British Library

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The library in 2012

The British Library is the national reference library and archive of the United Kingdom. It houses 150 million items on 625 km of shelving: these are predominantly books, but there are also significant collections of newspapers and periodicals, maps, sound recordings, historically significant manuscripts and public records (including patents). The Library is currently housed close to St Pancras station, on Euston Road in London; there is also a branch newspaper library at Colindale.

Readers are allowed access based on claimed need, and are admitted to a number of reading rooms, where they can view materials both on the shelf and through over-the-counter requests. The reading rooms have around 400,000 visitors a year and can hold 1,200 readers. Materials are stored in London and in the Document Supply Centre at Boston Spa in Yorkshire - the latter taking 48 hours to request. The Library also receives a copy of every book published in the UK, as required by the Copyright Act.