May 2014 | Nate Pedersen

British Library Opens State-of-the-Art Newspaper Room

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First new Reading Room to open in nearly a decade - the Newsroom at the British Library, St Pancras.
Image credit: Charles Birchmore photography.

A state-of-the-art newspaper reading room opened earlier this week at the British Library in London. The new room, completed at the cost of £33m, will offer free access to 400 years of newspapers dating back to the English Civil War.  The microfilmed and digitized collections present more than 750m pages of newspapers and 4.8m archived websites to researchers. The newspaper room, located in the St Pancras branch of the British Library, replaces the newspaper room at the Colinsdale branch in London that closed last year.

The oldest newspaper in the collection which is still being published is the Stamford Mercury, first published in 1713, and in operation today as the Rutland & Stamford Mercury. The archive also includes a complete run of News of the World, as well as The Blackshirt (Oswald Mosley's newspaper). 

The library in Colinsdale was almost destroyed during the Blitz, when it suffered a direct bomb attack that resulted in a lost of 9,000 volumes of newspapers. Researchers are still digitizing newspapers from the Colinsdale library with shrapnel embedded in them 70 years later.

Roly Keating, the British Library chief executive said of the opening, "The opening of the Newsroom means that news and newspapers are no longer the Cinderella of the library's collections, but are now at the very heart of the British Library's offering to researchers. By moving the collection out of Colindale and into the world-class storage facility at Boston Spa, we're ensuring this vast, precious and incredibly fragile resource is available not just for today's researchers, but also future generations."

Numerous print newspapers that have not yet been digitized will be stored in the affiliated Bath Spa facility. The goal is to deliver requested newspapers to the new St Pancras reading room within 48 hours of a researcher's request.