On the 19th of Jan we went on our first library visit as part of our grad trainee programme. As part of the programme we get to visit several libraries and experience what their service is like. Our first library was the amazing London Library on St James’s Square and it really was a great experience.
We were shown around by the lovely Rosie who patiently answered all our persistent questions whilst giving us a guided tour of the place. We got rather excited by the library’s book ends – which are rather good! Us librarians sure know how to party.
But bookends aside we learnt about the building and its extensive holdings and membership base. They also have their own cataloguing system – S. Cattle etc is everyone’s favourite. The stacks are something to behold and you’d better not be afraid of heights as you can see all the way down through the grilled floors! High heels are also not recommended for this experience. – K
Definitely! It was quite disconcerting to take a quick glance down and see straight to the bottom. We were taken to one of the higher floors to see this too, so we got the full effect. The overall layout of the library was equally interesting. There were lots of stairs and we were told that it was only the basement level that completely lined up – on all the other floors they were still on slightly different levels so you would need to go up or down a few stairs. This of course makes shelving much more difficult! We were told that each member of staff had a section of shelves that they were responsible for, but because of the multiple staircases it is impossible to get a trolley to most parts of the library. This means that staff members need to sometimes make multiple trips up several flights of stairs with some very heavy looking books. As gorgeous as the building is, this is one difficulty that I definitely do not envy. As the library needed more space, they bought more of the surrounding property or added extensions. These were not necessarily done at the same time so when everything was joined up it meant the floors didn’t always line up exactly. For example, to walk from one side of the first floor to another according to the map, you might still need to go up or down a few steps every so often. When we went in, I was reminded a bit of the TARDIS – the library was much bigger inside than it looked from the outside and contains something like 17 miles of shelves! The actual building is stunning, and these little quirks just add to its charm. There were other interesting features; for example a major designer redesigned some of their bathrooms so that they were completely unique down to each cubicle allegedly having different taps, mirrors, lights and toilets. We couldn’t quite see the differences in our quick look though!-L
Other than the impressive, if slightly maze-like building, The London Library does some things differently than we do such as not charging their members fines and books can be borrowed for indefinite amounts of time, unless another member has requested the item. There are some books being returned now which were taken out before some of the current staff were even born! The library holds over a million titles, none of which are duplicates; which means there is only one of every book. The books range from present publications and go all the way back to the 1500’s and cover a vast range of subject areas. The central reading room is an amazing space and really should be experienced by everyone, as should the new art room which quite rightly appears in many of the leaflets. – K
We are both looking forward to more visits and can only hope that they are all as informative, interesting and in-depth as this one was.
Until next time!
Kat and Lauren x