Today our class went just up the street to St. Pancras, home of the King’s Cross/St. Pancras railway complex and the British Library. The goal with going to the train station was to visit the fake “Platform 9 3/4” set up for Harry Potter tourists. However, King’s Cross Station is currently undergoing MAJOR renovations, so rather than being in-between Platforms 9 and 10 like it should be, they set it up in a little photo-op booth on the outside of the station, which in my opinion pretty much ruins the illusion. But, I got my picture taken there anyway.
Afterwards, we FINALLY went to the British Library, which is right next door to St. Pancras, and it was AMAZING – despite the face that due to some computer mixup, I was not able to take out any books. See, the British Library is “closed stacks” – once you have a library card, you have to reserve a book online and have it sent to a reading room, where you can read it, but you can’t take the books out of the room – which given the rarity of so much of their collection, makes a lot of sense. I had thought I’d reserved several books for myself in advance, but when I checked in, my queue was entirely empty.
The British Library
So instead, I went downstairs to their current exhibit “Out of This World: Science Fiction, But Not As You Know It,” and I took in the whole thing, which traces the entire history of science fiction all the way back to the very first “journey to the moon” stories on up through the present, with interactive exhibits, videos, and LOTS of books on display, from the classic to the obscure and including some fairly unexpected contributors, such as the Brontë sisters, alongside genre greats from H. G. Wells to Arthur C. Clarke to J.G. Ballard (obviously, with a bit more emphasis on Brits than you’d see elsewhere). There was also a talking robot and a TARDIS, and I left with one of my few souvenirs so far, a CD of never-before-released interviews with science fiction writers. So overall I had a pretty great time.