British Library

A quick quiz - how long did it take Christopher Wren to build St. Paul's Cathedral? Answer: 36 years. Ah, things were slow back then. How did people stand it? Second question: how long did it take to build the new British Library? Answer: 36 years.

What? Thirty-six years to build a library?! The new British Library, nestled next door to St Pancras railway station, took as long to build as a Stuart cathedral. Why so long?

A combination of changing government policies, changing sites, opposition from political and architectural pundits (including Prince Charles) and funding problems turned the rebuilding of the most prestigious library in the world (sorry, Library of Congress) into a soap opera. At least this soap opera has a happy conclusion.

The new library, which opened in 1998, is magnificent (at least it is if you can forgive its use of that age-old British standby, red brick, for all the exterior finish). The exterior has been reviled by some critics, but the interior is a triumph. At the center of the library is the transparent King's Library, a six level glass cube housing the book collection of George III.

The sound-proofing in the library is wonderful; auditory distractions are minimized through unobtrusive acoustic engineering, creating an aura of peaceful calm. Although the Modernistic style may not appeal to everyone, the reading rooms are nothing if not comfortable, with a capital C.

You'll need to apply for a reader's card to enter the reading rooms, but the public areas, including 3 exhibition galleries, are open to all. An illuminated Manuscripts Gallery, exhibits of Shakespeare original folios, the Gutenburg Bible, and other original author's manuscripts, as well as changing exhibits and world-class events program make this a must visit if you love books.

About British Library
Address: 96 Euston Road, London, Greater London, England, NW1 2DB
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: opposite St Pancras station
Website: British Library
Phone: 020 7412 7332
Location map
OS: TQ300828
Photo Credit: Ian Petticrew, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
Nearest station: London underground station King's Cross St. Pancras - 0.2 miles (straight line) - Zone: 1


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