I didn't get the full experience of the BFI Southbank, but only of the mediatheque room where you can watch numerous films for free, which for me was enough to make me have great associations with the name. I don't know if it's a common thing in the world but where I live we don't have that. Anyway I can't say anything about the prices or staff or something similar.
As I was alone, I didn't really have the courage to just go and discover, but as soon as I got in I read "watch 2000 films for free here" and I was all like "No way", so I went in, checked in (I don't have to mention I immediately liked the quietness of the small room with a couple of computer screens) and spent two evenings there watching Jude Law's and Ben Whishaw's first projects and also the first episode of BBC Sherlock, as well as a documentary about The Smiths. I found it a brilliant source for expanding your film knowledge, beside the fact it's free (and legal).
It's a lovely place to take a rest, and there are plenty of short films so you can get a feeling of it without losing too much time, if that would be your worry.
I am definitely going there again next time I'm in London.
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