Facts and figures of the British Library

Brass handles of philatelic exhibition cases.

Find out key stats around our collections, buildings and users.

Our collections

  • Our collections include over 170 million items from almost every language and faith group.
  • Together, they occupy over 746km of total shelving – equivalent to the distance from London to Aberdeen, and this is growing an extra 8km every year. Meanwhile our digital collections amount to over 1 petabyte – equivalent to almost 3.5 years of non-stop HD-quality video footage.
  • We receive a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland through legal deposit. Last year we received over 500,000 printed and digital items and over 100 terabytes from the UK web domain.
  • If you see five items each day, it would take you over 80,000 years to see the whole of the collection.
  • Since it launched in 2004, the Endangered Archives Programme has preserved over a million manuscripts, documents, photographs, recordings and other at-risk material.

In our collections you can find:

  • material ranging from Magna Carta and Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook to today's newspapers and websites
  • 13.5 million printed books and e-books
  • 310,000 manuscript volumes: from Jane Austen to James Joyce; Handel to the Beatles
  • 60 million patents
  • Over 4 million maps
  • Over 260,000 journal titles, many of them digital
  • 7 million sound recordings from 19th-century wax cylinders to CD recordings
  • 8 million stamps
  • over 500 terabytes of preserved data in our UK Web Archive which, since 2013, has aimed to collect every UK website.

Our users

  • Over 115,000 people have registered to use our Reading Rooms and over 9,000 have become British Library Members
  • We welcome 1.6 million visitors through our door every year from across London, the UK, and beyond – 1 million of whom also visit our galleries. On top of this, over 100,000 people per year visit our exhibitions in China.
  • Last year the Business & IP Centre national network supported 23,000 people to start up and grow successful businesses – that’s 63 people per day. 
  • 33,000 students and teachers participate in learning programmes on-site each year, while our online learning resources engaged 8 million unique visitors last year alone.

Each year:

  • over 400,000 users from all around the world visit our Reading Rooms; together, they consult over 1.5 million items
  • web users generate 6 million catalogue searches and consult almost 4 million items online.

Our buildings

  • 10 million bricks were needed to complete our St Pancras site, which is the largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century.
  • The building has a total floor area of over 112,000 sq metres spread over 14 floors: nine above ground, five below. The basement stores run 24 metres below ground – the equivalent of an eight storey building – and reach as deep as the Victoria line which runs alongside them.
  • Designed by Sir Colin St John (‘Sandy’) Wilson, our St Pancras building was awarded Grade I listed building status in August 2015.
  • Our 44-acre site at Boston Spa, Yorkshire houses around 70% of the Library’s print collection – that’s over 80 million items.
  • Our Additional Storage Building and National Newspaper Building at Boston Spa house between them almost 300km of books, magazines and newspapers, which are retrieved by robotic cranes that are linked to the Library’s catalogue.
  • Every weekday a lorry transports more than 1,000 collection items between Boston Spa and St Pancras for readers.