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British Library

Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 5 June 1990

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To ask the Minister for the Arts what is to be the future of the new British Library at St. Pancras.

I announced yesterday that the exercise to design a concluding phase to the new British Library building at St. Pancras within £90 million at 1988 prices has been successfully achieved. Construction of some elements of the completion phase will commence almost immediately and the whole will be ready for occupation in 1996.Included in the design is a magnificent new setting for George III's "King's Library" in a six storey glass-fronted bookcase set in the focal point of the building, where it will be visible from all sides. A model and artist's impressions of the completed building will be on display in the summer exhibition of the Royal Academy. For the next few months, there will also be an exhibition in the portico of the building at the St. Pancras site.The authorised cost of the completion phase will in cash terms be about £150 million, which includes allowances for inflation. Together with the £300 million already authorised for the first phase of the building currently under construction, this will bring the total cost of the British Library project to about £450 million. This clearly demonstrates the Government's continued dedication to excellence in the arts. The funding of the new British Library at St. Pancras does not have any effect on Government funding of the remainder of the arts.The British Library will start to move books into the basement bookstacks at St. Pancras by the middle of 1991, the first reading room will open in early 1993 and the first phase of the building will be operational by the middle of 1993. The completed building will be fully operational by mid-1996 and the board of the British Library has confirmed that it will meet the library's key requirements.