5 reasons to attend a British Library Doctoral Open Day

Doctoral Open Day British Library

Find out more about what happens on the day

Our Doctoral Open Days offer PhD students the chance to discover our research resources and explore the practicalities of using the Library. While some Open Days focus on specific subject, such as Social Science or Music, others take an interdisciplinary approach and look at our collections from particular time periods, from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. In addition, we run an Open Day at the British Library's site in Boston Spa, near Wetherby in West Yorkshire. 

The next series of Doctoral Open Days will take place in early 2020 and further information will be published here as soon as booking opens. To subscribe to our mailing list and receive updates about Doctoral Open Days and our other initiatives, please email Research.Development@bl.uk.

Please note that most days sell out well in advance, so if you are planning to attend make sure to register early to avoid disappointment. 

5 reasons to attend a British Library Doctoral Open Day…

The British Library is a huge building with a frankly mind-bogglingly large collection. We realise that when visiting for the first time it can be difficult to know where to start. How do you navigate a collection that covers all major languages and spans 3,000 years – and is growing at a rate of around 12km of shelving and 70Tb of digital material each year?

Well, we think a Doctoral Open Day is a good place to start! In fact, to put this assertion to the test, we’ve recently conducted a survey of attendees from previous Open Days, asking for feedback on what they got out of it. So here are some of the common benefits of coming to an Open Day, in the words of those who have come to one of these events in previous years.

1. Demystify the Library – Finding and accessing what you need may be much easier than you think, but either way, you’ll know what help is at hand:

  • “… helped to demystify the process of using the British Library’s resources and introduced me to collections I might not have thought of consulting.”
  • “It took some of the mystique of the Library away and made me feel entitled to use it.”

2. Enhance your knowledge – If you have already used the Library, consulted collection items or added them to your reading list, attending an Open Day will help show you the context in which these items are held and enable you to build on what you already know:

  • “…there were many resources that I hadn’t been aware of, and I found it really helpful to be able to ask questions about working in the Library and accessing resources.”
  • “… gave me a much better idea of the extent of the collections (beyond books) and of the value in contacting curators as not everything is in the online catalogue.”

3. Save yourself time – We know how precious your research time is! An Open Day will equip you with practical tips to hone in on the resources you need and save time both in advance of and during your next visits to the Reading Rooms:

  • “... gave some practical information about the Library’s resources which enabled me to use it more efficiently after attending the event.”
  • “It has made me more confident using the Library’s collections, and more efficient when I visit.”

4. Generate new ideas and methodologies – Think you already know everything you need to know about our collections? An Open Day may make you think again!

  • “… made me more aware of what was available for research and of different ways of approaching my own subject that I might not otherwise have thought of.”
  • “It opened my thinking out on what materials were available – and some of the presentations inspired me to think more creatively about my approach.”

5. Network. Network. Network. – Perhaps most importantly, our Open Days are a great opportunity to meet our curators and reference specialists, and to build research networks with fellow PhD researchers from across the country:

  • “… the lunch and other break times were a great opportunity to find out about other people’s research, too.”
  • “Talking directly with the BL curators allowed my research to develop in ways that I had not accounted for previously.”
  • “The event deeply enriched my social  and professional network at a university in a new country”

Case Studies

We’re pleased to point you to some more specific examples of how our Open Days can help early-stage PhD researchers explore and navigate our collections.

  • Amanda Callan-Spenn is a PhD student, carrying out research into the history of women’s martial arts and ways in the early twentieth century. She attended our Doctoral Open Day in 2016 covering 20th and 21st century collections.
  • Mary Kay Culpepper is a former journalist who is now studying for a PhD at the University of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design, exploring how the environment influences creativity. She attended the News&Media Doctoral Open Day.
  • Evgeniya Kondrashina is a PhD student at Goldsmiths, University of London researching the relationship between music and British images of the USSR during the Cold War. She attended the Music Doctoral Open Day in February 2017.
  • Ruth Tarlo is studying narratives of unemployment and employment of people with mild learning difficulties. She attended the Social Sciences Doctoral Open Day in January 2017.

Further information and resources for PhD students