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Writing in the British Library { NW1 }

03/04/2011
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I’ve been a regular visitor to the BL since September, when I finally got around to getting a reader pass. It was the first term of my Masters in Creative Writing, and I’d been hit by a ton of literary theory reading. Thanks to its online reservation service, the BL proved the ideal place to get my hands on all the right books at the right time. But how does it square up as a place to write?

Atmosphere

The red-brick exterior might lack the neoclassical grandeur of the nearby British Museum, where the main collection used to be housed, but the high ceilings of the entrance hall, backed by a glassy cliff of book shelves, add an inspiring air of academia. As you might expect, the mood in the reading rooms is pretty scholarly. There’s no chatter except from the (nice but noisy) staff behind the lending desks, so as long as you manage to bag a seat towards the back, you’re assured some decent peace and quiet. It’s the perfect place for when you need to get your head down and crack on with that masterpiece.

Distractions

Minimal. Chitchat is not tolerated in the reading rooms, let alone noisy mobile phones, snacks, water, coats or (whisper it) pens. There is wifi, although I rather wish I hadn’t discovered that…

You can also take a break by checking out the fantastic and free exhibitions on the lower floors.

Food & drink

My advice is to come to the BL between meals. Both the Peyton and Byrne restaurant/cafe and the little shop outside, while nicely packaged, are bloody expensive. I nearly choked when my plate of crummy canteen roast came in at over £12. You can’t take drinks into the reading rooms but there’s a tap outside. God I’m cheap.

The lowdown

“A puritan’s paradise” | 453 words-per-hour  |  websitemap

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