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Your Feedback and our Response

Your views matter to us

The British Library takes your comments, suggestions and complaints seriously. Here is some of your recent feedback and our response. 

Your feedback

Why do you allow undergraduates to use the British Library Reading Rooms when facilities are already stretched to the limit?


Our response

We do understand that these peak periods can be frustrating for Readers and the Library has made a considerable investment in recent years to accommodate these high levels of demand. As part of this investment the number of seats available has been increased by over 10% and the number of permanent lockers by 16%. In addition, a further temporary increase in the number of lockers available is implemented during these busy periods.

The Library has a clear policy that it exists for the use of all those who need to use its collections but, in order to establish whether the British Library is the best place for individuals to study, all those applying for a Reader Pass are asked about their fields of research and the material they wish to consult. Where it is felt that the Library may not be the most appropriate facility, applicants are guided to alternative libraries or research institutions. This change in approach was specifically taken in response to increased reader numbers. Encouragingly (from the point of view of managing demand) it has resulted in fewer new Reader Passes being issued, with the biggest reduction being seen amongst student applicants. We will continue to monitor trends and will take further steps as needed to achieve an appropriate balance between accessibility and need to use the collections.

For the majority of the year these measures are successful in maintaining demand at manageable levels. Indeed, in the whole of 2013 there were only nine days when the number of unoccupied desks fell below 100 and the average minimum number was 345 (i.e. on average, no more than 72% of total capacity was in use at any one time). That said, during peak periods such as Easter the Library will remain busy.


Your exhibition galleries are uncomfortably cold.


We want our visitors to be comfortable when visiting the exhibition galleries.  However, the best conditions in which to display the Library’s treasures can seem excessively cool.  The main reason for this is related to the preservation of the collections.

The Library’s collections are stored in controlled environmental conditions within the exhibition galleries, which contain many of the Library’s most precious treasures, maintained at approximately 17-19 degrees centigrade and a relative humility of 45-55%. These values correspond with the target environmental conditions set out in British standard BS 5454:2000. As the outside temperature may be 4 or 5 degrees higher than this, the galleries often feel cool, particularly in summer months.

A sophisticated control system, which is checked regularly, monitors and records the conditions in the galleries. However, the air entering the room has to be somewhat cooler to achieve the required temperatures.

The building’s air conditioning system is an extremely complex one and there can also be variations in temperature between the entrance hall and galleries, and within the galleries.  If you have noticed problems in any particular area, do please let us know so that we can follow this up. The Library tries to respond to such complaints by adjusting conditions locally where possible, within the limits of our conservation priorities.


Why is the exhibition space so dark?


The reason for the subdued lighting is that this gallery displays objects that are sensitive to light. Light causes them to fade and discolour. In order to preserve the collection, light levels have to be greatly reduced. 

The Library conforms to the light levels recommended in BS5454. Recommendations for the storage and exhibition of archival documents of max. 50 lux, less for more vulnerable objects. 

The gallery is lit from the lighting track in the ceiling which is 6.6m high. We try not to place cases where visitors will cast a shadow but it may be unavoidable in areas where we are trying to light a number of objects. We do make available a large print catalogue that visitors can use if they are having difficulty with viewing labels due to the lighting.

Please supply more cycle racks. I cycle to the BL regularly and demand has increased significantly over the last 5 years 

A further update on the provision of cycle racks.

Prior to London 2012 we increased the number of cycle racks significantly to accommodate predicted demand. In addition, earlier this year we repositioned the new racks to a new more secure location, under cover.

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