Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to your very own tour of the British Library on this lovely afternoon. My name is Tony Walters and I'm your guide for today. Could I please see your tickets for the guided tour?
I'd also like to remind you that any tickets bought today do not include a visit to the reading rooms. I’m afraid we don’t do visits on Fridays - or any weekday during working hours, so as not to disturb the readers. But if you do want to see those rooms, the only day there are tours is on Sundays. So, I don't want anyone to be disappointed about that today. OK? thank you.Right. We'll start with a brief introduction As many ol you know, this is the United Kingdom's National Library and you can see that this is a magnificent modern building. It was first designed by Sir Colin St John Wilson in 1977, and inaugurated by Her Majesty the Queen more than twenty years later, in 1998.
As you can see. the size is immense and the basements alone have 300 kilometres of shelving - and that's enough to hold about 12 million books. The total floor space here is 100,000 square metres and, as I'll show you, the library houses a huge range of facilities and exhibition spaces, and it has a thousand staff members based here in the building - so, you can appreciate the scale of our operation.
In fact, this was the biggest publicly-funded building constructed in the United Kingdom last century. It is still funded by the government as a national institution, ot course, and it houses one of the most important collections in the world. The different items come from every continent and span almost 3000 years.
The library isn't a public library, though you can't just come in and join and borrow any of the books. Access to the collections is limited to those involved in carrying out research, so it's really a huge reference library for that purpose, and anyone who wants to consult any materials that are kept here can formally apply to use the library reading rooms.
Right, well, here we are, standing at the Meeting Point on the lower ground floor just to the right of the Main Entrance. I've given you all a plan of the building so that we can orientate ourselves and get an idea of where we'll be going. Now outside the Main Entrance you'll see the wide Piazza with the stunning sculpture of Newton.
The sculptor was Paolozzi, but it's based on the famous image by William Blake - and it’s definitely worth a closer look. On the other side ot the Piazza from the statue is the Conference Centre, which is used for all kinds of international conventions we'll take a quick look inside at the end of our tour.
Looking ahead of us now, you'll see that we're standing opposite the staircase down to the basement where you'll find the cloakroom, and to the left of that, we have the information desk where you can find out about any current exhibitions, the times of the tours and anything you need to know - if you don't have a tour guide. As you can see, on this lower ground floor we also have a bookshopthat's the area over to the left of the main entrance. You'll be free to browse there when we get back to the ground floor.
Now, opposite the main entrance on this floor we have the open stairs leading up to the upper ground floor. And at the top of them, in the middle of the upper ground floor, you can see a kind of glass-sided tower that rises all the way up through the ceiling and up to the first floor. This is called the King's Library, it's really the heart of the building, it was built to house the collection that was presented to the nation in 1823 by the King. You can see it from every floor above ground. When we go up there, you'll find the library's Treasures Gallery on the left. Can you find it on your plan? That's the exciting one, so we'll be visiting that first but we'll also take a look at the stamp display situated behind it, on the way to the cafe - a lot of people miss that. The Cafeteria runs along the back of the floor and, in the right hand corner, you’ll find the lifts and toilets ... ha, always good to locate them. The other main area on that floor is the Public Access Catalogue section and I’ll show you how that operates when we get up there ...