About us

We welcome learners of all ages to the British Library, from school students and teachers to families and community groups. Our collection - filled with treasures including ancient manuscripts, world maps, historic newspapers, music recordings, and contemporary photographs - is at the heart of our unique learning programme which offers a range of opportunities to explore, connect and interact both onsite, online and nationally.

Each year, over 35,000 participants take part in a rich mix of creative programmes including workshops, masterclasses, performances, courses and discovery days. Led by our team of specialist educators and using the Harry M Weinrebe Learning Centre and our major exhibitions, the programme combines opportunities to encounter original and rare objects together with a skills-based approach centred around critical thinking, research, and visual, verbal and digital literacy.

Online, 5 million visitors come to our website every year to explore thousands of high resolution collection items, current academic research, films and animations, and teaching resources. The site provides unparalleled digital access to the British Library, inspiring and enhancing understanding of our collections for teaching and learning.

Highlights for 2016/17 include:

Discovering Literature: Shakespeare

Explore Shakespeare’s plays in relation to the social, political and cultural context in which they were written, and examine the ways in which these works have been transformed and interpreted over the last four centuries.

Discovering Literature: 20th century

Over 300 20th-century treasures from the British Library’s collection including literary drafts, rare first editions, notebooks, letters, newspapers and photographs. Reflecting a century of dramatic change, the site reveals the ways in which key writers of the period captured the world around them by rejecting inherited traditions and experimenting with new forms and themes.

Adult courses

Our new programme of short courses offers a range of inspirational and creative learning opportunities. Aimed at anyone interested in developing their personal interests and passions, our courses will deepen your engagement with a wide range of topics and use our world-renowned collections to inspire your own creativity. Recent courses have included Gothic Literature, Sacred Texts, Illustrating Alice in Wonderland and a Bookbinding Masterclass.

Save our Sounds

The nation’s sound collections are under threat, both from physical degradation and as the means of playing them disappear from production. The British Library is home to the nation’s Sound Archive, an extraordinary collection of over 6.5 million recordings of speech, music, wildlife and the environment, from the 1880s to the present day. From 2017-2022, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we will work with partner institutions across the UK to digitise, preserve and share our unique audio heritage.

To find out more about our programme

Adult courses
Teaching resources

Featured online resources

Unique collection items and expert commentary related to History, English and Citizenship

Romantics and Victorians

Discover some of our greatest literary treasures from the Romantic and Victorian periods, and learn about the historical, social and political contexts in which they were written and set.

World War One

Discover how World War One affected people on different sides of the conflict through the study of this unique collection of 500 historical sources contributed by libraries from across Europe, as part of a programme led by Europeana

Magna Carta

Explore the origins and 800-year legacy of Magna Carta, and discover its relevance to justice, liberty and the law today. This unique collection of historical sources is contextualised through articles and videos from leading experts.

Featured teaching resources

A range of teaching resources to help you plan lessons, design schemes of work and set homework tasks

Right to a fair trial

One of the clauses in Magna Carta that remains a part of English Law today, concerns the right to justice and a fair trial. In this activity, the first in a series on this theme, pupils explore two legal cases (one historical and one contemporary) that both contributed to the development of the right to justice and a fair trial.

Ages 11 to 14

Daily life in the trenches

In this activity students will use primary source material to gain an insight into daily life in the trenches and an appreciation of the kinds of difficulties that the soldiers faced.

Ages 11 to 14

Ages 14 to 16

Ages 16 to 18

Bronte’s Wuthering Heights: Who is Heathcliff?

Perspectives on the character of Heathcliff in Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

Ages 14 to 16

Ages 16 to 18