British Library Development

Published: 17 February 2021

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and custodian of one of the largest cultural heritage collections in the world, with more than 170 million items in both physical and digital formats. Its collection grows constantly, with an estimated 8 linear kilometres of physical items being added every year.

As well as storing more than three quarters of the national published collection, the site at Boston Spa has been supplying research materials to users across the UK and around the world for nearly 60 years. These currently include universities, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and citizen scholars worldwide. The library also makes its collections available to hundreds of thousands of researchers annually via its Reading Rooms at Boston Spa and at St Pancras, in London.

What are the plans?

In the 2020 Budget last March, the Government confirmed its support for plans to transform the Boston Spa site and create the storage capacity the library needs to care for this growing national collection into the second half of this century. This will involve building state-of-the-art, archival-standard storage facilities and de-commissioning temporary buildings that date back to the site’s origins as a munitions factory in the 1940s. Without such urgent action, the unique and often fragile printed materials in the collections would be at risk of deterioration and damage. The plans include upgrading office accommodation for the 550 staff who work on this site while also improving public access so that many more people from the community, the region and beyond can explore the collections through tours, curated displays and the Reading Room, along with a new restaurant and café. This improved public offer at Boston Spa will develop in parallel with the library’s growing cultural and learning presence in Leeds City Centre.

As well as constructing a new state-of-the-art storage building and refurbishing the largest existing building to make it energy efficient, the library also plans to landscape the surrounding site in a way that retains and enhances the natural features and blends with the surroundings. Sustainability will be an integral part of this exciting new project. The library wants this development to be as low carbon as possible with an emphasis on energy conservation. The library aims to open its new spaces by 2026.

The library intends to submit its Planning Application in March 2021 and would value any feedback you may have to help shape its vision for how the site could look and feel in future. Please visit to find out more about the proposed development and share your feedback by 3rd March.