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British Library introduces membership scheme

British Library introduces membership scheme

The British Library has introduced a Membership scheme, enabling users to support the Library financially in return for receiving a range of benefits.

The scheme has been introduced ahead of the opening of a major exhibition “Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line”, which members will be able to explore at no charge.

Graham MacFadyen, Head of Digital and Marketing at the British Library, commented that introducing a paid membership option at an institution that offers free access to many of its services is a challenge. Nevertheless galleries and museums such as Tate and the National Gallery have succeeded in creating and operating such a system. It has become “a popular way… to build up their supporter base, and provides a vital additional source of income alongside public funding and commercial revenue”.

He wrote:

“It’s an increasingly crowded market, though, so the Library had to think long and hard about a suitably attractive range of benefits that would encourage people to become British Library Members”.

On the grounds that the “richness and density” of the Library’s exhibits mean that “they benefit from repeated viewing”, he noted:

“From the start it was clear that free access to our paid exhibitions would be a key benefit.”

Membership and its benefits

British Library membership costs £80 a year by Direct Debit or £87 by credit or debit card. Member benefits include:

  • Free entry for the member and a guest to British Library exhibitions
  • Access for the member and a guest to the daytime Members’ Room
  • Entry for the member and three friends to the Knowledge Centre Bar, with food and drink every weeknight
  • Four free event tickets each year
  • Priority booking and discount for selected events
  • 20% off in our public restaurants, cafés and shops

Gift membership is also available.

The spaces available to members were specifically refurbished for the exclusive use of members.

The Library is also increasing the number of events it is running and which members can attend with their four free tickets and priority booking opportunity. Upcoming speakers include Alan Moore, Derren Brown, Ali Smith and Michael Morpurgo.

Blogging on the British Library’s site, MacFadyen makes it clear that “Membership is separate from access to our Reading Rooms, which is available to anyone holding a British Library Reader Pass and which remains free”. He is confident, however, that many of the Library’s users will choose to sign up as members to show their support and gain from the benefits.






Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp and co-founder of Research massive growth in giving.

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