The current library building first opened in 1997 and became a separate entity from the British Museum back in 1951. Sir Hans Sloane left his books to the nation and the Montague House( British Museum later on) made the books available to all. Sir Robert Cotton also bought books from closing monastic collections during the reign of Henry VII. The British Museum grew out of Sir Cotton's contribution, but of course, the library was first.
The British Library all houses one of the largest stamp collections in the world with not only the first stamps available, but with 8.5 million items in all and most available to view within the library.
In order to have access to the library, one must have specific items to be researched, a State Driver's license, passport or another method of identification. There is a form to complete as part of the application process and an interview is conducted in order to receive a reader card. The library has an automatic book retrieval system since readers cannot browse the shelves of the library. Readers request books through the catalog, then a staff member retrieves the book and leaves a slip where the book was held and a slip to be put in the book itself. Then, books are placed in a tray that is scanned and a departure point is scanned to show where the book is to be sent. The tray system delivers the items to and from the reading room.
One of the most prominent features in the library is that of the glass tower or the personal collection of King George III. The collection boasts 60,000 items on six floors. The books stretch a variety of disciplines, including a large foreign language collection.
Finally, my personal favorite thing about the British Library was the exhibits. Currently, the library has an in-depth exhibit on Science Fiction, the world of Mervyn Peake, and the wonderful collection of items spanning from a Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, early folios of Shakespeare and Jane Austen's writing desk.
I found myself in love with the British Library, especially the collection of artifacts and out-of this world exhibits on display! I would love to go back and get my reader's card someday soon! :)