How do our galleries stay cool?

Temperatures inside display cabinets are set to 18–20°C to protect the items inside. So how do they stay within this range if the air condition system fails?

Welcome to our basements! Over in our 'Chiller Room' are nine tanks of ice reserved for emergencies like these.

Water from the building’s air conditioning unit gets bypassed into these tanks, cooling it, and this cool water is then circulated through pipes around the building, chilling the air inside.  

After running through a series of ducts, this cool air is distributed out into the individual display cases and gallery spaces through vents. If you look up at the ceiling in our exhibition galleries, you can see some of them.

The ice tanks can provide two hours of backup cooling.


Explore more beneath your feet...

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.