Why, they've got an original copy of the Magna Carta from 1215. TWELVE HUNDRED FIFTEEN. I would say it again in bold in a massive font but I think my point is clear. The only known medieval Beowulf manuscript! Give me a moment to compose myself.

Kevin, the manager of the front of house at the library as well as the donations officer was our guide. He was a riot! I am really enjoying the British senses of humor I have come across. Excuse me, humour. Anyway, he told us about the underground tower where the British Library stores their books. This is a brilliant idea for a number of reasons. Cooler temperatures mean less degradation of paper, bindings, etc... Furthermore, it saves an immense amount of space. The British Library is huge but if all the books were housed on the surface level, it would be colossal. And those in the basement are classified by size, which when you think about it makes complete sense, access wise. I also learned that that bombshell we saw at the British Museum yesterday left a hole in the British Library's holdings.

I am not sure why but I found everything one has to do to get a reader's card to be pretty extensive. I suppose I've just not encountered an archive or library with such valuable and immense collections. The automated system used for delivering materials to users is fascinating. It is so elaborate yet so simple! Kevin told us that there are over 22,000 possible routes for a book to reach the destination.

After the tour, several of us went to lunch across the street, which was a good time. Then I got to go back to the library to fully engross myself in the maps exhibit. Wow, that map of London entirely made of words is amazing. I also found a map made in 1784 that showed my hometown on it! It was even before Connecticut had its notch!

Tomorrow we've got a later start to the day, which pleases me! Sleep is good and welcome here.

I took the above photo of the British Library's automated system today.

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