Thursday, July 15, 2010

London Library

After returning from the National Archives, I had class over at the London Library.  It's an unassuming town house in St. James Square but inside burst with kilometers upon kilometers of shelving for their collection. Since our group was so large, we split into 3 groups. Stella Worthington is the conservator / rare books specialist and she spoke to us in her lab upstairs. There wasn't a lab or any preservation staff before Stella. Books were held in the basement next to sewer pipes There are approximately 35,000 rare books in the collection and all have been stablized to their basic needs. During their recent remodel, the conservatory lab was created with custom shelving, drawers and tables that are reconfigurable as their needs change. Since they are not a copyright library, all their books are lendable. Books pre 1700's are considered rare and will be housed in a more climate control area of the building. Everything else is on the open shelf for members to use. Staff in the issue and return desk give a quick look at the condition of the book and if they feel it warrants a look by the preservation team, then it's sent up. All their repairs are reversable incase the techniques and tools available in the future will better preserve the books.  I enjoyed listening to Stella about how difficult of a task it is to be a rare books librarian and preservation and conservation specialist in an open lending library.

The next part of our tour was by Jan Oldfield, the deputy librarian and she showed us around the buidling. The library is comprised of 4 buildings with its connecting walls removed. One of them belonged to T.S. Eliot, a former president of the library. The original book catalog is still in use since not all of the catalog has been digitized. Even though there has been some remodeling to the building, there are many parts of the stacks still on the original bookcases and flooring. They seemed really to enjoy metal grate see thru flooring and darkness since there is light only when someone pulls the string for light. Down in the basement, is the periodicals.  The Times has been kept since it's first printing and continues to be collected despite there being an online version now.  We sat down with Heather O'Neil, the deputy reader's librarian and she spoke to us about the collection. With each aquisition, hardbacked books have their jackets removed and if have to purchase paperbacks, they are rebound to withstand the open usage. Their cataloging system is their own and are written on the main title page. They mainly collect with the relm of arts and hummanity.  Books that are written in other languages are kept with their English counterparts.

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