Our Vision

We believe that the British Library extension will provide a number of benefits for the local community.

These will include:

Opening up the British Library

The proposed development site has been largely inaccessible to the general public and there was no east west access until Dangoor Walk was opened in 2018.

The project will open up the site from Midland Road to Ossulston Street by a widened Dangoor Walk.

People will also be able to pass through the library between Euston Road to the South and the new entrances beside Dangoor Walk to the North, encouraging more people into the building.

The aspiration is for most of the ground floor of the site extension to be accessible both externally and internally to the public. The design will also seek to make the new spaces visible to passers-by to attract them to enter.

The outside spaces will be designed with a range of different uses and events in mind, reflecting the potential events and activities of Somers Town and the Knowledge Quarter.

Cutaway of the proposed lower ground floor of the British Library extension.

Creating the British Library Foyer

View of commercial entrance looking south-west on Midland road .

We want to create a large Foyer space, easily accessible from both east and west of the site where local people and businesses can meet and exchange ideas.

We are also looking at bringing events to the Foyer that bring these communities together to listen to talks or work on local projects. This could be on solving local problems, working with local schools, or identifying opportunities for work experience, internships or apprenticeships.

We want the building to be a real asset for local people and want to hear from local businesses and the community on what they would like to see here.

Delivering affordable workspace, business support and start-up space

The Library currently provides free space to study and free access to Wi-Fi for everyone, from school children, university students, local residents and researchers.

This project would increase the capacity of the Library with more desk space, which would be free to use on a first come first served basis.

This project also looks to increase the existing Business and IP Centre offer, by providing business support for new start-ups.

Impressions of the proposed Business & IP Centre.

An environmentally considerate space for the future

Sustainability is one of the key aims for the project, and the proposals use the UN sustainability goals as a guide. We are looking at minimising the environmental impact through the following ways:


  • Introducing measures to reduce the level of carbon in the build, through efficient design and the selection of low impact materials
  • Introducing measures to minimise the operational carbon emissions once the building is occupied
  • Introducing measures to embed flexibility and adaptability into the design, in order to prolong its lifespan and make best use of the carbon invested in creating the physical structure
  • Targeting BREEAM’s ‘Excellent’ rating throughout the development
  • Improving biodiversity on the site in line with Camden’s Biodiversity Action Plan.

Supporting local initiatives and celebrating Somers Town History

We understand that the Somers Town communities are concerned about the amount of development that is happening around the neighbourhood. We are keen that the development is able to provide a place that celebrates the important living heritage of Somers Town so that local residents and visitors to the British Library can appreciate the history and identity of the area.

This could include features and artwork in the open spaces, exhibitions within the ground floor of the building or a permanent piece of artwork to celebrate area’s heritage and identity.

There are also many projects and initiatives currently in place in and around Somers Town which we will aim to support. We will keep talking with the community to identify projects are important to them and are in need of our support.

Creating a legacy for the Story Garden

The British Library and SMBL have helped establish a temporary home for Global Generation’s Story Garden on the extension site. This has become a successful and well-used amenity for the local community, and this project will ensure the legacy of the Story Garden for future generations.

We are keen that Global Generation continue to work in Somers Town, and we have hired a “Community Gardener” who will work with local residents to create their own gardens. Global Generation and DSDHA will work with the community to identify other similar initiatives within Somers Town which the project could help to deliver.

    Offering new science and technology spaces

    We are also exploring the potential for science and technology spaces, including the Life sciences, to be used by start-up businesses in the Knowledge Quarter. The Knowledge Quarter is an ideal location for this sector to be situated owing to its proximity to The Alan Turing Institute and Francis Crick Institute.

    The commercial element of the development will seek to attract a range of organisations from small start-ups to large, established businesses, universities, teaching hospitals and research institutes to offer a range of jobs and opportunities. The project provides the opportunities to create the infrastructure and connectivity required by the knowledge sector.

    Maintaining community dialogue

    In 2016 the British Library employed its first dedicated Community Engagement Manager and since then the Community Engagement Team has been developing relationships with local communities.  As this period of consultation about our emerging proposals begins, SMBL and the British Library want to continue to develop this engagement with the local community to understand what they want to see and how they want the area improved as the plans for the extension are developed.

    The Community team is committed to working with local community partners in the spirit of co-curation.  This is to ensure that they are supporting areas where there is a specific ask and a genuine need.

    You can find out more about the British Library’s own work with local communities by contacting @BL_Local on twitter or emailing communityengagement@bl.uk.

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