02 September 2014

Rediscovering libraries (in London)

"Recent reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated" - was it Mark Twain said that? [Yes ... after hearing that his obituary had been published.]

Reports of library closures continue ... is the library dead? Libraries have morphed from being a collection of books (liber ... libros, livres ...) with an issue desk and reference librarian, to "information services" for the community, including loaning videos, CDs, etc and of course access to online services. Moving with the times, in other words.

Having physical libraries to visit is A Very Good Thing, imho - user numbers are important to keeping them open. Here are some public libraries in London - some are lending libraries, others for reference only.

Westminster Art Reference Library - a place to read the art magazines - is located between the National Gallery and Leicester Square (on the site of Isaac Newton's house no less), and open till 8 most evenings. 
Reading Room at the National Art Library (via)
National Art Library at the V&A also has art journals, and a collection of artists books, and much more. You need to leave your bags and impedimenta in the cloakroom, and to get a reader's ticket, but it's free to use and has an old-fashioned atmosphere. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Barbican Library - somewhat out of the way for me, but I do have a card - and it's possible to borrow audiobooks online. There's usually a small exhibition by local artists there.
Saison Poetry Library at the Royal Festival Hall (more images here)
Poetry Library - hidden away on the South Bank - closed Mondays; search the catalogue online. Some of the collection can be borrowed, and they have many, many poetry magazines.

British Library - you need to apply for a Reader Pass if you want to use the collection (catalogues are online). The building has a bookshop, cafe, wifi, exhibitions, and a permanent display of some Very Important Books - many of which can be viewed online. With Explore the British Library you can search, view and order items from the main catalogue of nearly 57 million records, or search the contents of the Library's website.
Wellcome Building - the library is part of the Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Library - more than just medicine, more than just books - online research resources, a blog, exhibitions, and free talks too. The gallery on the 3rd floor is designated a "non-silent area" where people can chat. The Wellcome Images catalogue is of a collection of over 170 000 historical and contemporary images, covering medical and social history, contemporary healthcare and biomedical science, which can be downloaded for personal, non-commercial use. The library is open to anyone with an interest in the history of health and medicine.

City Business Library has all sorts of business information (as you might expect) - and helpful staff (ditto) - as well as events and workshops related to business growth, from VAT to pricing strategies to stress management...
The Issue Hall at the London Library (via its blog)
The famous London Library - "the UK's leading literary institution" - was founded in 1841 and has an annual membership fee of about £40 a month, which is understandable as it's self-funding. It has over a million books, and there's a booky blog.

Also a subscription library, but in a niche at the other end of the spectrum, is the Marx Memorial Library - subs are £20 a year. The lending section has 46,000 volumes covering a range of subjects including Marx, Engels, Lenin, the Spanish Civil War and the History of Socialism and the British Labour Movement. The reference collection has an extensive holding of journals dating from the 1850's. The Printers Collection is made up of the records, memorabilia and historic artefacts of the printing trade unions of the UK and Ireland.
Marx Memorial Library and Workers School


patty a. said...

It is so interesting to read about all the different libraries. Here is the county where I live there is a main county library with many branches. I can order books online and pick them up at my local branch. They also have a feature that lets you borrow books from other library systems in the state (Ohio) including some universities. I know the art museum has a small library. Now that school is back in session the library branch where I go will be filled with kids after school to play on the computers and hang out waiting for their parents to pick them up after work. There is always a police officer on site so I think parents feel their kids are safe with this free babysitting. I know the staff gets frustrated with the kids tearing thru the place and making a lot of noise.
My biggest frustration is the lack of respect people have for the materials they borrow and the amount of materials that get stolen despite the security systems in place.

KAM said...

As a retired library manager for a very small rural library on an Indian Reservation I know well the importance of instilling the love of the "book" at an early age - many young adults who are on scholarships at university today began their love of reading at my little library - they are technologically skilled and successful and yet to hold the book remains important to them. Today they write to me and share their stories as they choose a career path, get employment, marry and have families. The books so often come up in what they have to say in their letters.
Now retired, I live in a Rocky Mountain smaller city and go to the library every week to return books and get new ones.The computer allows me to place holds on the newest and most popular titles and there is always a little shelf of books for me when I get there. Our library has technology classes every day and yet there is not a time when I am ready to check out my selections when there are not others using or in line at the self check out machines. Using the library regularly helps to keep their patron attendance numbers high and having a viable, active building to visit each week is pure delight for me.
Thank you for this wonderful post today.

The Idaho Beauty said...

I continue to marvel at how many people don't think to utilize libraries or choose not to for reasons like length of loans but readily fork over money to purchase books that will be read once or movies that may suffer the same fate. In the U.S. libraries are funded with taxes so I remind people that they've already paid for them, silly not to take advantage of them. Perhaps I continue to gravitate to them because my teacher mother took me there often at an early age & helped me pick out books, then spent time reading with me until the habit & allure was firmly fixed. Libraries still feel magical to me these many years later.