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For the First Time Ever, the British Library Has a Membership Programme
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For the First Time Ever, the British Library Has a Membership Programme

Picture of James Gunn
Updated: 7 December 2017
As with other London libraries, the British Library can become a second home for many. You might well be one of those people who is in the habit of joining the queue of other patient regulars 10 minutes before opening. This is a club many have long been a member of. However, only now, late in 2017, is it possible to have formal recognition of your devotion to the British Library in the form of the newly launched British Library Membership.

As soon as the doors open, you and fellow students, researchers, and general British Library enthusiasts make beelines for those coveted spots. Camp is set up and the rest of the day is spent reading, punctuated only by the strictly scheduled use of the immediate amenities. For the paltry sum of £80 (which in today’s climate is about two-week’s worth of coffee) you and your fellow disciples can separate yourselves off from the riff raff who only stop in for a good time, not a long time.

The membership offers the opportunity to make the most of what is already there but also comes with some invaluable extra access to one of the greatest research institutions in the world. There is now even more reason to stay and even more opportunity to spend time in this red-bricked behemoth.

To start with, new members get free access for themselves and a guest to all exhibitions. While many are already free to the public, there are always one or two which aren’t. Counted among those is the current Harry Potter: A History of Magic which runs until the end of February 2018. Aside from exhibitions, the membership entitles the recipient to four free events each year and discounts and priority for many others including talks, film screenings or other cultural events such as the forthcoming Journey Through Jazz evening.

British Library Membership costs £80 per year for single membership and £120 per year for joint membership
Membership grants you 20% discount to all food and drink the eye can see | © British Library

But the benefits of the membership are not just there to distract you from your work. Indeed, they will also fuel it. Over the years you might have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds on that mid-morning coffee, or late-afternoon tea and cake. The 20% discount in all restaurants, cafés and shops makes the membership a practical investment, with significant returns indeed – see it as a free lunch every Friday.

Access is the final benefit of the membership. Picture this: your tube is delayed by a matter of minutes and by the time you have reached your spot, it is 9:35am and, alas, it is gone. You nod to your adversary, acknowledging that, for today at least, they have won. Now you might, God forbid, only be left with the option of nicking a table at the café and sheepishly justifying your occupancy with a feeble purchase of cappuccino followed by endless glasses of tap water. Your error will weigh heavy on your conscience for the rest of the day and not even an artisanal salad will distract you from it.

Members Room_2_Credit_Tony Antoniou (3)
The view from the member’s room | © Tony Antoniou

This scenario is hopefully now a thing of the past. The membership gives you access to a daytime Members’ room, replete with wi-fi, plenty of desks and a superior view, overlooking the King’s Library. The time has come to stroll into the British Library with aplomb, brandishing your shiny members card in the knowledge that with your subscription comes the exclusivity you deserve. And if you are in the game of trying to impress prospective new members of you bookclub or research group, or even if you are trying to demonstrate to your date that it’s no big deal, but I read a bit, you will also have access to the weightily named Knowledge Centre Bar, open until 10pm on weeknights.

If this isn’t enough, then with one year’s membership you will also bypass a sad day for you and your kind – the annual expiry of your Reader Pass. Members receive a three-year extended pass, making it that bit easier to get to sleep at night before the morning commute to King’s Cross.