As you can see, the last couple of weeks have been quite busy! A couple of weeks ago we had another trip away from the RCN, and were this time joined by two of the graduate trainees from the London Library.
A week in to the job and I already had my first visit to another library lined up.
“Wow Tim, you’re really rushed off your feet! What exciting library did they send you to?”
I’m glad you asked, faithful reader. For our trip this week, we were swept away to the London College of Fashion!
Located just off Oxford Street, it didn’t take us long to get there, with its main entrance located just off the main road – quite literally round the corner for us.
Upon arrival, we were shortly met by Helen Davies who was our knowledgeable guide for the morning. There was some moderate excitement as to whether a building wide evacuation would take place half way through our tour but we were able to avoid such a fate. Helen led us up a winding staircase, through a string of mazy corridors and finally we reached the library.
The first thing I noticed is how the initial entrance of the library is laid out to have the most basic and useful functions the library has to offer right as you come in. This includes a help desk, three self-issue terminals and a separate returns chute that – in my limited library experience – seemed very exciting. With a conveyor belt that sorts the books in to the correct bin upon returns, I felt like I had stepped in to 2001: A Space Odyssey and witnessed the future. Or maybe I’m just stuck in the past. Either way, I was sadly excited by the whole thing. Other key features in the room included a wall of new journals, a holds shelf and a selection of popular titles available. There was also a couple of displays which we were informed they try to change on a monthly basis with student input where possible. – Tim
The library is divided into 3 sections. To the right of the main entrance area, there are a number of books mostly consisting of resources to do with the management side of the courses offered by the college. They use the Dewey system, and this section is the starting point. To the left of the entrance area is where the majority of the journals are, as well as various magazines and other items that appeared to be primarily reference only. The majority of the work space in the library was on the top floor, as well as even more books and a large DVD collection (as Helen explained, costume design is an important area of fashion).
One of the unique aspects of the library is their material collection, which contains a catalogue of a different fabrics and materials that students can come and use for reference. There is a quiet study area which holds approximately 20 people and is in the furthest corner of the library, opposite the staff office, which is also connected directly to the library itself. Everything in the library is well sign-posted with large text stencils on the walls to show where things are. There is also a wide range of seating options – from classic desks to sofas and coffee tables, there was probably every seating option you could imagine.
Helen informed us that some of the challenges they face include the fact that the University of Arts London is spread out across 6 colleges with 6 separate libraries throughout the city. However, they are hopefully moving the entire school to Stratford in the imminent future and as a result, they would be looking to combine all the libraries to create one MEGA LIBRARY (Tim’s words, not theirs). We were also told that as the number of international students they recruit increases, the library is trying to broaden their collection to include more international resources. We also clocked a notice offering English language support sessions to assist students. They are also contemplating potential changes to library opening times, including changes such as piloting a 10AM – 8PM opening on Saturdays, in addition to keeping an eye on other libraries that run 24-hour services during term crunch times. The fines charged were largely similar to how we charge here, although they offer 3 week or 1 week loans. Interestingly, Helen said that a student focus group had suggested that they’d prefer a fine system where initially there are no charges but then once the books are overdue by a certain length of time you get slapped with a larger fine.
Overall, we had a thoroughly enjoyable visit and it was interesting to see how another library functions and is laid out.