The British Library is all three.
It’s a library. But, just like most state or national libraries, as a visitor you can’t touch the books.
The permanent display of British Library Treasures is free and worth a visit. On display is an eclectic collection of significant and old manuscripts, books, maps, letters, drawings and artefacts. Read Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s joint letter asking for action on Henry’s divorce from his first wife. See Shakespeare’s First Folio. Lyrics to A Hard Day’s Night written by John Lennon on the back of a birthday card to his son, Julian.
The sacred texts from around the world are works of art.
An hour worth spent.
Make sure you look at the front of St Pancras station next door.
I have no photos of the library so here’s a random, sort of unrelated photo of Regents Park. We walked there after the library. I like the symmetry of the image and how English it feels – people sitting in line at lunch alone on a bench, not sharing benches but all on the one (and same) side of a bench and all facing the same way. With all the people disappearing into the vanishing point. (Yes, they may not be English and yes, I wouldn’t share a bench either while there are empty ones but it’s such an evocative image.)