The British Library

The British Library sounds very grand but is it there for you and me? And, what role does it play in this increasingly digital world?

The British Library Reading Room inside the British Museum, Bloomsbury, before the move of the British Library to its current location at St.Pancras.The British Library is the UK’s national library. Its purpose is to make our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment.

It is a major research library, holding around 170 million items from many countries, in many languages and in many formats, both print and digital: books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings. The Library’s collections include around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC and the British Library Sound Archive holds more than a million discs and 185,000 tapes.

The British Library is the largest library in the world by number of items catalogued.

In October 2010 the British Library launched its Management and business studies portal. This website is designed to allow digital access to management research reports, consulting reports, working papers and articles. In November 2011, four million newspaper pages from the 18th and 19th centuries were made available online. The project will scan up to 40 million pages over the next 10 years. The archive is free to search, but there is a charge for accessing the pages themselves.

Since April 2013, the Library has to collect and preserve freely available UK online publications for the UK. This is mainly implemented through periodic crawling of the entire UK web domain. The Web Archiving Team put in place a system which is capable of scaling up to the size of the challenge – the UK web space contains at least 4.8 million websites and continues to grow. Also in April 2013, the British Library Document Supply Service launched its new online ordering and tracking system, which enables customers to search available items, view detailed availability, pricing and delivery time information, place and track orders, and manage account preferences online.

For more information on the British Library please see the British Library homepage.

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