Thursday, July 15, 2010

London Library

I absolutely loved the London Library. I wish I could afford to be a member and to fly back and forth from Boston to London so I could use it. I will attempt to not gush too much while writing about it, I apologize in advance.

Our class split into three groups upon arrival, which I liked because it is a bit difficult sometimes with 32 people. My group got to tour the library first with Jane Oldfield. She told us a bit of the history of the London Library. It was founded in 1851 by Thomas Carlyle as an independent lending library. This was in reaction to the British Museum's library not allowing the check out of materials. Since then, the library has been expanding almost constantly. One of the most interesting things about the London Library is their classification system. They use letters and descriptors to arrange their books on the shelves. Readers are allowed to roam the stacks, looking for what they need. This can be particularly helpful with research in certain areas because one would find books they did not know would be helpful.

97% of the collection is lent out to readers while 3% is considered either rare, fragile, or just too valuable to let readers take home. I like that because it is a subscription based library readers are given a higher level of service. The London Library also only holds books, as opposed to also having DVDs and CDs.

Really what impressed me was the preservation lab. I like that they do most things in-house because many libraries do not and also do not have the resources to send out their fragile objects. The London Library even employs a conservator! That is very rare for a library that is not national or otherwise huge. Stella Worthington, the head of the preservation and stack management department showed us some of the rare books they have at the London Library. A first edition Erasmus! A Fourth Folio! A first edition Origin of the Species! It was amazing.

I loved the London Library so much I am thinking of switching my paper topic to be about the library and its long history.

After the library we attempted to go shopping but it just turned miserable because it was packed and very hot. It is ok, now I have more money to spend in Edinburgh!


  1. Wasn't the preservation lab AMAZING??

  2. I've never been in the London Library but now visiting it is one of my dreams. I love the big old libraries. They have their own soul.
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