Living Knowledge blog

03 November 2016

Support the British Library by becoming a Member

This week sees the launch of the British Library’s new Membership scheme, which offers a way for you to support the work of the Library, while also gaining access to a range of fantastic benefits.

In common with many of the UK’s great museums and galleries we offer many of our key services for free: in particular, our permanent exhibition, the John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library; free access to our wifi-enabled public spaces and, of course, the services we offer to more than 400,000 users of our Reading Rooms every year.

Members Room_Crop_2_Credit_Tony AntoniouMembership includes exclusive access to the new Members' Room on Floor 2, where Members can enjoy food and a fully licenced bar. Photo by Tony Antoniou.

Membership is a popular way for national institutions such as the Tate and the National Gallery to build up their supporter base, and provides a vital additional source of income alongside public funding and commercial revenue. It’s an increasingly crowded market, though, so the Library had to think long and hard about a suitably attractive range of benefits that would encourage people to become British Library Members.

From the start it was clear that free access to our paid exhibitions would be a key benefit. Over the past few years, we’ve staged a range of hugely popular and critically acclaimed exhibitions, on subjects ranging from propaganda to Gothic literature, from West Africa to British comics. Last year’s Magna Carta exhibition was our most successful ever, and our exhibition on Shakespeare this summer received the best visitor feedback we’ve ever had, with the exception of Magna Carta.

The richness and density of our exhibitions – not least because so many items are manuscripts, rare books and letters – means that they benefit from repeated viewing. The unlimited access to paid exhibitions that comes with British Library Membership is therefore sure to be a big draw for many people – especially given that we’re about to open our major exhibition Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line.

Bl-maps-exhib-img-smallerMembers enjoy unlimited free access to exhibitions such as Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line.

We’ve also developed some exclusive spaces that Members will have access to when visiting St Pancras, including our new Members’ Room, serving food and drink on Floor 2 in the main building, and the Knowledge Centre Bar, open 18.00-22.00 every weeknight in what was previously known as the Conference Centre. Both spaces have been refurbished to make them attractive places to enjoy coffee, a glass of wine or a light meal between visiting an event or exhibition.

Membership means that you can access the Members’ Room with a guest or the Knowledge Centre Bar with three guests, making a day or evening spent at the Library an excellent way to socialise.

Our events programme is another key attraction: over the coming months we will be increasing the number of events we stage and featuring big names including Alan Moore, Derren Brown, Ali Smith and Michael Morpurgo. Members receive four free tickets to events and priority booking and discount for selected events.

DSC04857_Credit_Tony Antoniou
 The Members' Room on Floor 2. Photo by Tony Antoniou.

Other benefits include 20% discount in British Library restaurants and cafés, 20% discount in our Shops, and a free book from our best-selling British Library Crime Classic range.

It’s important to point out that Membership is separate from access to our Reading Rooms, which is available to anyone holding a British Library Reader Pass and which remains free. Obviously, though, many of the people who already use the Library most often will be keen to sign up as Members, and with the new exhibition just about to open, and the season for buying Christmas gifts just around the corner, the benefits of Membership for existing Readers and visitors are substantial.


Finally, the scheme offers a terrific gift opportunity for the literary-minded person in your life for whom it’s otherwise impossible to buy. We all have friends and relatives who are obsessive about literature, history and culture, but whose bookshelves are already groaning with tomes it’ll take several lifetimes to read. Do them a favour and treat them to a British Library Membership – it’ll get them out of the house and help them explore the collections, exhibitions and events of the world’s greatest library as never before!

Graham MacFadyen

Head of Digital Marketing Operations