The Library holds well over 150 million items, and 3 million new items are added every year. The collections includes manuscripts, maps, newspapers, magazines, prints and drawings, music scores, patents, stamps and other philatelic items. The British library also hosts the Sound Archive, which keeps sound recordings from 19th-century cylinders to CD, DVD and MD recordings.
The British Library as an independent institution is relatively young, as its origins lie in the report of the National Libraries Committee (1969) drafted under the Chairmanship of the late Lord Dainton. This report was eventually followed by a White Paper (1971) suggesting the constitution of a national library for the United Kingdom, henceforth known as the British Library. In 1972 The British Library Act was issued and approved by Parliament, and the Library became fully operative from 1 July 1973.
More detailed information about the history of the British Library can be found here or in the published monograph: A History of the British Museum Library, 1753-1973 by P.R. Harris.
British Library is very different from public and university libraries. Everybody can access the public areas, but a Reader Pass (not usually issued to anyone under the age of 18) is required to use the collections.
**First time visitors are strongly encouraged to pre-register online and liaise with the curators**