Guest blog post by ZSR Ambassador Hope Nitsche (’25)

For me, a huge part of my study abroad experience is seeking out libraries and bookstores wherever I go. I love being surrounded by books, so I spend as much time as humanly possible in ZSR when I am back on campus (some people have asked me if I ever leave). This semester, as I am studying at Worrell House in London, I wanted to make it a point to go to some of the numerous libraries in London and see if they could help give me my “book fix.” One of the first ones that I went to was the British Library, and I can definitely say that it was worth the trip.

photograph of main entrance to The British Library.
The outside of the British Library– I wish I could take a picture that would do it justice.

Outside King’s Cross Station, the British Library is right among the hustle and bustle of London. The first time I saw it, I was in awe at its sheer size. It makes sense, as the British Library collections in London and Yorkshire house over 170 million items, but I was still in shock. The part of the library that is open to visitors is only a tiny part of the whole Library, but it was definitely larger than the Atrium at ZSR. I could see some of the rare books housed in a glass case for their protection in the middle of the Library. I wished I could have gone up there, but I’m pretty sure that the British Library likes to keep a pretty close handle on who goes into their collections. They also had a lot of rare books and documents on display in an exhibition, which I visited and absolutely loved. They had one of the original four Magna Cartas that was written in 1215, although it had been badly burnt and was difficult to read.

photograph of special collections within The British Library.
One of the special collections visible within the entrance hall of the Library.
Photograph of the Magna Carta
A picture of one of the less damaged copies of the Magna Carta in the British Library Collection from 1225.

It is pretty easy to use the reading rooms of the British Library: it is free to get a readers card, which allows you to have access to all of their reading rooms and to browse their extensive collection, including the items that are unable to leave the library. However, if you didn’t want to get a reader’s card, they have extensive digital guides available on their website for different subjects ranging from art to manuscripts to new media, and even audio collections. All of these resources are easy to access and can even be used in person in the library, provided you get a reader’s card.

The British Library is a very good resource for students who are studying abroad in London. There were so many public study spaces and a cafe inside the library, which made me nostalgic for Camino’s pastries. Even though I am so far away from Winston-Salem, I have been taking advantage of ZSR’s resources, by looking up texts through the website and finding PDFs of the books that we need to read. It is nice to know that even all the way over here I can get the academic resources that I need, through ZSR and the other libraries nearby in London.