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Volunteers Visit the British Library

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On Wednesday 9th May, 27 volunteers of the Haddenham Community Library visited the British Library (BL) on a trip brilliantly organised by librarian Alison Gilbert. The outing was a great success.

The group was received by BL staff and given a guided tour in two groups, each with an excellent guide. Most of the group had not visited before and were immensely impressed by the building's architecture and design and the story of how it came to be built. The architect was Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson. Building took 30 years, with political wrangles, overspends and planning issues, finally opening in 1997.

The library shares its collection with its branch at Boston Spa near Wetherby, which houses two thirds of everything. Orders to see a book are turned round in 70 minutes in London or two days if they are at Boston Spa, from where a truck travels every day.

The BL building has 1.6 KM of conveyor belt to bring books to readers from the stacks which include four basement levels with very sophisticated temperature and humidity controls. Every book and periodical published has to send a copy to the BL -they receive 10,000 every day. There are 62.5 KM of shelving.

Highlights of the visit included The Kings Library collection of King George the Third in which books are classified by shape, size, weight and colour — no Dewey decimal system! There are statues of the four founders, Hans Sloane, John Cotton, Joseph Banks and Thomas Grenville (of the Stowe family). The real highlight is probably the Treasures room with originals of Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, the Lindisfarne and Tyndale Bibles among many others.

Many of the group decided that they will visit again — the BL is open freely to the public — before repairing to Carluccio's in St Pancras Station for lunch.

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