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British Library: Institution Main

Global Guide to Japanese Collections held at the British Library


About the British Library:

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.

Under the Act, several institutions were combined to form the British Library:
• The library departments of the British Museum (which included the National Reference Library of Science and Invention),
• The National Central Library, and the National Lending Library for Science and Technology (the center for interlibrary lending, located at Boston Spa in Yorkshire).
• The British National Bibliography and the Office for Scientific and Technical Information joined the UK's new national library.
• The India Office Library and Records (1982).
• The British Institute of Recorded Sound (1983). 

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.

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Institution: British Library

Founded: 1973

Type: National library

Location: London, UK


Online catalogue: EXPLORER *

*To recall items for which you know the shelfmark but which have not yet been put into the online catalogue, use the "Request Other Items" tab.

Using the Library

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.

  • A Pass is issued subject to the reader's need to see specific items in the collections. Before you register, you should search the BL Catalogues to confirm the availability of the material you require; and bring these details with you when you register.

**First time visitors are strongly encouraged to pre-register online and liaise with the curators**

More information on how to register for a Reader's pass can be found here and induction videos are available at BL youtube channel. For further queries contact Readers Registration directly.

Tel:  +44 (0)20 7412 7676
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7794

North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources
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