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08 October 2019

A sea of colour and light: the British Library at Leeds Light Night 2019

Light Night blog Voyage By Aether and Hemera3
The British Library will be taking part in Leeds Light Night festival on 10 and 11 October with an exciting, interactive installation on the Leeds Dock canal side based on this year’s theme of Mind, Body and Spirit.

Light Night Leeds is the UK’s largest annual arts and light festival and has been taking place since 2014. The festival includes over 60 free events in 11 zones in the city centre from large-scale light projections and interactive installations, to music, dance and street performances.

In response to this year’s theme of ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’, the Library has collaborated with local Buddhist groups to present Reflections on the Water and Voyage; which are very timely with our Buddhism exhibition opening at St Pancras on 25 October. The theme of Mind, Body and Spirit especially appealed to us because although libraries today are wonderfully vibrant places, they also offer space for reflection and quiet learning and are open to everyone.

Light Night blog - Reflections on the Water Flower Lanterns at Leeds Dock
Wat Buddharam will invite visitors to Light Night to join them in flower lantern (Krathong) making for the Thai Buddhist Loy Krathong festival, which is a beautiful celebration of light to mark the end of Buddhist lent. People will be able to join in the festivities by making and launching their own lantern, creating a delicate and sparkling spectacle across the water. In addition, Jamyang Buddhist Centre will be showing an exquisite Light Offering on Friday evening, which visitors can watch while enjoying some peaceful contemplation in amongst the bustle of the city.

Light Night blog Voyage by Aether and Hemera Photo by Philip Vile 2
Alongside Reflections on the Water the British Library has collaborated with artists Aether & Hermera to bring Voyage, a large-scale interactive installation comprised of hundreds of floating origami boats that each contain a coloured LED light that visitors can control from their smartphones, choosing the colours and changing the installation at Leeds Dock.

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In addition the Royal Armouries will have special late opening hours displaying a rare 19th-century Burmese manuscript from the British Library’s collection, which will be staying on display there until early 2020.

Leeds Central Library will also be joining in with their own Light Night installations, including Behind the Scenes Tours and an array of family friendly activities.

For more information on Light Night, please click here.

Phoebe Painter

Cross Portfolio Apprentice


07 October 2019

Museum as Muck – improving working class representation in museums and galleries

I was proud to represent the British Library at the first Museum as Muck (a play on the term ‘common as muck’) Annual General Meeting last month, hosted by the network’s founder Michelle McGrath at the British Museum.

The AGM was a gathering of likeminded individuals who are thinking about working class representation in the museums and galleries workforce and the wider cultural sector.

On the train back to Yorkshire, where I’m based at the British Library’s site in Boston Spa, I thought about my own, accidental, journey into the cultural sector. In particular, all the things I wish I’d known before I applied for my post at the British Library and what it would be helpful to know when thinking about working with us, so here goes:

When I’m recruiting I don’t care:

  • Where you went to school
  • Which university you went to (if you went)
  • Who your parents are
  • Where you live
  • How old you are
  • If your auntie/dad/sister etc. works with us
  • What your gender identity is
  • What your sexual orientation is
  • What accent you have
  • If you have tattoos or piercings
  • If you identify as disabled – we can support you
  • If you have caring/childcare responsibilities – we can support you

What I do care about is that you will embody our values and strive to make the British Library the best institution of its kind in the world.

At the British Library we want everyone to show themselves in their best light and really shine when they apply for a role or come to interview with us.  These are some tips that I think will help you get the best out of your application:

When you fill in an application form:

  • Read the job profile and get a feel for what the job is – don’t rely solely on the job title
  • Find out more about the British Library and the team you would be working with – look at our website, read our blogs, read our Living Knowledge Strategy, check out our social media
  • Make sure you use real life examples of how you can/have demonstrated the requirements of the post
  • Speak to the recruiting manager – we always provide contact details of them for an informal chat about the role
  • Don’t use a generic application – tailor it to the vacancy you are applying for
  • Proof-read your application before hitting send

When you come to an interview:

  • Prepare – look at the job profile and minimum requirements and think about how you can provide examples on how you meet these, what attracted you to the role? Why do you want to work at the British Library?
  • If you’re not sure what the dress code is contact us
  • Expect to be interviewed by a panel of usually three people, and that they will take notes throughout the interview
  • Expect to be asked competency-based questions – these are questions where we will ask you to describe an example of a time when you…
  • Use the time in the interview to ask any questions about the role – we want you to be confident that we are the right employer for you
  • Use the opportunity to demonstrate through your examples how you embody our values
  • If you have any specific requirements, need a paper copy of the questions on the day, or have any access needs please let us know.  We will always try and find a way to accommodate requests
  • Most importantly be yourself – an interview is a two way process so now is a great opportunity to get a feel for whether we are the right organisation for you

If you do choose to join the British Library I hope you will feel welcomed and included and can see how we celebrate diversity in all its forms across our organisation.

We have staff networks for LGBTQ+, BAME, Disability and Gender and I manage a portfolio of work called Everyone Engaged where we are aiming to make the British Library an institution where everyone feels welcome.

We aim to celebrate diversity in all forms in our programming, through our staff networks and in all aspects of our work, in our most recent staff survey 82% of respondents said they feel proud to work with us, but we also recognise that there is still so much more that we can do.

If you are at an earlier stage in your career we welcome applications for work experience placements on both our sites in Yorkshire and London in early February each year and we have a fantastic apprenticeship programme which is open to everyone.

If you have any ideas on how we can be more inclusive or have any questions do get in touch via my email or on Twitter

You can find out more about the fantastic Museum as Muck on Twitter and Facebook.

Stephanie Robinson

Everyone Engaged Manager


26 September 2019

Live event: The Novels that Shaped Our World

Novels-that-shapedThe Living Knowledge Network is a vibrant UK-wide partnership of national and public libraries. Together we share ideas and spark connections between libraries, their collections and their people. The network currently includes over 20 public libraries, the British Library itself, the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales.

The Living Knowledge Network is the only network of its kind in the UK and its activities include nationwide exhibitions as well as a programme of live-streamed events, featuring well-known commentators, artists and authors. Through this initiative, audiences around the country are able to simultaneously enjoy engaging events through live screenings held in their local library.

Upcoming event highlights include “The Novels that Shaped our World”. To mark the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, a panel of writers, journalists and thinkers (see above) have selected 100 novels that have shaped their world. Chaired by BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley, this event will be live streamed to up to 20 public libraries across the UK, including Leeds, Poole, Huddersfield, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Norwich, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Hull, Pontefract, Liverpool, Cambridgeshire, Warwickshire, The Hive, Hampshire and  Libraries NI.

Find out more about the upcoming programme by visiting the Living Knowledge Network website