Letter : True to spirit of Reading Room

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The Independent Online
Sir: I should like to set the record straight concerning the future use of the Round Reading Room.

Marianne Macdonald ("The final chapter for library classic", 30 November) suggests that the room will "lose many original iron book stacks" and "be cut in half by a glass screen". As part of our scheme to open up Robert Smirke's magnificent inner courtyard, the book stacks surrounding the exterior of the Reading Room will be removed. These unseen stacks mostly date from the Thirties and Fifties; great care will be taken in removing the one original iron stack (which was altered in the Thirties) and preservation options examined.

Any adaptation of the Reading Room will be unobtrusive and sensitive to the architecture and furniture. We should certainly not support Malcolm Campbell's solution of taking the furniture out of the very room for which it was designed (letter, 19 December). Indeed, those who visit the Reading Room in the year 2000 will see the interior restored to its original decorative scheme of 1857, the walls lined with books from the Museum's own libraries.

Our plans have at no time included turning one of the finest examples of library architecture into "a shopping mall" or, as Tony Garrett remarks (letter, 4 December), "a computer cafe". As any current reader knows, the Reading Room already houses computer terminals and many readers use their own lap-tops.

After the departure of the British Library, the Reading Room will continue to be a place for serious study. Far from being party to the signing of the Reading Room's "death warrant", we believe that we have developed a valuable and sympathetic scheme for its future use.



The British Museum

London WC1