The British Library

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This has been a bit of a stressful week, which I knew it would be. When planning my April/May travels over the winter, I didn’t quite realize that I would have so many deadlines all at once. Looking at my school schedule, I saw that classes ended  April 1st, and I knew that I didn’t have any exams, so I (very) wrongfully assumed my spring would be wide open for me to laze about and travel.

I was so. so. wrong. In my defense, I wasn’t the only one in my program that made this mistake, so I do feel a bit better.

At least while I continue to have a long, drawn out nervous breakdown until the second week of May, I can think about how much fun I had traveling to Amsterdam and Holmfirth.

What I lose in academic points I gain in life points…right? That’s what I’ll tell myself when I get my grades next month. Hopefully I’ll still believe that!

Even though I was trapped inside a library all day every day this week (kudos to me-the weather outside was GORGEOUS, which is such a rarity here), I still tried to turn it into an exploration. In between sobbing over my history notes and pretending to get work done, I marveled over the beauty that is the British Library!

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As my friend Jackie said, getting a library card to this place is like trying to get access into Fort Knox. The registration was intense! I had to have two separate types of ID, my student card, a letter showing proof of address, and explain what my purpose for using the library facilities was and what types of books I would be needing.

All the hassle has been worth it though. This library is so much more than I had expected!

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Here’s my favorite little bench in the front lobby:

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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and until 1973 had been part of the British Museum. It the second largest library in the world (behind the Library of Congress in D.C.) in terms of items catalogued. This library has 170 million items, 13.9 million of which are books! Some of the manuscripts date back to 2000 BC.

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Physically, this place is huge! I’ve only explored bits of the first two floors, but there is so much more that I have yet to see.

In the center of the building is six storeys of books encased in glass. It contains the King’s Library, with 65,000 books, pamphlets, and manuscripts collected by King George III between 1763-1820.

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It’s surrounded by comfy chairs, desks, a cafe, and a restaurant. It’s nice to sit next to with a warm cup of tea and look at all the different types of old books.

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This place is always crowded. Doors open at 9:30 every morning, and by the time I arrive at 9:15 there is already a long line of people waiting to get in.

The library also has exhibits on display. Their last exhibit, which latest from September to April 18th, was on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I kept meaning to visit it, but something always came up, and I missed seeing it by ONE day. I wanted to kick myself!

But, at least I get to see their current one! It is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth this weekend, and the library’s exhibit will be open until September 2016.

The Shakespeare in Ten Acts showcase has more than 200 rare items, such as the only surviving play script that was written BY Shakespeare himself! It has the earliest printed 1603 edition of Hamlet, as well as Shakespeare’s First Folio.

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400 years since his birth…I think that counts as a holiday, which means it’s a legitimate excuse to not work on my papers…because as a history major, I need to celebrate history, not just write about it, right?

Luckily the staff are all so wonderfully kind and friendly, and give me plenty of encouraging smiles when I’m sure I must look like I’m about to burst into tears at any given moment.

 

 

 

 

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