When some people think of libraries, they might think of old women in cardigans shushing people for making any noise at all (as a former librarian during my student days, I can assure you that I only wore cardigans on cold days). Surely a library is no place to hang out while on holiday?
The British Library breaks all of these stereotypes. Not only is it a working library for dedicated students and researchers with free wifi access and working spaces throughout, it also caters to more casual visitors with cosy cafes and a restaurant on the premises to relax and read.
However, the biggest draw to the British Library is its permanent collection – free for anyone to admire. The permanent collection covers many aspects of literature, ranging from original manuscripts from Charlotte Bronte to Virginia Woolf. Even if you are not a connoisseur of books, you’ll likely find displays that will capture your interest among the priceless religious texts, scientific documents and handwritten musical scores.
Complementing the permanent collection is a new exhibition studying how people responded to the turmoil of the Great War. Sobering letters from soldiers and cheerful propaganda posters sit side-by-side as we try to understand more about the First World War.
Emily Dickinson wrote in one of her poems ‘There is no frigate like a book’. I can think of no better illustration of this than the British Library.