The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries, holding over 150 million items and adding some 3 million every year.
For many years its collections were dispersed in various buildings around central London, in places such as Bloomsbury, Chancery Lane, and Holborn. Since 1997, however, the entire collection has been housed in one building, designed specially for the purpose by the architect Colin St. John Wilson. The new building is sited near the Kings Cross and St. Pancras rail stations in the London Borough of Camden.
A number of important works are on display to the general public; the other items can be accessed in reading rooms that are restricted to persons with a legitimate research interest which cannot easily be satisfied elsewhere.
An Act of Parliament in 1911 established the principle of the Legal Deposit, ensuring that the British Library, along with five other libraries in Britain and Ireland, is entitled to receive a free copy of every item published in Britain and The Republic of Ireland. The other five libraries are: the Bodleian Library at Oxford; the University Library at Cambridge; Trinity College Library in Dublin; and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales. The British Library is the only one that is entitled to receive a copy of everything within one month of publication; the other five have to wait for up to one year.
In 2003, a Private Member's Bill, the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, was passed which extended the Legal Deposit requirements to electronic documents such as CD ROMs and selected websites.
The British Library participates in a project called 'Bibliotheca Universalis' which aims at publishing major works on the web.
It also holds the Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC), which contain the collections of the India Office Library and Records, and materials in the languages of Asia and of north and north-east Africa.
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