Library Visits Archive

National Libraries:
The British Library
2010 visit (focused on Law librarianship and reading rooms)
On a wet Wednesday afternoon, I met the other graduate trainees and our ‘responsible adult’ on the steps of the great building, designed by the architect Colin St John Wilson. The British Library started life as the British Museum’s Department of Printed Books in 1753. However by passing the British Library Act of 1972, Parliament decided that the British Library should be established as a library in its own right. From its conception in 1962 to its completion the British Library took 30 years to build. The first reading room opened in November 1997 and the Queen officially opened the building in 1998.

We collected our passes from the desk and considering the number of degrees between us, it took a worrying amount of time to match everyone to the correct pass with their name on it. Then we waited around in the Piazza for our contact, Jonathon Simms to arrive. He arrived and took us to the model of the British Library, where he started to explain the geography of the building. The British Library employs over 2000 staff and is based on three sites: St Pancras and Colindale Newspaper Library in London and Boston Spa in Yorkshire. The building is split between humanities on the West side and sciences on the East and the basements descend 23 metres underground, as deep as the Victoria line! There is also a Mechanical Book handling system which helps transport parts of the 150 million item collection.

After examining the model, we went on to the Reader Registration Centre, where 30,000 new passes are issued annually. We then made our way to the Law reading rooms, which had many Law statutes on display on the open shelves. We also looked in to the Asian and African Study room, which contains a collection of 350 languages and the archives of the East India Company. Then we wandered on to the Business and Intellectual Property Centre, which is one of the most comprehensive collections of business information in the UK.

We made our way to the conference room, where we would be shown a presentation and video. On the way, the busts of the founding fathers of the British Library: Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Joseph Banks, Thomas Grenville and Sir Hans Sloane, were pointed out to us. We also passed the Kings Library, which is a beautifully displayed tower of books collected by King George III and donated to the nation by King George IV. The tower contains 65,000 rare volumes, 20,000 pamphlets and more than 400 manuscripts and is a high use collection.

We then went to the Conference room, where Jonathon showed us a slideshow on his career as the curator for Law and Socio- Legal Studies. I also found out some interesting information about some current projects at the British Library. For example the Learning department, which has developed a website and innovated a new History timeline to interest children in History. There is also a very interesting project going on in the British Sound Archive, concerning Oral History. We then watched the aforementioned video on how books were transported within the British Library.

All in all, this was an interesting visit, not only to learn slightly more about the arrangement of collections and space in the British Library but also the career of a Law librarian.

by Hannah Dare

2009 visit
On May 26th we visited the British Library. This library holds the second largest collection of books in the world, next to the Library of Congress. The British Library is one of the six copyright libraries in the UK, but unlike the others it must legally hold a copy of everything published in the country. Housing 150 million items and acquiring 3 million new items each year poses serious challenges in terms of storage and accessibility.

Despite the fact that we did not have a professional tour around the library, we had a wonderful guided tour lead by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide. She told us all about the building and purpose of the library, and how it services its readers.

In the early 1970s it was agreed that the British Library’s constituent sites, of which the British Museum Library was the biggest, should be housed together in a new building near St Pancras station. Unfortunately, the construction of this edifice was fraught with difficulties. It took over twenty years to complete and the costs rose considerably above expectations. The main problem lay in digging four underground floors to store the collection. Nevertheless, the new British Library was finally inaugurated in 1998. It provides readers with an airy and bright public space, eleven reading rooms, an exhibition hall and numerous lecture and seminar rooms, as well as a restaurant. In the centre of the building an imposing glass structure houses the beautiful books of King George III’s library, which according to his wishes is kept together and available to the public.

Lately, the British Library has relaxed its membership policy; in fact, it is no longer surprisingly difficult to consult its holdings. Now anyone with a good reason to use the collection can do so. The material is retrieved from the underground storage and is delivered to the reading rooms through an enormous electronic conveyor belt system which runs all over the building. Our guide even showed us an amazing video of how a book gets from the storage vaults to a reader.

It is truly the ultimate library and not to be missed.

by Micol Barengo

The National Archives
The National Archives is a government department and serves as the official archive of the UK government. It stores and manages 900 years worth of records and takes the lead on information management policy, ensuring that today’s data is available for tomorrow’s researchers.

Helen Pye-Smith, Head Librarian of the Archive’s Library was our guide around the public areas of the archives. Helen explained the services available to visitors and the procedure for requesting and receiving archive material. Many of the trainees were surprised at the relaxed and informal atmosphere in the library and archive public areas.

by Magh The archive is primarily used by those researching family history, professional genealogists and historians. Census records are particularly popular and when first released often require staff to make special preparations in order to cope with the high demand for access. For the family history researcher the archives provide a wealth of electronic resources for free, which commercial genealogy websites often charge for.

The Library has been incorporated into the reading room and visitors are welcome to use the library for reference; borrowing is not permitted. The library mainly collects historical texts. Though the library is relatively large it is run by a small number of staff. As well as maintaining the library and its services, staff are also encouraged to take part in archiving projects, which helps to integrate them into The National Archives as a whole.

There is also a museum, which we didn’t get time to visit, mainly due to the absolute necessity to sample the cafe’s coffee and cake and to catch up on trainee news. With past exhibitions on topics ranging from alcohol to pirates, I think it would definitely warrant a return trip.

by Holly Bates


Public Libraries
City Business and Guildhall Libraries
2010 visit
In May we visited Guildhall Library, which was one of the libraries added to the Trainee Programme for the first time this year. Now sharing its new premises with City Business Library, Guildhall Library is a pleasant public library specialising in local history for both London and the rest of the UK. While most of its regular users are researchers, students and historians, an extensive collection of secondary resources are designed to help members of the public who wish to use the library's resources to trace their family history. While parts of the collection are available on open access in the main room, far more books are to be found in the stacks, where older or more delicate books and manuscripts are kept along with resources that are used less frequently than those on public display. The more delicate books can only be read in a certain section of the library, where the books and manuscripts can be placed onto stands in order to protect them from over-handling. Other special collections include English law, parliamentary papers, wine and food, clocks and clockmakers and business history.

It is business history which thematically links Guildhall Library to City Business Library, which, as its name suggests, is designed largely around the needs of those who use the library's resources to set up and run their own businesses. Thus whereas Guildhall Library provides information about business history, resources in City Business Library are focussed on current business information which is of practical use. Regular training sessions are run in the IT suite on such varied subjects as Database training, Dealing with difficult clients, How to do successful business in Nigeria, Setting up a Limited Company, Presentations for the petrified, 9 reasons why change doesn't happen, How to get the BEST ever health through raw foods, and Search engine optimisation for small business. The collection is held in a modern, well-organised, business-like space with librarians on hand who clearly have an excellent knowledge of both their collection and their users' needs. Overall I thought the two libraries worked very well together and was impressed by the breadth of the two collections; I came away from the visit confident that anyone trying to find information on any aspect of business would find a librarian able to direct them to exactly the resources they were looking for.
by Sarah Guy-Gibbens

2009 visit
City Business Library is owned by the City of London Corporation, which is basically the local council of a very old and small central section of London (around Moorgate and the Barbican) which is the centre of London (and often UK) business.

The first thing to know about this library is that it is public in the truest sense of the word. Anyone can walk in off the street and use the library; you don't need to get a card and there are no security checks- quite amazing. It is reference-only and a wonderful tool for those running or setting up their own business, students studying business, or city workers in general. They specialise in "current business information which is intended to be of practical use"- many things they do not keep for more than three or five years.

The library's website is very well designed and helpful, with many links to guides about how to find information in the library. The library itself is very clearly laid-out, with colour coding and large direction signs, as well as cards housed amongst the shelves indicating where you can find out more information on a particular subject: a sort of 'if you like this, you'll love this...' tool. There are frequent free (pre-booking) events run at the library, almost every day in fact. These range from "Tax efficient allowances for the start of the new financial year" to "What is a Self Invested Person Pension (SIPP)?" (Good question!) The library also provides free training sessions for users on how to get the most from the many marketing and business databases it subscribes to.

I particularly enjoyed talking to the librarians on this visit. They are friendly and obviously deeply committed to providing their invaluable service to the public. Whilst the information and technology provided by this library is absolutely current, the service is firmly grounded in the ideals of 'old-fashioned' helpfulness. A surprisingly inspiring visit.

by Katie Rose

Westminster Reference Library
2009-10 visit
Tucked away on St Martins street just off Leicester Square, and standing on the site of the former home of Sir Isaac Newton, is Westminster Reference Library. Admittedly I had no idea this place existed before reaching the front door, but the library is certainly a well hidden gem in the heart of the West End.

Its proximity to 'Theatreland' is fitting as the library's upper floors house an essential and vast art and design collection, comprising 40,000 items covering a broad range of subjects from painting and drawing, textiles and jewellery, graphics and gardens, and theatre and cinema. The library also holds a wide range of art publications, exhibition catalogues and price guides to antiques, stamps, coins and collectibles. Although much of the collection is reference only there are some items available for loan (though I'm not sure about the numbers). The ground floor has plenty of reading space, access to the online catalogue (plus there is free wifi throughout the library), and an area holding information about local businesses and advice for those wanting to start their own.

Anyone is welcome to join the library and, owing in part to its central location and diverse collection, the visitors it attracts are wide ranging: academics and researchers, fledgling entrepreneurs, art enthusiasts, as well as people popping in out of curiosity. It is also something of a refuge to homeless people. It was very busy when we were there, which was a good sign of the success of the library and what it has to offer.

The library holds regular (and generally free) events including computer taster sessions, employment and training advice sessions and even a knitting group. They've also put on gigs, art exhibitions and energetic Saturday afternoon acting workshops. Currently the library is hosting a series of talks entitled Library Rocks. I went to one of the talks with Johnny Green, one time roadie with The Clash, reading from his memoir about his time with the band and their numerous escapades. The library was (somewhat unexpectedly) a great setting for such an event; there was a really relaxed and informal atmosphere, and a modest yet enthusiastic crowd. And there was wine. So, much to recommend!

Eveleen and Peter who conducted the tour are friendly and infinitely knowledgeable about the collections, passionate about the events the library holds and have a genuine interest in the work they do. Meeting someone who has been doing the job for over 20 years and still gets a kick out of it on a daily basis is undeniably inspiring. Rather shamefully I went on the visit vastly ignorant and with no particular expectations, but it's turned out to be one of my highlights, and I look forward to going back for the next installment of Library Rocks.

by Lindsay Tudor

2008-9 visit
We were greeted by Eveleen Rooney and her colleague Peter, and began our tour in the Library Foyer. Peter, who runs the Art and Performance collection, has worked there for over almost 30 years and so was best qualified to tell us about the history of the library. The current building is on the site of Isaac Newton’s house, and parts of the building, such as the cellar, date back to that time and are heritage-listed. The library consists of four floors: the basement is closed access and contains the government collections, the ground floor contains the business and law collections and the first and second floors contain the Art and Performance collection. Membership is free and open to all.

Eveleen is particularly involved in the Business Information Point which has been created to cater to the needs of the business community in Westminster. This provides free access to a number of economic, business and marketing books in addition to many expensive and professional business databases and online resources including Mintel. For some of these online resources, free remote access is also provided.

We then joined Peter to tour the extensive and highly impressive Arts and Performance collection, which includes a frequently used exhibition space on the first floor. The total number of volumes exceed 40,000 and include subjects such as painting, fashion, furniture design, architecture, sculpture, theatre and cinema, to name but a few. Before we finished up and joined some library staff for tea, Peter showed us photographs from the frequent events recently held in the library. These ranged from dramatic performances to writing workshops, and the staff are obviously much involved in organizing all these events.

Westminster Reference Library is, as Eveleen pointed out, a combination of academic and public library. The collections are certainly of an academic standard and the staff’s knowledge and enthusiasm are most impressive I have seen in the course of our visits, yet the openness and community atmosphere clearly mark it as a public library. It was a highly enjoyable visit and we all left with membership cards and the intention of returning.

by Ruth Murphy

Whitechapel Idea Store
2008-9 visit
As a relatively new project (completed 2005) with a rather aggressive marketing campaign, I admit I approached the Whitechapel Idea Store with reserve. However, I can quite happily report that overall this ‘library’ is great. It seems genuinely open and inclusive, the design is smart and pleasant and it appeared well used.

The strength of its inclusiveness lies in some very simple ideas, for example, it has a crèche so users can leave their kids while they take a class or use the resources. There are a large number of classrooms (‘Learning Labs’ in Idea Store speak). There’s a dance studio next to the local interest section and classes on offer range from beginners street dance to English as a foreign language.

by Loz Flowers The building is light and airy, the isles and signage well-spaced, accessible and clearly labeled and there seems to be plenty of seating. However, I can’t help wonder about the long term maintenance of such a brave design – how will it look in 20 years time? There are plenty of computer terminals for self check-out of books and the emphasis seems to be on exploring, playing around and working out how you want to use the space yourself. The children’s library was brightly coloured with child height computer terminals and shelves. Although there was ample space, all four floors were busy; evidently well-used by a broad section of society, particularly around the café (we had to be quick on our feet to nab some seats!)

Overall, I think the project is truly interesting and proving popular. I suppose this situation is a case of ‘you can’t please all people all the time’, but this project proves that you can offer a democratic service which pleases most people. It would be terrible to think of all public libraries having this brand makeover but as long as Starbucks doesn’t take out a franchise in the Idea Store Café, I think it’s a smashing project and well worth a visit (especially for the gentle challenge to assumption).

by Victoria Adam


University Libraries
Senate House Library

Senate House Library is the library of the University of London. It has no student body of its own but it serves the research, and undergraduate and postgraduate teaching body of the 19 self governing colleges of the University of London and the Institutes of the School of Advanced Studies. It is part of the University of London Research Library Services (‘ULRLS’) which includes the libraries of the School of Advanced Studies. (‘SAS’).

It is housed in an imposing art deco Grade II* listed building, dating back to the 1930s. It is this building which creates a number of the present challenges facing this library. The size of the library’s collection is much larger than originally envisaged. The library was planned as a smaller, mainly closed access collection, which goes part of the way to explaining why students find that some of the stacks are difficult to locate and dark.

Changes in the way government funds universities has led to funding cuts for the library and in order to save money it was decided that SAS libraries located outside of the Senate House building would be moved into Senate House. However problems with the early 20th century wiring and the presence of asbestos has led to a major refurbishment programme, which has meant that parts of the library have in turn had to be cut off from public access. In addition budget considerations and the incorporation of SAS libraries into the building means that ULRLS is looking at ways to rationalise its collection, and reduce expenditure without affecting services.

We had two visits to Senate House Library. The first included a discussion of the issues affecting the library and how it is dealing with them, a tour of the library and a visit to its Special Collections department. On the second visit we had talks by the Archives and Conservation Departments, where we also had a session on book handling.

Imperial College London
2009-10 visit
On the afternoon of March 2nd London’s Graduate Trainee Library Assistants headed for Imperial College Central Library, where we were met and shown around by Angus Brown, the Team Leader for Public services. As he was involved with the redevelopment of the library between June 2006 and July 2008, throughout the tour he shared with us his experiences of the redevelopment programme; what he had tried to achieve, what changes were made and what effects the redevelopment had had on the library as a whole.

The first major difference that I noticed between Imperial College library and the majority of university libraries that I am familiar with was the relative lack of overcrowded books shelves. As the majority of collection is science related, Imperial College has been particularly successful in exchanging paper collections for digital ones post-refurbishment. This has had the result of allowing the planners far more options concerning how best to use the new-found space, since only floors 4 and 5 are totally given over to traditional bookshelves and desks. The library is therefore split into areas specifically designed for different types of study. The first floor houses the main computer room (which is usually silent due to the lay-out of computer desks in single columns up and down the room), three smaller IT training suites, a cafe and an area designed solely for group study. The group study area is arranged with some fixed partition walls to section a group off from the main room and various tables and chairs that can be moved around by students to create their own working space. The space itself is open plan and very light and airy while the frosted glass partitions in some parts of the room and tall backed benches in others allow the students some privacy for their group which while also keeping the noise of each group slightly contained. The café is also considerably larger than I would have expected, and contains yet more free access computers.

Upstairs the library becomes quieter and slightly more traditional; the idea is that group work takes place on the ground floor so a limited about of noise is expected, but as you go up the levels the noise levels should dwindle so that by the time you reach the top two floors, everyone should be working in silence. Levels two, four and five house the print collections and a small but varied collection of CDs and DVDs. Level three is different again, housing as it does the Science Museum Library. We were unable to look around that library that day as it is separate from the Imperial College Library but usually if you want to go in for just the day all you need is to show some personal ID and sign their visitors’ book. The collection includes works on the history of science and biographies of scientists and engineers.

All in all I found this visit to be very interesting and informative in terms of seeing how libraries can adapt to suit the needs of their users. Our tour guide was extremely helpful in pointing out what had changed from before and what had worked well as well as what had not quite worked as expected. The group work area certainly seemed to be very popular and it was fascinating to see how the noise level (never very high even on the ground floor) dropped as you moved into silent study areas.

by Sarah Guy-Gibbens

2008-9 visit
The Central Library at Imperial College has recently had a £11 million pound refurbishment of its ground floor. This was the focus of our visit, but we were also treated to a comprehensive tour of the library by the Team Leader of Public Services, Angus Brown. The library now has a very innovative and contemporary feel, created in part by the modern art donated by artist Bob Brighton, the waffle-like concrete ceiling and the vibrant colour schemes. The environment is bright, enlivening and stimulates interaction.

The whole of the ground floor has a spacious, light feel and also contains many semi-open study capsules (each with their own flat-screen PC) encouraging group discussion and the free exchange of ideas. The emphasis is now very much on flexible study, with large sections devoted to group study. The fact that much of the furniture is impermanent means that the library has the flexibility to move and redefine spaces to meet the ever-evolving needs of its users. However, students favouring quiet study can still find plenty of space on the upper levels, where the traditional layout of book shelving and individual study spaces can be found.

The reliance of students on computer technology is reflected in the large amount of space devoted to PCs. Wi-fi connectivity is available throughout to enable the use of laptops, and around 90 new computers have been installed. Perhaps the most exciting part of the library, for the students as well as for us, was the library café, situated adjacent to the entrance. It is separated from the library only by a glass screen, and is more an extension of the study space rather than a separate eatery. Many of the tables are complete with flat screen PCs for group use, and there are also rows of computers for individual use.

Visiting the science library of this prestigious college was a real treat, and very different to the arts and humanities libraries where most of us work, in terms of the range of its collections, the level of funding available and the privileges that this gives its users.

by Deborah Butcher

London School of Economics Library
When we walked into the LSE Library we were impressed by the modern design and floor plans: the building has a high ceiling with windows all around to let natural light in, a huge staircase and glass lifts in the centre, and open-plan shelving with study areas on each of the four floors.

LSE Library has some impressive strategies and ideas, which might be good example for other libraries if practicable. For example: the arrangement of the floors so that books and periodicals of the same subject are housed together. This enables readers to browse the shelves and to cross-reference materials easily. Also, the information desk and IT help desk next are housed next to each other. The staff can work together and help with some basic enquiries if the other desk is busy or vacant. The library staff receives special training to work on the information desk and all of them have to do shifts there, no matter what their role is.

by M&J Kotsopoulos We also got a unique insight into the marketing aspects of librarianship – I felt this was really useful for us to talk about, as there aren’t many libraries that have their own marketing department! The library produces merchandise for their students such as bags and water bottles which have become cult items at LSE. The posters and small leaflets not only provide enough information for new students but also advertise the role of the library. At the beginning of each semester, the library can successfully deliver most important information through these leaflets and booklets, but it also provides training sessions to its users.

The talk with we had with Ruth Murphy, Samantha Halford and Maria Bell regarding their experiences at library school and work and their tips for CV building was particularly informative and enjoyable.

by Shannen Chu

Maughan Library (King's College)
Sally Brock, the Information Services Centre Manager began her tour by telling us about the background of the building. It was the former home of the Public Record Office, and was the first fire proof building in England. It was beautifully restored and refurbished into a library space when acquired by KCL in 1998.

During the tour were shown one of the preserved cells originally used for storing documents in the days of the Public Record Office. The arrangement of the space into these cells with a mezzanine level had been retained, although some of the walls and arches had been opened up to bring in more light and create a more open effect. Sally told us about some of the services and facilities offered by the ‘Information Services Centres’ at King’s, and trainees compared these to those at their own libraries. The combined department 'Information Services and Systems' means that IT and library services completely integrated.

In the Foyle Special Collections library, we met Katie Sambrook, the Special Collections Librarian. She and a colleague introduced us to some items from their collection. King's has recently acquired the historic library collections of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (around 60,000 items). At the end of the visit, we saw the current exhibition on at the in the historic Weston Room of the library: 'Writing the Middle Ages' exhibition. We were told that the material in the exhibition would be digitised and made available online.

Overall the Maughan Library is a fascinating building and a great example of a sympathetic renovation from a historic space into a modern but beautiful library.

by Kate Wilcox-Jay


Government Libraries
Ministry of Justice Headquarters Library
2009-10 visit
On 9th March, I met my fellow graduate trainees in front of the imposing Ministry of Justice buildings. We all signed and swiped in and it all struck me as very cloak and dagger. Then we were met by Rachel Robbins, the Customer Services Librarian who would be showing us around the library.

The Ministry of Justice was formed on 9th May 2007 and replaces the Department for Constitutional Affairs. It is the largest governmental department and employs around 95,000 people. The Jlis (Ministry of Justice Library and Information Service) provides services, not only for the MoJ HQ, but also for the Judiciary, Tribunals Service, Law Commission and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. They provide publications in print, access to on-line databases and a comprehensive enquiry service.

We were first taken to the library through a warren of corridors and were given a tour of the library. The library, despite its collection size being small, does have an extensive collection of books and journals, covering: Law, Constitutional Reform, Electoral Reform, Parliament, Management, Criminal Justice, Mental disorders, Prisons and Probation. I found the prison reports, particularly interesting.

Rachel Robbins and her colleague Kathy then answered our questions about the library and every-day work. I found their stories about the move from the Home Office into the purpose-built MOJ building very interesting, as it sounds as if it involved a lot of organisation and a lot of patience. They impressed me with their enthusiasm for their jobs and the constantly changing nature of working in a governmental library, as new departments are created and closed down with every change of government.

A librarian then came to talk to us about the Electronic Library and Information Service (Elis). This is a password-protected virtual library of on-line legal and reference resources and provides a one-stop access to a range of premium subscription databases as well as links to important free sites. It provides access to online legal libraries produced by the major legal publishers, Butterworths, Sweet and Maxwell and Justis.

We finished the session with the librarians telling us their career history and giving us advice about getting into the government sector. The visit encouraged me to think about working in a government library, as the sector is constantly changing and exciting one.

by Hannah Dare

2008-9 visit
This was an opportunity to find out more about the role of librarians within the government service. There are some 600 librarians employed across government doing a wide variety of jobs, ranging from more traditional library work to working with information databases, research and record management roles.

The Ministry of Justice library is the result of a merger of two libraries in March 2007– the former Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor’s Office and the part of the Home Office library that related to the divisions which became part of the Ministry of Justice. Rachel Robbins, the Customer Services Librarian and her colleagues Kathy and Jason, who showed us around and answered our questions, formerly worked for the Home Office.

One of the challenges for government librarians is to make sure that the people requesting their services are in fact their customers. Because of changes in responsibilities arising out of the machinery of government, both the issue of who your customers are and providing service for them is something they need to be constantly aware of. A lot of their queries are sent by email and they are often asked to do research for customers. Each librarian we spoke to said that they found this aspect was a particularly interesting part of their job. Awareness of their customer’s needs and the nature of their customers work is an important consideration and from time to time visits to meet customers are arranged.

The enthusiasm for the work they were doing and the feeling that their work made an important contribution to the service provided by their ministry impressed us as we talked to all the librarians we met on our visit.

by Sheena Ginnings


Medical Libraries
Bloomsbury Healthcare Library
Along with a small group of the London graduate trainee librarians I visited the Bloomsbury Healthcare Library. The Library is housed in a converted ballroom and offers suitably salubrious surroundings for study. The library is funded by the NHS and caters primarily for NHS staff, specialising in nursing and allied health professions. The Library employs five members of staff including the Senior Librarian Mike and Assistant Librarian Daphne, who introduced us to the workings of the library.

Apart from the routine duties involved in maintaining a library, staff also offer a number of specialised services to their users. The library subscribes to a wide range of online resources, which NHS staff can access remotely as well as in the Library. Library staff offer an alerts service, designing custom-made email alerts to notify users of new material in their subject area or to the table of contents lists for journals of interest. The library also produces a current awareness newsletter and quality reviews new journal articles.

Mike and Daphne seem to find their work really rewarding. They enjoy having the opportunity to engage with the academic content of their collections in order to possess the knowledge to steer users to authoritative and useful materials. Daphne has a substantial scientific background, which she has been able to exploit working in the library. Mike’s background, like many librarians, is in the arts. Though he felt a scientific background would be beneficial to a medical librarian, Mike did not consider this by any means essential.

The visit was enjoyable and gave me valuable insight into the work of medical librarians. Mike and Daphne were really informative and seemed genuinely happy in their work, which is always encouraging.

by Holly Bates


Legal Libraries:
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library
IALS is an academic law library. There is alot of information on their website. Gerry Power gave us a very interesting tour around the library. It has a dual purpose it caters for academics and postgraduate law students in London as well as professional lawyers. Its collection includes the most extensive and unique collection within the UK of foreign and international law. Lack of space is an issue. Its academic function means that more is kept than for example in a commercial library. Such as old editions of text books which other libraries may dispose of. In addition to its academic function it also provides an information service for the legal profession who can subscribe to an email delivery service for scanned documents. Lawyers can request copies of cases, articles etc. There are different delivery levels - from within an hour to longer delivery periods. If it is really busy nearly all the library staff can be involved! This service provides a useful income for the library. Heather Memess gave the trainees a very enlightening talk on evaluating websites. She does the legal evaluations for Intute, an academic gateway funded by JISC.

by Sheena Ginnings

Lovells LLP
On Tuesday 9th June we visited the library of the London office of Lovells LLP, a major international legal firm. This London based library services the 26 branches of Lovells based all over the world.

To begin with we were given a talk by two professional librarians, who are termed ‘researchers’ at Lovells. The head of the library, and the librarian who facilitates the training of the two graduate trainees there, explained the particular role that a library plays in a law firm, which is very different to that of an academic or public library. A major role of the librarians there seems to be to conduct research for lawyers, such as finding cases, hence the name ‘researchers’. The library is absolutely tailored to the needs of the lawyers in the firm, both in London and abroad.

The two graduate trainees then gave a very interesting presentation about their backgrounds and roles within the library, and how the training scheme there is structured. They said that the position is an enjoyable one, which involves responsibility, variety and a good structure of progression (the trainees will be supported through a professional librarianship course and employed by Lovells as trainee researchers at the end of their initial training year). After the presentation they gave us a tour of both the library and the facilities (gym, restaurant etc) of the whole office. The main library is quite large, and covers the areas of law that the firm practices, along with many key reference works such as different editions of law reports and Hansards. Beyond this, each different practice area (e.g. Tax) has its own smaller sectional library which focuses on its specialization. The library also uses document delivery services to access materials from other libraries (e.g. IALS and the British Library), for which a fee is paid.

The visit was one of the best I had been on, as the library and the environment of a law firm are so different from the other places we have visited that it was quite enlightening. The staff were very friendly and seemed to enjoy the jobs, and we were made to feel very welcome.

by Mark Leonard

Norton Rose LLP
On Wednesday 14th July we went on our final visit of the programme, to the library at the Norton Rose Law Firm near London Bridge. The building itself is massive as it houses the entire London branch of the law firm (a leading international legal practice which has offices in Europe, the Middle East and Asia and concentrates on corporate finance, financial institutions, energy and infrastructure, transport and technology), so I admit to being more than a little taken aback at the sight of the huge, modern glass building with I don’t know how many floors and lifts. I had never been to a law library before so had really no idea what to expect from the visit.

After being directed to the correct lift, floor and room, one of the librarians gave us a very interesting presentation on the law firm and the library’s place in the company. After a short break for tea and coffee we were then taken to the library itself, which was a very pleasant space, if smaller than I had thought it would be after having seen the size of the building.

It seems as though despite rumours of unfriendly lawyers and partners who treat librarians like dirt, Norton Rose law library is a good and interesting place to work. As in academic libraries, digital resources are gradually becoming more popular for general research but physical books are still preferred by most of the library’s clients when it comes to long series of documents, dictionaries and other reference works. One of the challenges for the library is still the digitisation of pamphlets, which are essential to the law profession but which are currently only rarely issued in digital form. The other challenge that was mentioned, which is distinct from the academic and public libraries that we have visited, is that of ensuring the library staff manage to keep track of the books, as although the law professional who use the library are supposed to sign them out, many don’t bother. For myself, I wouldn’t like to have to go through people’s offices trying to reclaim books that ought to be in the library!

All in all I would say that the visit gave us a good insight into working in a library that belongs to a law firm. The staff members we met were friendly and informative and we were able to speak briefly with the graduate trainee there, who assured us that most of the law professionals at that firm were absolutely fine to work with, and it’s not as though those of us working in other libraries don’t get the occasional (!) difficult customer. It was also interesting to hear that although “staff perks” have been considerably restricted from what they were, the company does still pay for certain things that academic (and, I assume, public) libraries simply can’t afford e.g. big Christmas parties, French lessons, piano lessons and yoga courses!

by Sarah Guy-Gibbens


Museum and Art Libraries
The Warburg Institute Library
Francois Quiviger, one of the Assistant Librarians, gave us a very interesting introduction into the history of this special library. The Warburg Institute exists principally to further the study of the classical tradition, that is of those elements of European thought, literature, art and institutions which derive from the ancient world. The Institute stems from the personal library of the Hamburg scholar Aby Warburg (1866-1929), whose research centred on the intellectual and social context of Renaissance art. In 1921 this library became a research institute in cultural history, and both its historical scope and its activities as a centre for lectures and publications expanded. In 1933 it moved from Germany to London to escape the Nazi regime, and in 1944 it was incorporated in the University of London.

Our talk focused particularly on the Warburg library’s unusual classification scheme and on its on-going digitisation project. On their website you can see a diagram describing the organisation of the library by subject, which reflects the main interests of the library's founder Aby Warburg. The diagram is linked to a list of subjects which then is linked to the catalogue. This is certainly a great way of making the library's rich collection accessible and encouraging readers to browse.

The Warburg’s digitisation projects started in 2002/03 to increase the accessibility of the collection’s rare and early printed books. The main problem the library faced was that digitisation is quite time consuming so the staff cannot be spared to do the actual photographing. When there is a particularly important reason to digitize a book and enough money to do so, they outsource to a professional company.

The library now works together with ARTSTOR, the image database equivalent to JSTOR (great to browse: They have so far 530 books online, free and easily accessible through the catalogue.

by Sonja Siegenthaler

Courtauld Book Library
This library holds one of the major international research collections of art history books, periodicals and exhibition catalogues in the UK. It is a very beautiful space (situated as it is in the former wine cellar of Somerset House) with red brick vaulted ceilings, full length windows and spiral stair cases: the students, décor and architecture were, to my mind, perfectly suited to an art library.

We began our tour (lead by Boris Knezevic, Graduate Library Trainee, and Vicky Kontou, the Deputy Librarian) on the top mezzanine level and were shown around the service counter, staff offices and card catalogues (which are still in constant use). We were then brought to the Lower mezzanine level and shown around the book, periodical and exhibition catalogue collection. Boris and Vicky mentioned that their exhibition catalogue collection is particularly extensive and sought after. The library holds approximately 180,000 volumes. Also held in the same building, though separately run, are the Conway and the Witt Libraries. The Conway collection is an image library and the Witt is collection of reproductions after paintings, drawings and prints.

We were then treated to a talk by Erica Foden-Lenahan, the Special Collections Librarian, and Deborah Lee, the head Cataloguer. Erica had pulled out some very interesting pieces from her collection to demonstrate the variety of books and objects stored in the Courtauld. Deborah then spoke about the processes and challenges involved in cataloguing art books and in particular exhibition catalogues.

We finished with tea and cakes in the library office, where Vicky, Erica and Deborah spoke to us about their own study and career paths. It was a truly enjoyable and interesting visit and I think it gave us trainees a great insight into the workings of an academic art library.

by Ruth Murphy

The Wallace Collection Library
The Wallace Collection is a national museum displaying works of art collected by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the fourth Marques. It was bequeathed to the nation in 1897. It is therefore publicly funded but has to raise a portion of its running costs itself. The library belonging to Sir Richard Wallace does not form part of the collection, although some of the books from his library have since been acquired.

The present library was originally established as a research library for the curatorial staff. The collection therefore reflects the collections within the museum. It is also a reference library open to the public by appointment. A number of interesting challenges facing this library were highlighted during the visit. The first was the acute shortage of space, particularly for the archives. Also the library collection is scattered: most of it is housed in the offices of the various curators. Because curators are used to having what the reference books close at hand there is also a natural reluctance for the books to be moved so that they can be arranged more systematically elsewhere.

Very little of the library collection had been catalogued before Andrea Gilbert (the current Librarian) arrived and this is now being done systematically. While it is possible to download ready-made catalogue records for some books, a lot of the books are very specialist and therefore new catalogue records have to be created. The library has adopted a classification system similar to that used by the Courtauld, where Andrea used to work, which focuses on the type of material or art form discussed in the book, for example porcelain, portraits, gold and silver etc.

An interesting visit that highlighted the pressures of a specialist library with a small staff and conflicting demands.

by Sheena Ginnings


Specialist Libraries:
Wellcome Library
2009-10 visit
On a wet miserable Tuesday in February, we found ourselves in the impressive Wellcome Collection which calls itself a 'free destination for the incurably curious'.

Heading away from the crowds of school children downstairs, we came to the library which specializes in the history of medicine from earliest records to the present day.

The Wellcome Trust (which funds the library) was founded in the early 20th century by Henry Wellcome, a self-made head of a massive pharmaceutical company. Wellcome used the wealth amassed by his business to fund research into his interests: medicine, history of medicine and sociological issues relating to the body and health the world over, throughout history.

The Wellcome Library's aim is to provide information to anyone seeking to understand medicine and its role in society, past and present. Its collection therefore covers a huge scope: consumer health, popular science, biomedical ethics and the public understanding of science, to name a few.

professionals, consumers, journalists, artists and members of the general public. The library is completely open access and much like a public library, anyone can join. I would recommend that they do; the resources and facilities are impressive, the technology available to the readers is mostly specialized but even the photocopiers were state of the art.

There is a continuous respective cataloguing project ongoing but the cataloguing system itself is quite confusing. They use at least 3 different in house cataloguing systems for different collections both text and image based. They have tried to combine these into one which does not always prove successful but is useful for simple searches.

The library has recently undergone major refurbishment following a 'transformation strategy' that has involved huge investment, on the scale that most other libraries, academic or otherwise could only dream of. The result is quite impressive if slightly confusing architecturally; contempory polished reading rooms stand alongside the very traditional spaces but on the whole the labyrinth layout does work.

by Louise Flynn

2008-9 visit
The Wellcome Trust was founded in the early 20th century by Henry Wellcome, a self-made head of a massive pharmaceutical company. Wellcome used the wealth amassed by his business to fund research into his interests: medicine, history of medicine and sociological issues relating to the body and health world over, throughout history.

The library itself is basically open to the public as a reference library. New users have to be over 16, have an interest in the subject and provide proof of address. The online catalogues are open to all although there is restricted access to certain materials. For example, the images library has in its collection some sensitive medical images.

The library collections include books, manuscripts, archives, films and pictures. Users can access free WIFI and, despite our guide's protestation that they have a space problem, each shelf has a generous gap for future knowledge and the Wellcome's main closed access storage space is under the main building.

Having said this, the library is not without its problems: even though Wellcome is solvent enough to have a continuous respective cataloguing project ongoing- something which a lot of academic libraries would struggle to find the funds to do- the cataloguing system itself is at best quirky. Apparently, they use at least 3 different in house cataloguing systems for different collections, and the layout of the books throughout is somewhat counter intuitive. Also, somewhat surprisingly for a medical library, there are access issues for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility because of the way the lifts essentially bypass some of the security doors.

However, all in all, this was on in my top 3 library visits. Of course, this was also helped by the Peyton and Byrne cafe downstairs and some divine cakes....High recommended.

by Victoria Adam

British Film Institute National Library
The BFI National Library exists as a hub for information and resources relating to all aspects of film production, exhibition and distribution. Whilst the focus of its curation is principally dedicated to the moving image in the UK, its scope is international. Comprising as it does a vast repository of knowledge pertaining to film; the BFI National Library serves as a vital platform for education in the field with a wide spectrum of potential users from academics and researchers to members of the public with an interest in film. Other facets of its business include the promotion and preservation of moving image culture in the UK, the elevation of the contemporary status of British cinema, and the protection and restoration of books, media and artefacts which have significant value to historical research and are an integral part of our national heritage.
As a SCONUL Graduate Trainee and a graduate of Film Studies, I had a particular interest in this visit, and I was certainly not disappointed. Part of what makes the BFI National Library interesting is that it is so difficult to conclusively define: part library, part research archive/repository and part museum, its status is malleable. Its contribution to film therefore constitutes a multidisciplinary approach, and the ‘library’ houses a suitably diverse and comprehensive collection. Due to the nature of the collection and the library’s need to negotiate a path between academic research needs and public interest, the BFI’s resources are available exclusively in a reference capacity to members; the library relies on public and governmental funding and membership fees to survive. Members of the library have full access to:
The library’s holding of 62,000 books and pamphlets, originating from the mid-1600s onwards and including: general reference works; memoirs and biographies; academic texts, theses and conference papers; journals, annuals and periodicals (over 6,000 periodical titles in all); film and TV tie-ins; published scripts; broadcasting policy; technical manuals; economic reports; press cuttings, publicity material and programmes; and other miscellaneous filmic publications.
◦An extensive audio collection made up of taped interviews and programmes.
◦Electronic resources such as the library catalogue and a selection of databases. Although the catalogue can also be browsed remotely online, the databases are subject to restrictions on usage, thus access is limited to dedicated terminals. Increasingly, materials such as microfiche and microfilm materials, press cuttings, and posters are being made available to view online via an ongoing digitisation project, and this is something that is reciprocally beneficial: the public have greater access to rare – or even unique – materials, and the works themselves, which are often quite old and fragile, are better protected against further deterioration through extensive handling.
The Special Collections, which hold some of the more fascinating treasures within the library, with cinema/TV ephemera and memorabilia ranging from cinema tickets and autographed letters and posters to (sometimes quite eccentric) promotional material from various eras. Although the basement stacks (where the Special Collections are kept) are usually closed-access due to the nature of the material, we were granted special admission as part of our visit- something that made this section of the tour particularly exciting!
It was also interesting (and reassuring) to learn that the (approx. 160,000) cans of nitrate film once housed in the upper levels of the BFI National Library building are now kept off-site, and under climactically controlled storage conditions in Gaydon, Warwickshire, primarily owing to the intensely combustible nature of the film stock. Apparently, before the move, anxieties would tend to increase during the summer months, as temperatures rose.
It is difficult to conceive of how such an immense collection is contained within such a small and unassuming building as the BFI National Library, however, when you view the Reading Room, it all becomes clear; a comparatively modest amount of space is allocated to the Reading Room- it is quite cramped and tightly packed, and is so heavily used that bookings must be made in advance of arrival and can only be honoured for a delay of up to an hour. Compared with the spacious, modern, sometimes lavish aesthetic of other libraries we visited, the BFI Library’s Reading Room seemed a little antiquated and provided a less peaceful working environment, which would perhaps become noticeable during long stretches of study. However, considering that the BFI is a registered charity, and that the library is dependent on these funds as well as the fees of its members in order to sustain itself, it puts into perspective how difficult it is for such a place to exist at all. It must be hoped that the BFI can weather the current economic climate and harsh governmental funding cuts in this field.
As well as a privileged glimpse of some of the treasures contained within the Special Collections, at the end of our tour, we were treated to tea and biscuits and even offered some badges as a memento. All in all the content of the BFI National Library’s collection was fascinating, but what made the tour exceptional was the staff members’ enthusiasm and depth of knowledge- they really knew their subject area and their passion for their work and the minutiae of cinematic history was apparent. Whether to encounter idiosyncratic and unique film memorabilia, undertake serious academic research, or else enjoy the wealth of anecdotes the staff has to offer, the BFI National Library constitutes an invaluable and irreplaceable resource.

by Lauren Daulton

Institute of Classical Studies Library
2009-10 visit
After making our way up the Art Deco splendor of the Senate House Library we were welcomed into the office of Colin Annis, the Institute Librarian, who gave us a brief history of the library as well as his own career path.

The library is exceptional within Senate House in that two thirds of its collections belong to private societies rather than the university. The basis of the collection dates back to 1879 when the Hellenic Society was founded. Thirty one years later the Roman Society was founded and in the early 1950s the two came together with the Institute of Classical Studies to form a single library and it is now one of the top five libraries in the world for the study of classical civilization.

Due to the somewhat chaotic recent history of senate house the whole library has moved several times in the last two decades, but given this the library seems to be coping very well.

Sue Willets, the Senior Library Assistant, then showed us around the library and introduced us to its collections. It was wonderful to browse the books and journals which covered everything from familiar names such as Pliny and Ovid to shelf after shelf on numismatics.

The users are a diverse bunch of students, academics, members of the societies and independent historians. Defying the stereotype, there was no tweed or elbow patches in sight. Apparently Margaret Mountford, former assistant to Alan Sugar in television’s The Apprentice, is now a regular visitor while studying for her PhD in Papyrology.

The day finished with an introduction to some of the specialist online resources relevant to the subject area including many full text searching databases for Greek and Latin literature. We completed a group exercise to research an alleged example of the signature of Cleopatra VII. While by no means the most technologically advanced of the libraries we have visited, it is good to see these resources being made use of to enhance the already rich book collection.

by Nicholas Brown

2008-9 visit
The librarian, Colin Annis, gave us a talk on the history of the library, with special emphasis on the process of moving a library. The Institute was founded in 1953 and houses the Hellenic and Roman Societies' libraries as well as the Institute of Classical Studies’ own library. It numbers over 126,000 volumes, including around 660 current periodical titles. Most of the collection is on open access and can be borrowed (even the periodicals!)

The library has been forced to move a surprising number of times during the past years: in 1997 the library moved from Gordon Square to the South block of Senate House and 3 years ago it moved to the North Block of Senate House because of the ongoing refurbishment of the South Block. The Library is due to move back to its previous location in the South Block this summer. Colin Annis was present during all these moves, therefore he is particularly well acquainted with the difficulties and challenges posed by moving libraries of this size.

Everything needs to be thoroughly planned months prior to the move itself. The space has to be carefully designed and so good communication with the architect/ workmen is crucial. Each part of the collection needs to be measured so that the shelving can be organized accordingly, whilst taking account of a library’s need for space to grow. The move itself is achieved quickly by a removal company, but it still takes the librarians a few weeks to reorganize the collection in its new environment.

After the talk, the Senior Library Assistant Sue Willets showed us around the library, which is indeed cramped in its current location. Hopefully, this will change when it moves back to the South Block later this year.

by Micol Barengo

Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library
The Institute of Commonwealth Studies is the only postgraduate academic institution in the UK devoted to the history and politics of the Commonwealth. It also specializes in human rights, North-South relations, global peace and security, development, good governance and the politics of civil society. It runs a very successful MA in Human Rights and supervises PhD students all over the world.

Before touring the library, we were given a comprehensive introduction to the Institute itself by Julie McCaffery, the Deputy Information Resources Manager. We focused particularly on the Institue’s virtual learning environment, the SAS StudyOnline program. This is used by several Institutes in the School of Advanced Study but it is clear that Commonwealth Studies runs and uses this VLE in a profitable way. It is well-organised and packed with information, and must be an invaluable tool for the Institutes' MA students. The library’s website is also particularly worth having a look at- it is frequently updated an obviously an important source of information for those interested in the library and the Institute.

The organization of the volumes in the library leaves much to be desired at the moment: lack of space and resources is a currently major issue. However, along with other ULRLS Institutes, this library will be moving to Senate House this summer, and this will hopefully allow the collection to be housed in a manner more suited to their importance. As well as the books, journals and government publications, the library also houses the Institute’s many important archives. I was very impressed both at the rare and unique collections of the library, and the abilities of the Institute to make the most of its electronic resources.

by Katie Rose

Institute of Historical Research Library
Our visit started with a very informative talk by the Institute's librarian, Robert Lyons, about the scope of the library and the services that it offers to its readers.

Founded in 1921, the library contains a large collection of printed primary sources for the medieval and modern history of Britain and Western Europe and their former colonies. The materials are for reference only, and the library is open access and does not seek to build up special collections. An interesting and unique feature of the library is that its rooms not only house the collection itself, but also act as venues for frequent seminars.

After the introductory talk, the graduate library trainee Micol showed us around the library so that we could see the great variety of the collection. It not only holds books and periodicals, but also microfiches and copies of past University of London theses in history. Where possible, the materials are grouped according to country/ geographical area. After the tour, Robert Lyons spoke to us about the issues which the library has faced when considering how to re-design its space effectively. Any plans need to take into account the dual purpose of the library (the home for the collection, as well as a venue for seminars), the needs and views of its readers, and the various requirements set out by legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act.

At the end of the visit, we were treated to a coffee in the Institute's Common Room. All in all, it was a very interesting and informative visit and it gave us an insight into some of the challenges faced when organizing collections and planning library spaces.

by Hilary Vieitez

The Women's Library
2010 visit
On the afternoon of the 29th of March 2010, our small group of trainees headed to Aldgate, in the heart of the East End, to visit the Women’s library. The collection is housed in a lottery funded building, built expressly for this purpose in 2002. It was set up as the library for the London Society for Women's Service and later named the Fawcett library after the notable suffragette.

We were shown round by Inderbir Bhullar, the Information librarian. The library was closed that day, but despite the absence of researchers in the reading room, it was evident that it was a pleasant environment to study in. He then gave us a brief introduction to the library’s website and catalogue and told us that the emphasis of the library’s collection was on women’s lives in Britain.

The library is reference only, but the material is accessible. There are open shelves to browse but older and more delicate things can be brought down from the special collections area by obliging staff. What surprised me is that the library’s collection is not limited to printed material; it holds a museum collection, including an array of textiles, campaign badges and other paraphernalia. We were allowed to see some of these artefacts, as well as a wealth of zines, pamphlets, letters, petitions and rare first editions of novels. Unlike in most libraries, the material in this special collection could be handled and viewed freely. This meant that I had the opportunity to spend time holding a first edition of Middlemarch, before reluctantly putting it down in order to continue the tour.

After seeing such a fascinating and varied collection, we all decided to view the free exhibition downstairs, ‘Ms Understood’. Chiefly documenting second-wave feminism and its impact on future decades and generations, the exhibition also had an array of precursory material from the days of the early suffragettes. The focus then shifted to a celebration of the first National Women’s liberation conference which promoted ideas including those concerning equality in the workplace and abortion rights. There was also wall space to explore living memory, as visitors were invited to leave their own memories of this movement.

The library strives to be non-elitist and therefore available for both students and any members of the public interested in women’s studies. I would thoroughly recommend a visit and hopefully it will continue to document the lives of women from the past, present and future.

by Nicola Dellow

2009 visit
On Monday 1st June, the graduate trainees set off for the Women’s Library, which is part of the London Metropolitan University. Once up in the Reading Room, Sonia Hope (the Information Librarian) explained that the library had moved to its present site in 2002. As the building is listed, they have had to keep the front façade of an old washhouse, but were able to purpose-build a library behind it. The library was originally set up back in 1926 to provide information for middle-class suffragettes, and was called the Fawcett Library throughout the mid 20th century, but it is now open to anyone interested in women’s history in the UK.

We discussed the library’s purpose and reader base, as well as the challenges of widening access and promoting their amazing collections. A tour of the reading room showed us that, as well as about thirty places for studying, there are some open-access journals in one room and an open access book collection in another. Next we went to the upstairs storage vault, where the library keeps many of its 300 archival collections, any books that are fragile and items like newspaper cuttings and pamphlets.

The main reading room of the library is a delight to behold. It is a three tired room with ornate marble pillars, beautifully bound books and notable paintings. The Library is open to its fellows and to visitors who have a note of introduction. Students may also use the facility if they have a letter of recommendation from their supervisors, while members of the public may apply to the Library for consideration, if the provide proof of identity.

The Women’s Library is also a government recognised museum. Down in the basement, (along with more archives) the museum collections are kept, which include original suffrage banners, as well as trays of badges proclaiming slogans such as: “Women’s place is in the House… of Commons!” As everything was purpose-built for library and museum materials, the vaults are kept at a scientifically regulated cool temperature, the lights are motion-sensitive and everything still seems very new. It was certainly refreshing to see a specialist library with such amazing storage resources.

The visit was extremely interesting - the library is one of international importance, the building was built expressly for the collection and there are not many libraries devoted entirely to the subject of women’s studies. I would definitely recommend anyone else to visit it.

by Gillian Weber


Library of a learned society
Society of Antiquaries Library
We were welcomed by the Head of Library and Collections Heather Rowland and given coffee, biscuits and a detailed history of the society and the Library’s role within it. The society was founded in 1700 and in 1751 received its royal charter which charged it with the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquaries and the history of this and other countries'. Today the society’s member number 2,500 and include many distinguished archaeologists and art and architectural historians.

by Dean Ayres Heather informed us that the society’s original library consisted of a box which they acquired to store their books in; today the library is very much at the heart of the society. Indeed, Heather commented that there is hardly any room within the building which does not house part of the collection. The library holds important collections on archeology, architectural history, heraldry and the decorative arts, as well as British local history and genealogy. The society itself also holds a prestigious collection of unique paintings and illustrations.

The main reading room of the library is a delight to behold. It is a three tired room with ornate marble pillars, beautifully bound books and notable paintings. The Library is open to its fellows and to visitors who have a note of introduction. Students may also use the facility if they have a letter of recommendation from their supervisors, while members of the public may apply to the Library for consideration, if the provide proof of identity.

It was a very interesting visit and Heather was extremely welcoming. I think we all relished the opportunity to visit such a beautiful library. It may also be of interest to note that the society's 'Making History' exhibition is currently touring the country and exhibits rare objects from the society’s collection.

by Ruth Murphy

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.