Since the majority of the library's collection is stored in stacks, 75 feet under the building, library patrons have to request materials and the staff members along with an intricate electronic system will retrieve the materials. To be eligible for a "Reader's Pass" one must submit the appropriate identification, a brief bibliography and explanation of what is being sought, as well as getting one's picture taken for the pass. The library has issued about 600,000 Reader's Passes since it opened in 1997, and there are about 114,000 "live" readers at the moment. There are 11 different reading rooms that are identified by subjects studied there for library patrons to take advantage of.
There are 50 mechanical book handling rooms throughout the library, which are all equipped with the automated book retrieval system (ABRS) that work with conveyor belts and optical scanning which move the materials from the stacks to the patrons. There are 22,000 possible routes that an item can go through with the ABRS, and the system is sophisticated enough to avoid any points of congestion in any given route. The British Library goes through a pretty standard acquitisiton process, except when it comes to the classification or shelving system. The librarians place the books by size, in order to conserve the most amount of space, since the book location is scanned as soon as it is entered, it is possible to retrieve a book about dogs, even if it is amidst Russian dictionaries. This system was designed by Antonio Panizzi, and it is a great example of making a decision based on an organization's specific needs, rather than generally accepted practices.
Some of the unique highlights of the library include the Glass Tower, the treasures of the British Library and the 400 year old Dutch Atlas on display. The prominently displayed Glass Tower are the shelves that contain 10,000 bibliographic items that King George III donated to the library for public use in 1820. The treasures of the British Library Johannes Gutenberg's first printed bible, the original copy of the Magna Carta and the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest handwritten complete version of the Christian Bible, which is at leasat 1600 years old. The book of Dutch maps from the 1600's is about 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide and it locked in a glass case, it is a marvel to behold even in this restrictive state.