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25 June 2024

Enjoying Time Together on Family Days


Mokhi is a teacher and Miz is an IT consultant. They bring their children Zachariah (13) and Sulaiman (11) to the British Library on its programmed family days. 



I like to get the kids out and about and go to places that have activities. Obviously, if venues are welcoming of children with special needs, all the better. We first visited the Library a few years ago, just after lockdown. We found out that it was holding events through a charity called Sense, which we know about because of Zachariah’s multi-sensory needs – he has vision and hearing impairments. 

I didn’t realise before that you could go to the Library and do family activities. I thought you would only go if you needed to study or wanted access to books. It’s so much more than that – it’s almost like a museum or a gallery, and it’s very inclusive of families and children. The spaces are for everyone, not just for those who are studying or researching, which is lovely. I regularly check on the website to see what’s happening, because they always have something going on and a lot of things are free for families, which I think is really good. 


I always put the Library’s workshops in the diary

We come from North London, so we just make a day of it. We go somewhere nice for lunch, look around London if we want to, and then come home. The location is convenient, right next to King’s Cross station. 

I always make an effort to put the Library’s workshops and activities in the diary, because the boys like to have structure. Zachariah needs to know what he’s going to do and what the timings will be, since he has autism and ADHD. So when you tell him something’s going to be finished by three, he’s literally checking the phone. 

A couple of times, the Library has had this amazing storyteller who sings and uses props and does acting, and Zachariah loves it. At another event, the kids saw a real-life illustrator who showed them the tricks of the trade. There was an Open Day during the school holidays with professors and students from different universities doing logic games. They were inviting youngsters to try to complete the challenges. Sulaiman, in particular, enjoyed it.


I could live in the Library

There’s a restaurant at the Library, and a cafe. The toilets are nice and spacious, which is important for people with access needs. There are ramps and lifts, too. Whenever we go to any events, I always like to talk to other parents. I think it’s good for Zachariah and Sulaiman to meet other families. No two families are the same. 

Libraries are an amazing free resource: they belong to all of us. I think it’s a shame that so many of our local libraries have closed down, especially since lockdown. When our boys were babies, I used to go to my local library every week. They used to have baby rhyme time, with storytelling and songs. It meant that I could get out of the house and meet other parents. 

I could live in the Library. I love books. I think they just open you up to a new world. 



I especially enjoyed the storytelling event that we went to at the Library, and a talk with an author and illustrator about her book. It was interesting to find out how she developed her story, and it showed the kids how a book is put together. But you’re not just sitting there and listening; in between sessions, we got up and did activities.

They have exhibitions: we got tickets to the one about Paddington. We went to an open day where you could try different things at stalls throughout the building. One thing we learned is that the Library building was designed by an architect who wanted it to look like a ship. 


You can spend a whole day at the Library

Lots of families from different backgrounds can come to the Library, and all these events are put on that they don’t have to pay for. This, for me, is the key thing about libraries: they’re a communal, safe place for people to go. At the library near our house, I once saw a man who didn’t have English as his first language come in with an application that needed to be filled in, and the member of staff at the counter took the time to help him with it. Youngsters use the computers to do their homework. 

You can spend a whole day at the Library and time will just fly by. There’s that amazing glass section with all the old books – I love that. 



I was a bit nervous about going to the Library, but I got used to it. I went to family days there and did activities. I like reading about sport, especially football and boxing. I support Liverpool, and my favourite boxer is Anthony Joshua. The last book I read was about Muhammed Ali, and I dressed up as him for World Book Day. 



I like to read manga, especially Naruto. Art is my favourite subject at school, and at home I like to draw manga characters. I used some of the art materials at the Library to make a dragon, and a mask, which I really enjoyed. And there was an activity where we had to find stuff in the Library. I made posters at the Library to get people to visit. I wrote, ‘Lose your mind in a book.’


As told to Lucy Peters

28 May 2024

Restoring our services – 28 May 2024 update

British Library Reading Room

Readers of this blog will be aware that in March we published a detailed paper on the cyber-attack that the Library suffered in late October last year. The report’s primary purpose was to share lessons from our experience, so that other organisations can be better protected from similar attacks in the future.

But it also laid bare, as candidly as we could, the scale and destructive impact of the attack. The damage we experienced was substantial and will be complex and challenging to repair. Although we are confident that our data, digital holdings and digitised collections are safe and intact – either through back-ups or because they were not targeted in the attack – many of our legacy IT systems were encrypted, damaged or deleted.

The sheer complexity of rebuilding these systems (or workable versions of them) has meant that for the researchers who depend on our resources the months since the attack have been deeply unsettling and frustrating – not least because of the inevitable uncertainties over the exact timetable for restoration of different Library services.

With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to provide an update on the service improvements users can expect to see over the next few months, as well as some context on the process that lies behind the work of recovery.

Access to more collection items held in Boston Spa – July

Work is currently underway to restore access to the collections held in our large automated storage facilities at Boston Spa, which will result in the vast majority of our collection becoming available to users once again. The work to restore access to the items held in the Additional Storage Building is advancing well, and this collection – comprising some 262 linear kilometres of books and other items – should become available again for use by Readers in both St Pancras and Boston Spa by the end of July.

The work to restore access to materials held in the National Newspaper Building is more complex and is likely to take longer. In the meantime, however, users can find a wide range of newspaper titles available in microform in the Newsroom at St Pancras.

Digital collections acquired through Non-Print Legal Deposit (NPLD) – August

Another of our priorities is to restore onsite access to digital collections that we have acquired through Non-Print Legal Deposit (NPLD), including e-journals and e-publications. Our loss of access to these collections has also affected the other Legal Deposit Libraries (the National Library of Wales, the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin) as their access systems depended upon our own, which has been offline since the cyber-attack.

We have been working with our Legal Deposit Library partners to restore access to NPLD materials that were deposited prior to the cyber-attack (October 2023) and we now expect this to be available, in some form, by August. We are continuing to explore different options for collecting and storing items deposited after October 2023, and will share more details about these arrangements as they are confirmed.

Learning websites and digitised manuscripts – September

For the Library’s global community of users on the web, the absence of our online and digitised resources has been keenly felt. Two early priorities for restoration are the web pages providing access to the Library’s unique collection of digitised manuscripts, and our popular Learning resources, including Discovering Literature. Work is under way on both of these, with the aim of getting them online again by September, in time for the start of the new academic year.

The complex work of recovery

Understandably, some users have asked why it was not possible for services such as these to be simply ‘switched back on’ following the attack.

The answer is that it’s because of the particularly destructive nature of this attack: all of these service restorations, and those to come further down the line, are dependent on the successful installation of a completely new computing infrastructure for the entire Library, to replace the servers destroyed by the attackers – a major operation which began soon after the attack and will complete next month.

Once that is in place, the reloading of all the Library’s data can finally begin – a painstaking process which involves the sampling and checking of each dataset to ensure that no malware has been left by the attackers that could be reactivated once a file or drive is accessed. We are as eager as all our users to see these vital resources returned to use, but I hope you’ll understand that we must take a ‘safety first’ approach to the process of restoration.

Please do keep an eye on this blog for future updates as the Library’s journey of recovery continues. For now, I would like to thank you once again for your patience and understanding as we recover from this dreadful attack, and to bear with us as we restore more and more of our physical and online resources over the course of the next few months.

Sir Roly Keating
Chief Executive

15 May 2024

Telling Stories That Help Children Learn to Read | User Stories

Telling Stories to teach reading

Salina Khatun is the founder of Kindle Corner, an organisation that runs free storytelling sessions at the British Library, and across Camden, for children aged 0 – 12.  

I taught for thirteen years as a primary school teacher: education has always been my passion. When London was in lockdown for the Covid-19 pandemic, I’d recently given birth to my third child. I started worrying about children whose parents weren’t teachers, and thinking about what I could do to support disadvantaged kids who were stuck at home. 

I believe strongly in the importance of education, and I know that storytelling creates a love of reading. If you’re creative in your movements and your facial expressions, children will want to engage. So I decided to start doing storytelling sessions on Zoom. Within three days, I had 250 attendees – not just from London, but from around the world. 


I held weekly storytelling sessions 

At the British Library, there’s a space called the Story Garden, which, as a teacher and as a mother, I would use to tell stories to children. After the lockdowns ended, Global Generation, the charity that created the garden in partnership with the Library, asked me to speak to Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, about why the space was important to the local community in our borough, Somers Town. After the talk, I told the director of the Story Garden that I’d be happy to hold weekly storytelling sessions for free, for the local children. We had a good turnout – up to 20 children coming to each session. That was the start of my storytelling organisation, Kindle Corner

In July 2022, the Library asked us if we would deliver sessions based on the themes of their exhibitions, and our relationship has grown from there. I love everything about the Library: it’s a gem, a space where everyone can learn. I’d like to see families using the Library to create a culture of reading for their young children as they grow. 


Group storytelling creates a feeling of togetherness

The sessions are popular because my team is passionate about telling stories. Group storytelling creates a feeling of togetherness for families. Our stories explore topics like visiting the dentist and taking care of nature. I especially like telling stories about emotions: how it’s okay to be happy or angrythe important thing is what you do with those feelings. I like to use humour, and let children take part, so that the sessions are fun. 

We focus on kids under 12 years old. Everybody, from all walks of life, comes to our sessions. We welcome a mix of every group you can think of who lives and works in Somers Town. We hope to raise a community of children that love stories. I believe that this will bridge the gap between children who aren’t read to, and children who come from affluent homes who are read to all the time. Children can enjoy Kindle Corner events even if they don’t speak English. 


We bring the world to children

The government’s 2022 literacy framework states that the two components for success in literacy are that children love reading and learn phonics. Children who don’t do this at an early age will not thrive in the education system and therefore won’t get the results they need to pursue a great career. When they struggle with a science text, or a maths question, they will be left behind. This is why I’m so passionate about what I’m doing. My vision of success is a child in Somers Town picking up a book every single day. 

We bring the world to children. Through a storytelling session, we can teach a child about Egypt; about the importance of looking after plants; about their own hygiene. We’re not just teaching them to love reading; we are planting the seeds of values. We also use the children to bring the adults along. For example, we want both adults and children to know about the concept of recycling. 


We empower a lot of mums

When you’re a teacher, parents don’t like approaching you, because you’re an authority figure. If they think I’m just another mum, they feel they can trust me. But as time is passing and they realise that I run Kindle Corner, that’s great because it’s inspiring. 

I've got a seven-year-old son, and daughters who are three and five. I don’t allow Kindle Corner to interrupt my time with my children in the afternoons. If you run a business or a charity, it can work really well around childcare. We’ve found that we empower a lot of mums. 


Storytelling is a powerful tool 

In spring 2022, I applied for the funding Camden Council offers to community projects, to grow my organisation. When our bid was successful, I was able to hire an administrator and another storyteller. Then we were spotted by the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research centre on Euston Road, and they asked us if we could do science-based storytelling sessions for them.

Next, Camden Council approached us and asked us to run storytelling sessions about the circular economy: recycling, sharing and upcycling. Storytelling is a powerful tool to influence and educate people. Rather than delivering a workshop and telling everybody that they need to recycle, we deliver a story showing why recycling is important. It’s a better way to communicate with people. These days, Kindle Corner has a brilliant team of 24, many of whom are volunteers. 

Last year, we started working with Google. They asked me to write a story about myself and my work, and I realised that I’d done a lot in only the first year of running Kindle Corner. We've also started delivering storytelling sessions for families in the Library's Last Word community hub every Thursday. 

As told to Lucy Peters