It all starts with a Reader Card which takes about 20 minutes to register online prior to your visit to receive a ‘pre-registration Reader Number’. Once in the library, there’s a queue to speak to the receptionist who checks your two forms of ID. She directs you to a computer terminal to complete the registration process, after which you sit in the waiting room until your number is called and you are beckoned to another desk where your ID is shown and registered. There you’re asked to read an A4 page stating what you can and can’t do. If you want to access anything more valuable than a newspaper, supporting evidence of your purpose is required.
Then it’s down to the basement to lock up all your belongings – apart from notebook, pencil (no pens) and laptop – in a locker. These few items are permitted in the reading room in a clear plastic bag provided and checked by security on entering and leaving Reading Room. It makes airport security seem lax.
After all that I had a pleasant few hours reading the 1956 editions of ‘The Times’ on microfiche. It’s a great way to get a sense of what was going on for people, the language and the mood of the times – particularly reading the Personal columns. The ads are always interesting and this was one of my favourites.