1/52 The British Library

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The British Library definitely had to be top of my list of new places to see in London. I’m slightly ashamed that I didn’t visit last semester, given my degree, so I’ve done my best to make up for it. In fact I am, as we speak, ensconced in one of their fantastic armchairs making the most of the free wifi and the plug socket (built into the arm of the chair, how neat is that?)

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The Library is a short walk from London St Pancras so I headed over after work and was pleasantly surprised that far from being a hallowed, deathly silent temple of knowledge (not that I don’t like knowledge temples, but, everything in its place), the library is an open, welcoming space with an extensive network of reading rooms, exhibition space and cafes, with a lot of floor space dedicated to chairs, armchairs and tables for studying or reading (or browsing the internet or napping or eating your packed lunch).

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All I really wanted to do was get my hands on some books, the bigger and older the better, but as it turns out they don’t just let any sticky little urchin finger the manuscripts. I will have to come back with a proof of signature, proof of address, two forms of ID, my student card, the blood of a virgin, the eye of a toad, the wing of a bat and a signed note from my mother stating that I am not some kind of arsonist or crazy book hating maniac, and then they’ll give me a reader’s pass. The reader’s pass will entitle me to all of the knowledge in the universe. I can’t wait.

In the meantime, the peasants who don’t possess a reader’s pass are free to indulge themselves at the cafe (although I had a quick peek at the menu, and unless boiled zucchini and a miniscle portion of pickled walnuts is your bag, I’d stick to a packed lunch) and use the communal spaces, the  plentiful water fountains, the plug sockets and the wifi. What more could the heart of a man desire? There’s even a little shop.

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The library is clearly a fantastic place to come to work, and once I have my reader’s pass it will be a valuable resource (plus I’ll get to sit in the cool seats upstairs with proper desks and lamps and everything). Around lunchtime the library is particularly busy, so I would recommend coming in the morning or late afternoon if you want to find a place to sit. (Or you could opt for the armchair-with-coffee-spilt-on-it-which-everyone-else-is-avoiding. Which I did. And then unscrupulously mopped up the coffee with my copy of ‘Hamlet’. I really think a bit of coffee is the least of poor Hamlet’s worries.)

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Yes, it’s a bit of a haven for academic hipster types and old ladies, but who cares? It’s a place where anybody can go whenever they want with a book or a laptop or a newspaper and spend time reading, studying or researching. Awesome.

Big Love, PV x

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