British Library opens new Learning Centre

Harry M Weinrebe Learning Centre officially opened by Minister for Schools Nick Gibb MP


The British Library today opens its newly refurbished and expanded Learning Centre. Funded entirely through private donations, the Harry M Weinrebe Learning Centre will offer pupils and teachers cutting-edge facilities to support digital literacy skills as well as first-hand encounters with historic manuscripts, sound recordings, maps and letters.


Officially opened this evening by the Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb MP, the Learning Centre will provide a bright, spacious and inspiring space in which young learners will be able to explore the Library’s collections and develop their digital research skills. The project was funded by donations from the Dorset Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, John Lyon’s Charity, British Library Patrons and others. Construction and refurbishment work took place during the summer with minimal disruption to the Learning programme.


Around 17,000 young learners and 3,000 teachers, adult learners and family groups take part in the British Library’s Learning Programme every year, which is aimed mainly at secondary school pupils (aged 11-19) but also caters for younger and older groups. Through workshops, curator talks and tours, learners explore primary sources such as historic newspapers, diaries, manuscripts, sound recordings and maps, developing their research skills in subjects ranging from History and English Language to Citizenship and Religious Education.


The Learning Centre is fully digitally-enabled, with laptops for every pupil, electronic whiteboards, state of the art audio-visual facilities and – for the first time – video-conferencing facilities and remote viewing equipment, which will allow workshops and curator talks using collection items to be offered to similarly-equipped schools anywhere in the country.


The British Library’s Head of Learning, Roger Walshe, said, ”We’re tremendously excited about the facilities we can now offer pupils and teachers through the Harry M Weinrebe Learning Centre. The previous Education Room was a well-used facility but was not ideal for larger groups or longer sessions; by removing some walls and expanding the facility into neighbouring areas we’ve created a very versatile and inspiring space – the feedback we’ve had from the teachers and pupils who have seen it has been terrific.


“The new Learning Centre enables us to provide a much richer learning experience – particularly in relation to digital research skills, which is one of the key areas of expertise that the Library wishes to develop – both for pupils and teachers. Over the past decade, the British Library has digitised millions of historic items from our collections. The challenge now is to demonstrate to pupils and their teachers how these primary materials can be used to add depth and richness to their studies – whether it’s a newspaper report of the Battle of Waterloo or a handwritten draft of a Wilfred Owen poem from the First World War.”


School groups will be using the Learning Centre from next week and an extensive programme of workshops and study sessions is planned for the Library’s forthcoming major exhibition on the English language, Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices, which opens on November 12.


For more information and to book a school workshop please visit our workshop page.

For enquiries please contact the Learning Team:
T +44 (0)20 7412 7797