Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

17 August 2023

A few of our favourite things about the British Library

Did you know that the British Library is home to over 200 million collection items? Occupying over 746km of total shelving, growing an extra 8km every year, our St Pancras site houses inventions that date back thousands of years, as well as new technology from our digital age.

To continue our celebrations for the British Library's 50th anniversary, we asked our BIPC team what their favourite facts about the Library are, as well as their favourite inventions.

Here's what they came up with:

Meron

  • ‘My favourite fact about the British Library is that it’s an unusual and uniquely built building that resembles a ship. Prior to becoming an architect, Colin St John Wilson was a naval lieutenant... This now makes sense!’ - Meron, Reference Specialist 

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  • 'My favourite invention is the Starship delivery robots in Milton Keynes. I love the innovative solution for local deliveries. They are completely autonomous and the robots can sense when they need to move out of the way. Since they can deliver a small grocery shop, it’s a great solution particularly for people less able to leave their homes. Also, they’re surprisingly cute!' - Claire, Head of Reference Services 

Jeremy

  • 'I find it amazing that as you walk through the British Library there are four levels of football pitch sized floors of information beneath your feet; the lowest basement sitting beneath the Piccadilly line. I find the historical patent collection just an endless treasure trove of incredible inventions that have changed what is even possible. My favourites are the aviation patents. The Wright Brother’s and Frank Whittle’s aviation patents. Like so many of us, I took one of these ‘flying machines’ to go on holiday somewhere warm and didn’t even consider the marvel of it.' - Jeremy, Research & Business Development Manager

Isabel Oswell5

  • 'I have thick and often unruly hair and couldn’t live without my trusty Tangle Teezer™.  Shaun Pulfrey, inventor and founder of the eponymous company, came to the Business & IP Centre when it had recently opened to see if he could protect his innovative design and now, over 15 years later, he has patented the brush in over 30 countries. Each brush design is also protected by design rights and the name Tangle Teezer™ is also protected as a trade mark.  Shaun also took part in our scale-up programme, now called Get Ready for Business Growth in 2014-15 and in 2021 he hit revenues of £43.5 million and sold a majority stake to Mayfair Equity Partners for around £70 million.  This is an incredible achievement by Shaun and his team and we like to think that we made a positive contribution to their successful business journey.' - Isabel, Head of Business Audiences

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  • 'Apart from the amazing free business support the BIPC National Network provides, the most impressive aspect is its geographical spread. It would take just over six days and 458 grueling miles to walk from the most southern point of the BIPC National Network (BIPC Devon Local in Paignton) to its most northern point (BIPC Glasgow in the Mitchell Library).' - Billy, Project Administrator

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  • 'My favourite invention is the printing press. The democratisation of text ushered in the second information age in Europe by allowing for the mechanical mass production of books and broadsheets. With greater demand for written materials, the invention also fostered translations of popular texts that could be disseminated to the public rather than remaining within the church or royal courts. The British Library’s Treasures exhibit displays one of Gutenberg’s bibles, the first book printed with moveable type in Western Europe, as well as a copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales printed by William Caxton, the first book printer in England.'  - Amy, Growth Programme Service Liaison Manager

Simon

  • 'My favourite invention would have to be either the Printing Press, or the Electric Guitar!' - Simon, MI and Project Coordinator

Jordan

  • ‘If you see five items each day, it would take you over 80,000 years to see the whole of the Library's collection.’ - Jordan, BIPC Workshop and Events Administrator 

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  • ‘Our science blog recently posted some interesting facts about the hidden 'wild' features of the British Library: "the British Library hosts a permanent show of animal fossils, hiding in plain sight. As you cross the Piazza on a visit to the Library you tread on limestone, formed in the early Cretaceous period (145 and 100 million years ago - Ma) in a warm, shallow sea, teeming with life. You can also find fossilised sea sponge outside the Conference Centre, as well as calcareous algal pellets and various fossil shells on the floors inside the British Library".' - Alyssa, Project Coordinator 

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  • ‘The British Library collects words, written and spoken. Its sound archives collect oral history to bring back stories and accounts, like for the BBC programme Aids: The Unheard Tapes. I felt proud of the British Library’s contribution to the programme, which brought personal stories back to life, turning the programme into compelling viewing.’ - Elisabetta, Project Administrator

 

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