that in the world's largest holding library
you are unable to check out a book
and need special permission to touch one

While I had visited this library before,
I went back for a proper tour just a few weeks ago
(there isn't much to see on your own, so a tour is a must)

In the UK and Ireland
a copy of every publication is donated to the British Library
for the sake of archiving the printed word

Besides books, the British Library archives
store catalogs, maps, games, stamps, playscripts, and musical scores

Moving images as well as sound recordings
such as music, animal sounds, and regional accent samples are stored as well

Three million new items are added to the collection each year,
some of which are donated from other countries in different languages

Miles of shelving are added annually to accommodate new additions

While the main library is in London
other branches are in Oxford, Cambridge, Yorkshire, Scotland, Wales, and Dublin

Contrary to most libraries,
the British Library organizes their books according to book size
because the Dewey Decimal System would be too time consuming for reshelving books

When a book is returned
it is placed at the end of the shelf next to books the same size

King's Library and public tables

If one wants to look at a particular item,
a registration process must be completed
and permission is granted based on genuine scholarly purpose

It is mostly university students, professors, 
and industry researchers who are granted access

As nothing can be checked out,
items only can be viewed in monitored reading rooms

The Magna Carta is the most requested item (and denied)

Reading Room

When an item is requested, it goes through a system between the walls that reminded me
of luggage at an airport with trays on automated tracks

Seventy people work in the basement 80 feet below ground
where items are stored on 20-foot high bookshelves

The lowest level of the building is filled with pumps
since the basement rests below the water table and River Thames

The King's Library holds King George III's collection
which is considered one of the most important from his era

Originally donated to the library when it was part of the British Museum,
the collection is now housed in a customized area with a clever fire plan

King's Library

In case of fire elsewhere in the library,
a fire retardant gel would fill the space between the double glass panes
and King George's collection would be pulled out of the skylight to safety

Since water would create a lot of damage to books in case of fire,
other precious books are stored in an emergency blast freezer corridor
This means a vacuum sucks out air and blasts the area with cold air (-18°C) to freeze books
Then those books are transported to freezer holds in area grocery stores for safekeeping
Sounds like a movie!

Next time I would love to attend Conservation Studio: Behind The Scenes Tour
Offered monthly, this will be on my list for next time :)

- all images my own -
(an unsponsored tour)