The National Archives and the British Library are quite different from the Lambeth Palace Library. Whereas the Lambeth Palace Library is small, with a bottle of fruit squash in the cupboard and windows that overlook a courtyard, the National Archives and the British Library are modern, with computerized ordering and delivery systems that make human interaction minimal. At the National Archives, you swipe your card, order your materials, and sip a cuppa tea until the computer tells you that your material is ready. The stuff you ordered is then placed in a locker where you retrieve it. The computer system even assigns you a share. The British Library requires slightly more human interaction – you actually have to speak to someone to retrieve your materials – but everything still seems automated and impersonal.
Reading the documents at the National Archives and the British Library, though, can be like entering into another world. Continue reading