Tower of London

Tower of London

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ACADEMIC- The British Library

The work of a national library is literally never done. Charged with collecting all items published in or about their country of origin, it is amazing there is ever enough of time and space to offer the collection to the public.

The British National Library has met and exceeded this task beautifuly. In fact, they have even managed to throw in a few new innovations here and there in the process. No big deal, that is just what you would expect of a library that has placed a giant Kindle-like computer in the front lobby of the library so that visitors can explore their digitized collections filled with items from ancient history to the present. If that sounds cool, you actually turn the "pages" on the touch screen! The staff at the British National Library certainly knows how to bring history to life.

Our tour guide, Mr. Kevin Mehmet, offered us an inside look at how they are able to do so much and still meet the obligations of an ever-growing collection. Besides a top-notch staff, they are using technology to aid them in meeting the needs of their patrons. An amazing conveyor belt system brings books through the library and underground vault. Digitization has made many documents, including some that were unavailable or rarely available, ready to access for the masses. The library is currently digitizing more than 75,000 pages a day. And of course, the cataloging team is essential. With a collection this vast, catalogers must be nearly flawless in order to ensure that items are not lost in the mix.

Patrons must also be willing to work with the library in order to serve them. Due to the vastness of the collection, researchers must know what they are looking for before they are able to access the collection in person, but the online portal more than makes up for any inconvenience this may cause. The online database, collections, and even an online image collection are just part of the fun whether you are accessing the collection for scholarly needs or personal ones.

For bibliophiles, Anglophiles, and scholars alike, the British National Library offers a wonderful setting, great service, and resources beyond the imagination. For more information about this library and to check out the online collections and catalog, click here.

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