British Library opens new state of the art Learning Centre

By Rachel Hayward | 16 September 2010
Photo showing the learning centre at the British Library with tables and colourful plastic chairs and an interactive whiteboard
© British Library
The British Library has opened a new cutting-edge Learning Centre that will support learners with their digital research skills. The 17,000 pupils and their teachers who visit the Library every year will now have the chance to encounter literary treasures including manuscripts, sound recordings, maps, letters and diaries.

The Learning Centre was officially opened on September 16 2010 by the Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb MP who said it will add to the British Library's great tradition of collecting and sharing knowledge "by helping spread that knowledge and literature to thousands of students across the country".

"From the outreach activities for schools to the after-school projects for young people, I am delighted that the Library’s Learning Centre will be able to develop and make the most of the British Library’s historic and fascinating collections of books, newspapers, manuscripts and maps.”

Although the British Library’s Learning Programme, which covers curriculum subjects ranging from History to Citizenship, is aimed mainly at secondary school pupils (aged 11-19), it also caters for younger and older groups.

Already on offer as part of the programme are workshops, curator talks and tours - now the Learning Centre enhances it by offering pupils the chance to explore primary sources via laptops, interactive whiteboards and state-of-the-art audio-visual facilities.

The British Library’s Head of Learning, Roger Walshe, added how the Library's previous Education Room was a well-used facility but was "not ideal for larger groups or longer sessions".

"By removing some walls and expanding the facility into neighbouring areas we’ve created a very versatile and inspiring space," he said. "The feedback we’ve had from the teachers and pupils who have seen it has been terrific.”

Over the past decade the British Library has digitised millions of historic items from its collections. "The challenge now is to demonstrate to pupils and their teachers how these primary materials can be used to add depth and richness to their studies," added Walshe.

For the first time there are also video-conferencing facilities and remote viewing equipment to enable schools to access the collection for workshops in the classroom.

See Roger Walshe and more of the new Learning Centre in a video clip.

An extensive programme of workshops and study sessions is planned for the Library’s forthcoming major exhibition on the English language, Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices, which opens on November 12, 2010.

More information and how to book can be found on the British Library website.

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