Explore the building

Tour our Grade I listed London building.

Tour the British Library to learn about the design and architecture of our building, the artwork hidden in its nooks and crannies and what goes on behind the scenes.

Ever noticed the fossils buried in our courtyard? Or that our building actually resembles a ship?

Take a peek inside...

Want to find out more? Book a tour.

Architecture and design

Architecture and design of the British Library

Explore the architecture of this Grade 1 listed building.

Entrance Hall architecture and design

Look out for some of the techniques used in the Entrance Hall to make the building welcoming for visitors.

King’s Library architecture and design

Find out how the King’s Library presented the ultimate opportunity to architects to show off the treasures of the British Library.

Reading Rooms architecture and design

Discover how the Reading Rooms were designed to reflect the people who use them.

Stone, bricks and fossils of the British Library

While our building is home to millions of books, in our stonework resides oysters, plants and snails – all millions of years old.


Planets sculpture by Antony Gormley

Discover the secrets of these stones in the amphitheatre area of the Piazza.

Isaac Newton sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi

This 12-foot bronze statue in the Piazza depicts Sir Isaac Newton in the search for knowledge.

Entrance Hall tapestry

Next to the main staircase hangs this tapestry made up of seemingly random fragments and figures. What does it all mean?

Etching by David Hockney

In this etching on the Second Floor, two expressionless women walk past a set of Michelangelo drawings. What’s going on?

Virginia Woolf bust

When looking at this bronze bust of the writer Virginia Woolf outside the Rare Books and Music Reading Room, you may be taken aback by her aghast expression.

Terrace Restaurant sculpture by Barbara Hepworth

Look at this bronze sculpture for long enough and you’ll be transported to the rugged beauty of the southwest coast of England.

Paradoxymoron – a 3D painting

If you’ve ever been down to our cloakrooms you will have undoubtedly experienced the unnerving double-take effect of Paradoxymoron by Patrick Hughes.

Our collections

Explore our collections

We may be a library but we’re a lot more than just books. Take a look at some of the curious objects lurking around the building.

The journey of a collection item

How does a collection item land on your desk in the Reading Rooms?

King's Library

What is the King's Library?

At the heart of the building, a tall glass tower – the King’s Library – houses the collections of King George III.

What goes on inside the King's Library?

Get a glimpse inside the tower...

King’s Library architecture and design

Find out how the King’s Library presented the ultimate opportunity to architects to show off the treasures of the British Library.

Beneath your feet...

Did you know that beneath the main library are five levels of basement? Reaching 24 metres below ground – the equivalent of an eight-storey building – they are as deep as the Victoria line, which runs alongside them. Down here is where the majority of the building’s collection items are stored.

How do our galleries stay cool?

If our air con unit fails, it's all down to these nine buckets of ice...

How are our books organised?

Find out about how our collections are organised in the basements.

What do we do if our books get damaged?

Fire and water are the nemeses of the British Library and we do everything we can to keep them away from our collections.

How do we treat mould and pests?

Bookworms aren’t the only ones who enjoy our books.