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.
School groups and teachersEach year, over 30,000 students and teachers take part in our schools programme. Our free, curriculum-linked workshops for learners aged 7–18 open a window onto our unique collection and encourage curiosity, creativity and discovery. Led by a team of specialist educators and delivered onsite in our Learning Centre and exhibition spaces, sessions for school groups span a variety of subject areas and encourage the development of a wide range of skills. Supporting Continuing Professional Development, our conferences and twilight events will help teachers hone specialist knowledge and reinvigorate classroom practice.
Families are welcome throughout the year to engage in creative activities inspired by our collection and exhibitions. We playfully support families to explore and re-imagine our collections through interactive workshops, Family Takeovers, large scale Family Days and activity trails. Through family projects and local partnerships, we strive to ensure our programme is fully accessible and responsive to the needs of our diverse family audience. Our hope is for the Library to be a fun, welcoming and family-friendly place to visit.
Our programme of adult courses offers a range of creative and in-depth learning experiences to people of all abilities. Develop your knowledge, practical skills and passion for particular topics through our expert tutors and unique access to our world-renowned collections and exhibitions. Recent courses include Japanese calligraphy, life drawing, comedy writing, bookbinding, Old English language, creative writing and Gothic literature.
Access and outreach
Our access and outreach programme welcomes learners through a range of workshops, tours, events and projects. Our programme of free workshops for children and adults with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) takes learners on a journey to discover the Library’s unique collections. Creative outreach projects for community groups, young people, and children and adults with SEND are delivered in partnership with a range of charities and organisations and are designed with the participant’s needs and abilities at the heart. We also offer a regular programme of accessible tours and autism-friendly exhibition private views to further open up our collections to visitors. This programme is generously funded by the BAND Trust, the Tuixen Foundation and the Brian Mitchell Trust.
Over 10 million learners come to our website every year to explore a wealth of subjects from Gothic literature and medieval history to First World War propaganda and feminism. Our free learning resources allow users to access thousands of digitised treasures from our collection as well as hundreds of fascinating interpretative essays, films, animations and teachers’ notes. Highlights from 2018 include the launches of:
- New phases of Discovering Literature: From Beowulf to The Bloody Chamber, explore over 1000 years of English literature in context
- Votes for Women: Learn about the campaign for women’s suffrage in the UK
- Windrush Stories: Examine race, migration and culture, with a focus on the relationship between Britain and the Caribbean.
Unlocking Our Sound Heritage
Unlocking our Sound Heritage is a UK-wide project that will help save the nation’s sounds and open them up to everyone. 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. However, the nation’s sound collections are under threat, both from physical degradation and as the means of playing them disappear from production. 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.
The British Library’s first Chinese website Discovering Literature (www.britishlibrary.cn) is a rich digital learning resource, introducing more than 500 digitised literary treasures from the Library’s literary collections, as well as over 100 in-depth interpretative articles in Simplified and Traditional Chinese and English. With new articles written by Chinese scholars or from the cultural exchange perspective, we aim to explore unique histories and the relationship between English and Chinese literature. We also engage with our audience across China on the social media platforms WeChat and Weibo.