Visit to Lovells LLP

On Tuesday 9th June we visited the library of the London office of Lovells LLP (, a major international legal firm. The London office is housed in a very impressive modern building in Holborn, which makes a big impact upon the visitor – a large statue dominates the entrance, and makes a statement about the scale of the firm. The library and library staff of the office were suitably impressive.

To begin with we were given a talk by two professional librarians, who are termed researchers at Lovells. The head of the library, and the librarian who facilitates the training of the two graduate trainees there, explained the particular role that a library plays in a law firm, which is very different to the usual academic or public library. A major role of the librarians there seems to be to conduct research for lawyers, such as finding cases, hence the name ‘researchers’. There is also a specialty in the selection of materials in the law firm, as it was explained that whereas an academic library may select several texts on the same topic, a law firm library may just select the most appropriate one for the lawyers. The library is very much tailored to the need of the lawyers conducting their work.

The two graduate trainees then gave a very interesting presentation about their backgrounds and roles within the library, and how the training scheme there is structured. They said that the position is an enjoyable one, which involved responsibility and variety and a good structure of progression – the trainees will be supported through a professional librarianship course and employed by Lovells as trainee researchers at the end of their initial training year. After the presentation they gave us a tour of both the library and the facilities (gym, canteen etc) of the whole office. The main firm library was quite large, and covered the areas of law that the firm practise in. Beyond this, each different practice area (e.g. Tax) had its own sectional library which focused on the particular area of the section. The library also uses document delivery services to access materials from other libraries (e.g. IALS and the British Library), for which a fee is paid.

The visit was one of the best I had been on, as the library and the environment of a law firm are so different from the other places we have visited that it was quite enlightening. The staff were very friendly and seemed to enjoy the jobs, and we were made to feel very welcome.

Visit to Westminster Reference Library

On the 19th May we visited the Westminster reference library, which is very centrally located on St. Martins street, just off Leicester Square

We were greeted by Eveleen and Peter and began our tour in the Library Foyer. Peter who runs the Art and Performance Library has worked there for over 20 years and so was best qualified to talk to us about the history of the library, which was once the site of Isaac Newton’s house, parts of the building including the cellar are listed. In the Foyer Peter drew our attention to the LCD screen, displaying library information and news on upcoming courses and events, he said that they have had a positive response to this display but still utilise the library noticeboard.

The Library consists of four floors, the basement is closed access and contains the government collections, the ground floor contains the business and law collections and the 1st and 2nd floors contain the Art and Performance Collections. Membership is free and open to all.

Eveleen showed us around the ground floor, she is particularly involved in the Business Information Point which has been created to cater to the needs of the business community in Westminster, which provides access to a multitude of economic, business and marketing books in addition to market reports, business journals, newspapers and databases including Mintel. They also provide internet access, fax and photocopying services and also run workshops and events and a research service. There was a CV workshop on whilst we were touring the library. Eveleen said that they were particularly trying to promote their services to those recently unemployed and job hunting in the community. The Library also provides remote access to many of their online resources. Eveleen then brought us to the basement which houses the government collections and stores, older less frequently used material. These items appear on the catalogue and can be fetched by staff.

We then joined Peter once again to tour the Arts Library, which includes a frequently used exhibition space on the first floor. The Arts and Performance collection is extremely extensive and highly impressive. The total number of volumes exceed 40,000 and encompass works on painting, fashion, furniture design, architecture, sculpture, theatre and cinema to name but a few. The volumes consist of Art magazines, exhibition catalogues, play texts and Theatrical reviews, there were also some texts a few hundred years old. The collection provides a wealth of research information and is an invaluable resource for the Artistic community and Peter’s knowledge of the collection was truly phenomenal.

Before we finished up and joined some library staff for tea, Peter showed us some photographs from the various events recently held in the library, these ranged from dramatic performances to writing workshops and Peter also showed us a youtube video of a band that performed after hours of course in the Library.

Westminster Reference Library is, as Eveleen pointed out, a mixture between an academic and a public library. The collections are certainly of a academic standard and the staff's knowledge and enthusiasm is one of the most impressive I have seen in the course of our visits, yet the openness and community atmosphere clearly mark to as a Public library. It was a highly enjoyable visit and we all left with membership cards and the intention of returning.

Visit to the British Library

On May 26th we visited the British Library (  that holds the second largest collection in the world. The BL is one of the six copyright libraries in the UK, but unlike the others it must hold a copy of everything published in the country. Housing 150 million items and acquiring each year 3 million new ones poses serious problems in terms of storage and accessibility.

In the early 1970's it was agreed that the BL's constituent libraries, of which the British Museum library was the biggest, should be housed together in a new building near St Pancreas station. Unfortunately, the construction of this edifice was fraught with difficulties. It took over twenty years to complete and the cost spiraled out of control. The main problem laid in digging four underground floors to store the collection. Nevertheless, the new British Library was finally inaugurated in 1998. It provides readers with an airy and bright public space, eleven reading rooms, an exhibition hall, numerous lecture and seminar rooms, as well as a restaurant.
In the centre of the building an imposing glass structure houses King George III library,which according to his wishes, is kept together and available to the public.

Lately, the BL has relaxed its membership policy; in fact, it is no longer surprisingly difficult to consult its holdings. Now anyone with a good reason to use the collection can do so.
The material is retrieved from the underground storage and is delivered to the reading rooms thanks to an enormous conveyor belt system.

Finally, the library employs over 1000 people in many different sectors and seems a very exciting place to work in.

Mark's Profile

My name is Mark, and I’m one of four graduate library trainees at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS). The library here is huge, and makes up a large part of the Institute. As the national law library, it has a world-renowned collection of law volumes and a dedicated team of specialist law librarians, which makes this a very interesting and stimulating place to work. The focus of the library is on research facilitation, and so the readers tend to be academics, postgraduates and some practitioners – there are no undergraduates here. This tends to lead to a quiet and professional atmosphere in the library, as most readers have experience in how to use and behave in an academic library, and behave accordingly.

As one of four trainees at the library, my year here has been very well structured. Throughout the year each trainee moves through four different positions in the library - my own route has been: document delivery services; continuations; a different role within continuations; and finally, academic services. The document delivery service is an award-winning department which supplies legal documents to subscribing law firms, primarily via email. This was an interesting place to begin my year, as it involved searching for law materials (e.g. cases and journal articles) both on the catalogue and on the shelves, learning about copyright, working alongside many other staff members, and utilising photocopiers and scanning machines to deliver the documents. I then spent six months in continuations, which is the section of the library that handles law journals. This allowed me to take part in the full processing of journals, from the point at which they are delivered to them reaching the shelves. I also undertook some cataloguing, and made contact with some suppliers, which was a good experience. There was also a lot of time to undertake special projects, which gave a variety and depth to the role. I have now joined academic services, where I will support the enquiry desk and perform a wide range of duties, such as creating reader guides and producing leaflets. I am looking forward to my next three months here.

Another benefit of there being four trainees here has been the support that I have received from my fellow trainees, and the support that I can give back. I have enjoyed this, and it has been a big plus point of the position. One trainee has gone to each library visit organised by the other SAS trainees, we have all attended weekly training sessions on law and librarianship within IALS, and have also attended visits to other libraries organised by IALS. This has been a fascinating element of the year, and the chance to see how other libraries work and compare them with IALS has been a valuable one.

I am very happy that I have had the opportunity to work at IALS for a year, and to have done so on the graduate trainee scheme in particular. It has been a great year, in which I have met some wonderful people and had some very interesting experiences, and feel that this will prepare me well for my future career.

Visit to the Women's Library- June 1st

On Monday 1st June, the graduate trainees set off for the Women’s Library, which is part of the London Metropolitan University. Once up in the Reading Room, Sonia Hope (the Information Librarian) explained that the library had moved to its present site in 2002. As the building is listed, they have had to keep the front façade of an old washhouse, but were able to purpose-build a library behind it. The library was originally set up back in 1926 to provide information for middle-class suffragettes, and was called the Fawcett Library throughout the mid 20th century, but it is now open to anyone interested in women’s history in the UK.

We discussed the library’s purpose and reader base, as well as the challenges of widening access and promoting their amazing collections. A tour of the reading room showed us that, as well as about thirty places for studying, there are some open-access journals in one room and an open access book collection in another. Next we went to the upstairs storage vault, where the library keeps many of its 300 archival collections, any books that are fragile and items like newspaper cuttings and pamphlets.

The Women’s Library is also a government recognised museum. Down in the basement, (along with more archives) the museum collections are kept, which include original suffrage banners, as well as trays of badges proclaiming slogans such as: “Women’s place is in the House… of Commons!” As everything was purpose-built for library and museum materials, the vaults are kept at a scientifically regulated cool temperature, the lights are motion-sensitive and everything still seems very new. It was certainly refreshing to see a specialist library with such amazing storage resources.

The visit was extremely interesting - the library is one of international importance, the building was built expressly for the collection and there are not many libraries devoted entirely to the subject of women’s studies. I would definitely recommend anyone else to visit it.

Gillian Weber

Save the planet while searching the internet!

Check out the following search engine:
Almost all the money Forestle gets from sponsored links goes to a fund to save the rainforest. To find out more about how it works:

I have tried a few keywords and it seems to work like google. Even the results look the same. I think it's quite an interesting idea to use a search engine to generate money for rainforest projects...

Web 2.0: An overview

On the 11th May I attended the ASLIB course entitled Web 2.0: an overview. There were three other participants on the course, two from law firms and one from the Royal Society of Science, we were a small group but this enabled us to cover many topics and enter into detailed discussions and so it was highly advantageous. The course director was Lyn Robinson, who is currently the director of Information Science at City University and who has worked as an information specialist for the last 20 years.

Introduction: What is Web2.0

After introductions, we commenced by discussing what we hoped to gain from the day. There was a general agreement from the participants that we were all familiar with certain components of Web2.0, but that our experience was tentative, hence we sought a general understanding of the concept and hopped to learn how to use the various tools of Web2.0 within our libraries. With that in mind we began by discussing and defining what is meant by Web 2.0. We concluded that Web 2.0 can be defined as applications which use semantic coding, which enables us to separate form from content, making it possible to update, move, extract and combine individual elements of a webpage, often creating new resources. In short, instead of having static webpage’s, we now have those with dynamic shareable content. These new applications facilitate shared resource development. Within Libraries, the term Library 2.0 has emerged which refers to the constant, purposeful change, provided by web 2.0 which allows for increased dialogue between both the information provider and users and between users themselves. Throughout the course of the day we discussed several of these applications including, Blogs, Feeds, Social Networking sites and Wikis. Lyn ended our introductory session with a highly original video summation of Web 2.0 video, which is broadcast on Youtube.

Homepages and Blogs

We next looked at Lyn’s own home page at City University. Lyn’s home page consisted of an overview of her academic and professional career, including publication information and also included a link to her professional Blog, her Delicious tags and a link to her Library Thing account, which details lists of books on her course module. Lyn’s highly innovative Blog is an excellent example of the multitude of uses a Blog has. Lyn uses Delicious cloud tags, links, pictures, vidoes and feeds, to interact and convey information to her colleagues and students. Her Blog is open to all and those whom she knows are welcome to post comments in response to her posts. Her Blog is very much a professional one, her posting consist of matters refering to information science and the other Blogs she links to of people in the Library world. Blogs are a great way to chart the progress of colleagues and organisations and provide a framework for discussion and interaction. From a professional view point Lyn commented that she found it very advantageous to search her Blog archive and detail what she was thinking about and discussing in past months and years, and thus uses it as a sort of portfolio. Lyn’s Blog is hosted by Word Press which provides very professional looking Blogs and enables the addition of a number of different widgets and applications. It also protects that copy right of the Blogger via the Creative Commons.

Twitter and Second Life

Probably the most interesting part of the day for me was that spent looking at Twitter. Though I have never used it myself I was aware of the premise of the application. One can sign up and post a 136 character ‘tweet’ in response to the question what are you doing now? Any one who is following you is notified of your new tweet, as you are of those people/organisations you have chosen to follow. Of all the applications which fall under the auspices of Web 2.0, this was to me the most contrived, however Lyn enlightened me as to some of the benefits of Twitter. The most significant in my opinion for those in the Library and Information Sector is the use of TwitterFall and TwitterFountain. People and groups can all enter a topic on Twitter Fountain/Fall and all tweet on the same topic and everyone signed up to the event can see all the tweets without the need to refresh their pages. Lyn informed us that this application is currently being used by CILIP and other organisations during meetings, so that those absent, can nonetheless interact with the discussion, via those members who tweet during the discussion. We also discussed several ways in which twitter could be used in Libraries including how TwitterFall could be set up and librarians and users could see exactly what other users feeling are about the library at that precise moments by way of display screens Another way of contributing to meetings and events from a far, can be achieved by Second Life, whereby users upload and animated version of themselves and interact with other animated users in a virtual environment. Lyn said she recently attended a conference where the speakers were all participants in Second Life and were joined by several second life delegates, all of whom were transmitted on a screen above the speaker’s podium.

Book marking and Tagging

We next spoke about social booking with particular reference to Delicious. Using applications such as Delicious allows users to store all their favourite links in a place where they can be accessed by themselves and others. Delicious enables users to create tags to organise your book marks you can also create tag clouds in which the frequency of use of the tag is indicated by the size of the text. Delicious can be linked to Blogs, websites and Wikis. Delicious also allows you to subscribe to a particular tag and or user and be notified or changes to the tag and the users collection. Delicious is utilised greatly by Library and Information professionals and was one of web 2.0 applications most utilised by the participants

Wiki’s ,RSS feeds and Instant messaging

Instant messaging provides real time communication between information providers and users. The concept has been around for a long time and is still very useful and is used by a number of Libraries, to answer, ‘Ask a Librarian Queries’.

Wiki’s are the classic shared authoring tool, Users can access information and also edit and update resources, they lend themselves very well to the professional environment and we all agreed that they are of great use in the Library and Information Sector. Users can access information and also edit and update resources, they are very important to the professional work environment.

RSS feeds are an alerting services, which can notify you of changes and updates to websites of interest to you. You can receive notification by setting up an aggregator such as Bloglines or Google reader, by email or by setting up a feed to part of a webpage, like your Blog.

Social and professional networking sites

Of all the applications which fall under the umbrella of Web 2.0, social networking sites, namely Face Book and My Space were the most familiar to those of us attending the course. We looked at some Library Facebook accounts and identified how they were useful for publicising there resources and aiding users. One of the participants pointed out that the Facebook page was like a second, more interactive home page. The Personal profile facilitated the ‘About’ section of the website. The major advantages over a home page are that people can subscribe as your friends and leave feedback on your wall. You can similarly post announcements and bulletins and send out messages to all your friends about new events. The BL has a successful Facebook site as does the Library of Congress. Lyn also mentioned the use of professional networking sites such as Linked in and Collective X, are professional networking sites used for recruitment which present a portfolio for employers and are a good way of networking with colleagues.

Problems with WEB 2.0 and information overload.

It is important to embrace changes that are purposeful and not merely the latest thing. The danger of web 2.0 advances are that users reach an information overload. There are also issues of privacy as recently came to light with the controversy of Google Street Maps. But certainly overall, libraries have gained and will continue to gain greatly from Web 2.0

It was a very interesting course and Lyn was an excellent teacher. It demystified some of the jargon and was a very good overview of all the different applications associated with Web 2.0

Visit to the Whitechapel Idea Store

“Idea Stores are more than just a library or a place of learning. As well as the traditional library service, they offer a wide range of adult education classes, along with career support, training, meeting areas, cafes and arts and leisure pursuits”

As a relatively new project (completed 2005) with a rather aggressive marketing campagin, I admit I approached the Whitechapel Idea Store with reserve. The press coverage and promotion of the project puts me on guard; it’s easy to be cynical about Tower Hamlets boasts (“after consulting with local residents in the largest consultation exercise ever undertaken by Tower Hamlets Council”, and I have a natural suspicion to any public service that describes itself in advertising language and buzzwords (the “contemporary space …encourages people to engage with library and learning services”, “Idea Stores combine the best of traditional library and information services with first class lifelong learning opportunities in comfortable and friendly surroundings).

I can quite happily report that overall the Whitechapel Idea Store is great; it seems genuinely open and inclusive, the design is smart and pleasant and it appeared well used.
The strength of it’s inclusiveness lies in some very simple ideas, for example, it has a crèche so users can leave their kids while they take a class or use the resources. There are a large number of classrooms (learning labs in Idea Store speak) rather than being secreted away, they are posted throughout the building. There’s a dance studio next to the local interest section and classes on offer range from beginners street dance to English as a foreign language.
In terms of the building itself, it’s a bold, unashamedly modern, blockbuster of a design - smack bang in the middle of the community, on the main road amongst the market stalls and right next to Sainsbury’s (I think this was kind of metaphoric for it’s mission statement as such – a marketable, branded chain that is still tailored to the local community and encompassed it’s traditions and history).
The building is light and airy, the isles and signage well-spaced, accessible and clearly labeled and there seems to be plenty of seating but I can’t help wonder about the long term maintenance of such a brave design – how will it look in 20 years time?
There are plenty of computer terminals for self check-out of books and the emphasis seems to be of exploring, of playing around and working out how you want to use the space and then staff are stationed at help points should you need guidance. The children’s library was brightly coloured with child height computer terminals and shelves.
Although there was ample space, all four floors were busy; evidently well-used by a broad section of society, particularly around the café (we had to be quick on our feet to nab some seats!)

Overall, I think the project is truly interesting and proving popular and I suppose it’s a case of ‘you can’t please all people all the time’, yet you can offer a democratic service which pleases most people. I would be terrible to think of all public libraries having this brand makeover but as long as Starbucks doesn’t take out a franchise in the Idea Store Café, I think it’s a smashing project, well worth a visit and especially for the gentle challenge to assumption.

Bloomsbury Healthcare Library Visit

Along with a small group of the London graduate trainee librarians I visited the Bloomsbury Healthcare Library. The Library is housed in a converted ballroom and offers suitably salubrious surroundings for study. The library is funded by the NHS and caters primarily for NHS staff, specialising in nursing and allied health professions. The Library employs five members of staff including the senior librarian Mike and assistant librarian Daphne who introduced us to the work of the library.

Apart from the routine duties involved in maintaining a library, staff also offer a number of specialised services to their users. The library subscribes to a wide range of online resources, which NHS staff can access remotely as well as in the Library. Library staff offer an alerts service, designing custom made email alerts to notify users of new material in their subject area or to the table of contents lists for journals of interest. The library also produces a current awareness newsletter and quality reviews new journal articles.

Mike and Daphne seem to find their work really rewarding and enjoy having the opportunity to engage with the academic content of their collections in order to possess the knowledge to steer users to authoritative and useful materials. Daphne has a substantial scientific background, which she has been able to exploit working in the library. Mike’s background, like many librarians, is in the arts. Though he felt a scientific background would be beneficial to a medical librarian, Mike did not consider this by any means essential.

The visit was enjoyable and gave me valuable insight into the work of medical librarians. Mike and Daphne were really informative and seemed genuinely happy in their work, which is always encouraging.

Social event for library trainees 26th June

This event might be of interest. It is a social event for trainees at libraries which are part of the Chapter One network (list of libraries willing to offer visits to trainees- ULRLS is part).

Another library visit

For all of those who can't get enough of library visits ;-)

Tuesday 26 May 2009: 4.00pm; Sir John Soane's Museum, Lincoln's Inn Fields

History of Libraries Research Seminar

Visit to the Library and Archives of Sir John Soane's Museum, Lincoln's Inn Fields. A tour of the Museum will be given at 4 p.m. Tour of the Library & Archives at 5.15 p.m. Numbers will be limited. Bookings please to: Keith Manley (

Screenshot Website


Here a screenshot showing our new website (text to come soon...)

Any comments and ideas are welcome ;-)

(if you click on the image it gets larger)

Useful links when creating a website


Here the links I talked about at the website session last week:

Borrow a person, from your local library!

Hi All,

Check out this article, about a new concept of information sharing at public libraries, borrowing a person, for a half hour chat!

Guided Tours at Somerset House


Everyone who has been to the (absolutely fantastic) Courtauld visit and was wondering about Somerset House might be interested in this:

There are (free!) guided tours at Somerset House every first and second Saturday:

I am probably going in May or June so if anybody wants to join in I can let you know the date (once I have decided ;-) )

Music in Public Libraries

Hey All,

This is an article about playing music in Public libraries. Any opinions? I go from pole to pole on this one.

Ah! none of my hyperlinks will go live, you'll have to copy and paste!

Visit to the Courtauld Library

On the 24th of March we visited the Library of the Courtauld Institute of Art, which is situated in the basement of Somerset House. The Library holds a significant art historical collection and is one of the major international research collections of art historical books, periodicals and exhibition catalogues in the UK. It is a very beautiful building, with red brick vaulted ceilings, full length windows and spiral stair cases, the students, décor and architecture were all to my mind perfectly suited to an art library.

We were met on our arrival by Boris, one of the Library’s Graduate Trainees and by Vicky the Deputy Book Librarian. We began our tour on the top mezzanine level and were shown around the service counter, staff offices, card catalogue and copy services. We were then brought to the Lower mezzanine level and shown around the book, periodical and exhibition catalogue collections. Boris and Vicky mentioned that their exhibition catalogue collection is particularly extensive and sought after. They hold approximately 180,000 volumes in the library, some of which are still recorded on the card catalogue. The Courtauld use an in-house classification scheme, which is largely based on the Library of Congress. Also held in the same building, though separately run, are the Conway and the Witt Libraries. The Conway collection is an image library and the Witt is collection of reproductions after paintings, drawings and prints.

We were then treated to a talk by Erica the head of Special Collections and by Deborah the head Cataloguer. Erica had pulled out some very interesting pieces from her collection to demonstrate the variety of books and objects stored in the Courtauld. These pieces included rare and old art books, which held both beautiful work within them and were themselves a work of art and modern pieces, which experiment with different forms, shapes, sizes and materials. She showed us one book which was coated in sandpaper and held together by bolts and another that played music upon opening the first page. She also showed us some volumes called artist books, which are books that are used as the artists medium and exist as a piece of art. Deborah then spoke about the processes and challenges involved in cataloguing art books and in particular exhibition catalogues and producing the best record which reflects and conveys the object. Deborah showed us one book that came hidden within a corrugated card case and explained that the challenge with cataloguing such a piece was how to convey the importance and the function of the case. Deborah explained that cataloguing such pieces involved a lot of thought and that there is no fixed format. It certainly seemed that the role of a cataloguer within an art library was a challenging, interesting and varied one.

We finished with tea and cakes in the library office, where Vicky, Erica and Deborah spoke to us about their own study and career paths. It was a truly enjoyable and interesting visit and I think it gave us trainees a great insight into the workings of an academic art library.

Visit to the Maughan Library 26th March

We arranged this visit to the KCL Maughan Library and Foyle Special Collections library to fit in with a visit to the 'Writing the Middle Ages' exhibition. People's first impressions were how beautiful the C19th Gothic building was.

Sally Brock, the Information Services Centre Manager began her tour by telling us about the background of the building. It was the former home of the Public Record Office, purpose built to be fire proof, and had been beautifully restored and refurbished when aquired by KCL in 1998.

We started in the Weston Room, which incorporates features from the former Chapel of the Master of the Rolls, and is often used for receptions and filming. We were shown one of the preserved cells originally used for storing documents. The arrangement of the space into these cells with a mezzanine level had been retained, although some of the walls and arches had been opened up to bring in more light and create a more open effect. The Round Room, with its impressive glass dome was a former PRO reading room, modelled on the British Museum's round reading room, and remains a popular place to work with current library users.

Sally told us about some of the services and facilities offered by the Information Services Centres, and trainees compared these to those at their own libraries. The combined department 'Information Services and Systems' meant that IT and library services were very well integrated.

In the Foyle Special Collections library, we met Katie Sambrook, the Special Collections Librarian. Her and a colleague introduced some items from their collection to us. These included some beautifully illustrated travel diaries and early scientific works. King's had recently acquired the historic library collections of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (around 60,000 items).

At the end of the visit, we went back to the Weston Room to see the 'Writing the Middle Ages' exhibition, curated by a King's student in collaboration with the Special Collections department, and including items on loan from other places. This contained medieval writing materials, manuscripts and early printed works, along with later translations/editions and works inspired by the medieval period. We were told that the material in the exhibition would be digitised and made available online.

Overall it was a fascinating building, and a great example of a sympathetic renovation, which combined modern and historical features.

Holly's Profile

My name is Holly and I am currently a graduate trainee in a government legal library. The library caters, primarily, for the departmental legal advisers. We maintain a small collection of books, journals, government reports, international material, as well as subscribing to a number of electronic databases.

As the trainee my tasks include, book ordering, cataloguing, checking in journals, processing invoices, indexing, inter-library loans, conducting research, providing access to electronic databases, distribution of journals and general library maintenance. Working within a small team I have had the opportunity to contribute to most aspects of the running of the Library and have been included in decision making processes regarding the services we offer.

Attending visits with the London University trainees has been a real privilege, giving me insight into the variety of libraries our capital has to offer. It has also been really helpful to be able to meet other budding librarians and share ideas on MA applications and future career choices.

Working within the legal sector has been really interesting and rewarding. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the wealth of legal resources on offer and how best to navigate through them. I hope to take the MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL next year. On graduating I would like to further my experience in a legal library.

Visit to the LSE Library- April 7th

When I walked into the LSE Library, I was attracted by the modern floor plans: high ceiling with glasses around the building let natural light in; a huge staircase with lifts in the centre; open-plan shelves with study areas. The design makes me feel that I will come and study in the library everyday!

LSE Library has a couple of impressive strategies, and some of them would be a good example for other libraries if practicable:

- The arrangement of books and periodicals with same subject all in the same floor is a good idea, which enables readers to browse the shelves and to cross-reference the materials much easier; apart from they will need to walk down and up if books and periodicals are kept in separate floors.

- Information desk and IT Help desk next to each other
On the one hand, it is convenient for readers to seek for assistance in finding information or in resolving IT problems. On the other, the staffs can work together and help dealing with some basic enquiries if the other desk are busy or vacant.

- The marketing aspects - this aspect is what I felt really useful.
The welcome pack and posters which Ruth,Samantha and Maria showed us are brilliant! I do like the little black reusable bag and the water bottle! The posters and small leaflets not only provide pretty enough information for new students but also advertise the role of the library. At the beginning of the semester, the library can successfully deliver most important information on the use of the library including services, databases, training sessions and regulations. The design of the posters are excellent and not too difficult to make. The posters can catch up readers' attention and direct them to appropriate sections without questions.

In addition, the talk with Ruth, Samantha and Maria regarding their work experiences, library school and tips for CV are inspired. It gave us some ideas of how to build up our career as well.

By Shannen

City Business Library

On March 31st we visited the City Business Library. This library is run by the City of London Corporation, which is basically the local council of a very old and small central section of London (around Moorgate and the Barbican) which is the centre of London (and often UK) business. The City of London runs three other public libraries: the Barbican Library, the Camomile Street Library and the Guildhall Library. City Business Library is due to move into the Guildhall Library building at the end of this year.

The first thing to know about this library is that it is public in the truest sense of the word. Anyone can walk in off the street and use the library; you don't need to get a card and there are no security checks- quite amazing. It is reference-only and a wonderful tool for those running or setting up their own business, students studying business, or city workers in general. They specialise in "current business information which is intended to be of practical use"- many things they do not keep for more than three or five years. They have information on British and international companies, business around the world, market research, management and finance.

The library's website is very well designed and helpful, with many links to guides about how to find information in the library. The library itself is very clearly laid-out, with colour coding and large direction signs, as well as cards housed amongst the shelves indicating where you can find out more information on a particular subject: a sort of 'if you like this, you'll love this...' tool.
There are frequent free (pre-booking) events run at the library, almost every day in fact. These range from "Tax efficient allowances for the start of the new financial year" to "What is a Self Invested Person Pension (SIPP)?" (Good question!) The library also provides free training sessions for users on how to get the most from the many marketing and business databases it subscribes to.

I particularly enjoyed talking to the librarians on this visit. They are friendly and obviously deeply committed to providing their invaluable service to the public. Whilst the information and technology provided by this library is absolutely current, the service is firmly grounded in the ideals of 'old-fashioned' helpfulnes. A surprisingly inspiring visit.

Institute of Classical Studies visit

On 10 March, we visited the Institute of Classical Studies in Senate House (
The librarian, Colin Annis gave us a talk on the history of the library and on library moves in general.

The Institute was founded in 1953 and houses the Hellenic and Roman Societies' libraries as well as ICS own collection. It's primary aim is to provide informations on all aspects of classical studies. In fact, the Institute's library focuses on the history, literature, philosophy, art and archaeology of the Ancient Greek and Roman world. 
It numbers 107.000 books and an impressive number of periodicals of which over 600 are current. Most of the collection is on open access and can be borrowed (even the periodicals!).

The library was forced to move a surprising number of times during the past years: in 1958, to Gordon Square, then to Senate Hose South Block and 3 years ago, it moved to the North Block because of the ongoing refurbishment. Colin was present during all these moves, therefore he was particularly well acquainted with the difficulties and challenges posed by moving libraries of this size. 
Everything needs to be perfectly well planned months prior to the move itself. The space has to be carefully designed and in this respect  good communication with the architect is crucial. Each part of the collection needs to be measured so as to organize  the shelving accordingly, while always keeping in mind those 'dreaded' oversize books! The move itself is achieved rather quickly by a removal company, but it still takes librarians a few weeks to reorganize the collection in its new environment.

After the talk, Susan Willets showed us around the library, which is indeed very cramped in its current location. Hopefully, this will change when it will move to the South Block later this year.

This is Deborah's big news: how amazing!

"Well I have some exciting news (I was trying to post this on the blog but the PC kept freezing so thought I’d settle for emailing you). For those of you who don’t already know, I’m leaving Birkbeck next Wednesday. Last Friday I was offered a job at Glasgow Caledonian University as a Library Assistant (in their Resource Management section). The post starts on 14 April and finishes on late in September 09, in time for me to start my library degree. Because it is a short-term contract, they have requested that I start as soon as possible, and my managers at Birkbeck have kindly agreed to release me without serving my full month’s notice. I have friends that I plan to stay with in Glasgow, and am very much looking forward to this move as I’ve been considering relocating to Scotland for some time now.

I’ve had 2 unconditional offers of places at library school – one at City University and the other at the University of Strathclyde. If I enjoy my time staying in Glasgow over the next 6 months, I’ll opt to take the course at Strathclyde. I’m in the process of applying to the SAAS for funding (one of the conditions being that I’m resident in Scotland before 1st Aug 09) so this job will increase my chances of securing financial support for my studies. However, I’m keeping my options open and can always return to London to do the course at City if I decide to later on. I’ll keep you posted!

For those of you that don’t know me well, sorry to bore you with my future plans. I’ve really enjoyed taking part in the visits and they’ve certainly expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to the range of library and information-based posts available. I would like to wish you all the very best of luck in your future careers, and perhaps some of our paths will cross again in the future."

A very useful tool if you want to get into website creation


For most of us creating a website is entering the great unknown... I have recently been shown a very useful (and free) tool to get an idea of the code and structure behind websites. It only works in Firefox web browser (instead of internet explorer which we probably all use), so you would have to download that first (

The tool is called firebug - just download it: , install it and it will automatically work in firefox.

Just open any website. There's a little bug in the lower right hand corner of the browser. If you click on it, it shows you the code, the stylesheet and the layout of the website you are currently looking at. If you click on the html code part you are interested in, the part of website created by this gets even highlighted...

CPD 25 'The Future of Librarians'

Hi All,

This looks like it will be a very interesting day for anyone considering careers in academic libraries. I am hoping to attend and will of course try to blog about it afterwards!

I don't seem to be able to insert the URL here, but it is

National Archives Visit

A sunny Monday afternoon in February found the London Library Trainees visiting Britain’s National Archives, in the wonderfully suburban setting of Kew. A short walk down leafy streets brings visitors, rather abruptly, to the expansive National Archives.

The National Archives is a government department and serves as the official archive of the UK government. It stores and manages 900 years worth of records and takes the lead on information management policy, ensuring that today’s data is available for tomorrow’s researchers.

Helen Pye-Smith, Head Librarian of the Archive’s Library was our guide around the public areas of the archives. Helen explained the services available to visitors and the procedure for requesting and receiving archive material. Many of the trainees were surprised at the relaxed and informal atmosphere, which seemed to foster a sense of trust between staff and researchers.

We also received an overview of the kinds of materials collected by the archive. The archive is primarily used by those researching family history along with professional genealogists and historians. Census records are particularly popular and when first released often require staff to make special preparations in order to cope with the high demand for access. For the family history researcher the archives provide a wealth of electronic resources for free, which commercial genealogy websites often charge for.

The Library has been incorporated into the reading room and visitors are welcome to use the library for reference, borrowing is not permitted. The library mainly collects historical texts. Though the library is relatively large it is run by a small number of staff. As well as maintaining the library and its services, staff are also encouraged to take part in projects, often with a significant historical research element.

There is also a museum, which we didn’t get time to visit, mainly due to the absolute necessity to sample the cafe’s coffee and cake and to catch up on trainee news. With past exhibitions on topics ranging from alcohol to pirates, I think it would definitely warrant a return trip.

Visit to the Ministry of Justice

Visit to the Ministry of Justice Library on 17th March

This was an opportunity to find our more about the role of librarians within the government service. There are some 600 librarians employed across government doing a wide variety of jobs. Ranging from more traditional library work to working with information databases, research and record management roles. The size of government libraries also varies a lot from small libraries working for government agencies with a single librarian, to larger libraries within ministries like health, education and justice.

The Ministry of Justice library is the result of a merger of two libraries in March 2007– the former Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor’s Office and the part of the Home Office library that related to the divisions which became part of the Ministry of Justice. Rachel Robbins, the Customer Services Librarian and her colleagues Kathy and Jason, who showed us around and answered our questions formerly worked for the Home Office. At the point that they were scheduled to leave the Home Office, they had no office or library shelves for their material. They managed to secure temporary space for themselves and their library (still in crates) but in different places. At one point it took 10 minutes to find and collect a book and deliver it. During this period they were still able to maintain a service and received a letter of thanks from the Minister.

The two libraries are still not integrated. They don’t have an integrated library management system, although they are preparing a specification for one to send out to tender. They have two catalogue systems and only part of their catalogue is online through the government intranet.

One of the challenges for government librarians is to make sure that the people requesting their services are in fact their customers. For example prison inspectors and psychologists are customers, but not prison governors and officers who have their own library service. These two libraries are unlikely to merge because there is a potential for a conflict of interest. This is an issue that applies to other potential mergers of government libraries. Because of changes in responsibilities arising out of the machinery of government, both the issue of who your customers are and providing service for them is something they need to be constantly aware of.

A lot of their queries are sent by email and they are often asked to do research for customers. Each librarian we spoke to said that they found this aspect was a particularly interesting part of their job. One could sometimes hear their Minister responding to a question or read a government statement and know that some or all was based on their research.

Awareness of their customer’s needs and the nature of their customers work is an important consideration and from time to time visits to meet customers are arranged.

The enthusiasm for the work they were doing, the feeling that their work made an important contribution to the service provided by their ministry, and the positive way in which they responded to what seems like regular change arising out of the machinery of government were responses we received from all the librarians that we met on our visit.

Visit to the Institute of Historical Research Library

On 10 March 2009, we visited the library at the Institute of Historical Research in Senate House. We met in the 'Germany Room', where the Institute's librarian, Robert Lyons, gave us a very informative talk about the scope of the library and the services that it offers to its readers.

Founded in 1921, the library contains a large collection of printed primary sources for the medieval and modern history of Britain and Western Europe and their former colonies. The materials are for reference only, and are not loaned out. The library, for the most part, is open access and does not seek to build up special collections. Also, because its focus is on primary sources, its readers are mainly postgraduate students, researchers and academic staff.

A really interesting feature of the library is that its rooms not only house the collection itself, but also act as venues for seminars.

After the introductory talk, Micol showed us around the library so that we could see the great variety of the collection. It not only holds books and periodicals, but also microfiches and copies of past University of London theses in history. Where possible, the materials are grouped according to country/ geographical area. (There are other possible ways of organising them, e.g. by subject area such as women's history, but it seems to work best to have them arranged geographically).

After the tour, we met up in the Germany Room again, where Robert Lyons spoke to us about the issues which the library has faced when considering how to re-design its space effectively. Any plans need to take into account the dual purpose of the library (the home for the collection, as well as a venue for seminars), the needs and views of its readers, and the various requirements set out by legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act.

At the end of the visit, we were treated to a coffee in the Institute's Common Room. All in all, it was a very interesting and informative visit and it gave us an insight into some of the challenges faced when organising collections and planning library spaces.

CPD25 visit to the Wiener Library

Luckily I got a last minute place on that visit because the history of that Library is just simply asthonishing. It's called the Wiener Library because of one of its main founders, Dr Alfred Wiener. He was a German jew who worked for a jewish community called the "Zentralverein". After reading Hitler's "Mein Kampf" he realized that this man could become dangerous and hence started to collect material on the Nazis in the late 20's. Their plan was to gather as much information as possible to then use it to fight the Nazis. In 1933 Alfred Wiener and the Zentralverein left Germany for Amsterdam where they continued their work - by now they were the Jewish Central Information Office. They were continuously trying to find out what was going on and in 1938, after the "Reichskristallnacht", they started gathering eye witness accounts which still provide invaluable information of what happened during those progroms. They kept writing regular reports to inform Jewish communities all over the world. In summer 1939 they felt that Amsterdam was too close to Germany so they moved the whole collection to London where it was financed by the British Governmenment after the war broke out - they had very important information on the Germans. After the war they lost government funding and therefore had to reinvent themselves as a library. But the money problems lasted and finally, in the 1980's, about 80% of the collection had to be given to Tel Aviv, where there still is a second Wiener Library. Luckily there was a complete list of what the library used to hold and a bookseller bought all the many books on the second hand bookmarket to then sell this collection to some university. But as nobody wanted it the Wiener Library was lucky enough to gather enough money to buy that collection and sort of return to full size once more. Since then money has always been an issue but they received several grants so they were able to microfilm/digitise quite a lot of their material.
The collection focuses on the Nazis and the Holocaust, its causes and effects. They've also got a lot of material on Exile studies, German Jewish History and Holocaust denial. They have a huge press archive, sorted by subject, which they are currently microfilming - not digitising, because of copyright: digitising press material means republishing. Having so much material on the Nazis is on one hand of great academic value, on the other they have to be careful not to attract "wrong" people. Nevertheless they are generally open to the public.
They are only 10 people of permanent staff. Luckily, they always have around 35 volounteers - either elderly people associated with the Jewish Community or German library students.

The Wiener Library is very well worth a visit, especially if you are introduced to their history and shown some of the archive material.

CPD25 to the BFI National Library

Hello- just thought I'd tell you about the cpd25 visit I went on yesterday to the BFI National Library.

The BFI (British Film Institute) Library is one of the largest collections in the world for the study of international cinema and television. It has 60,00 titles, 6,000 periodicals and 2 million cuttings on film & T.V titles and individuals. The hub of the library is its Reading Room, based on Tottenham Court Road. This is a lovely working space, although relatively small, and the library staff are particularly friendly and fun- and devoted, as they often undertake extensive research for their readers.

There is also a large closed-access basement storage facility on site, where many periodicals, magazines, books, pamphlets festival brochures are kept. These are easily accessible to the public through a fetching system. I loved going down into the basement as the staff have decorated it with amazing film posters, quotes, pictures and clippings. The people who work in the library are obviously passionate about film, although they do not all have an academic background in film studies.

Surprisingly, this is a relatively low-tech library, with only 1 internet terminal and lots of material on microfilm/fiche. However, there is a Screen Online terminal in the Reading Room, which houses a program giving access to some of the 'rarer treasures of the National (BFI)Archive.' As well as a talk from the head librarian, the Reading Room manager and a curator from the BFI archive, we also were spoken to by a Special Collections librarian, who showed us some of the rare and fantastic material the library holds. This includes around 30,000 unpublished scripts and 30,000 press books.

Overall, this library really stood out because although it deals with many typical difficult issues facing libraries today, such as lack of funding and space, it is overcoming those trials by focusing on great reader service and maintaining a devotion to the aims of their library. Well worth a look. But only if you can go down to the basement.

Archives in Köln

I don't know if this shocking incident has appeared on English news: The building of the city archives of Köln / Cologne has collapsed yesterday with probably most of the 18 kilometers of material that has been stored there destroyed. They assume that the cause for the collapse was the construction of an underground line which takes place nearby.

You can read an English article about it on Spiegel international:,1518,611158,00.html

Welcome collection visit

24th February
Wellcome library

I think the question on everyone's lips (and which, thankfully, Sheena was brave enough to ask!) was 'is money any object?'.
The answer was a coy, 'well, not really'. And frankly, it shows.

A bit of background to the Wellcome. The Wellcome Trust was founded in the early 20th century by Henry Wellcome, a self-made head of a massive pharmaceutical company. Wellcome used the wealth amassed by his business to fund research into his interests: medicine, history of medicine and sociological issues relating to the body and health world over, throughout history. Subsequently, the Wellcome collection has been formed: a mixture of galleries, libraries, collections and basically a public educational focus for the trust.

The library itself is basically open to the public as a reference library. New users have to be over 16, have an interest in the subject and provide proof of address. The online catalogues are open to all although there is restricted access to certain materials. For example, the images library has in its collection some sensitive medical images. On request a member of the medical profession may gain access to this but a general browser would not.

The library collections include books, manuscripts, archives, films and pictures. It's housed in a gorgeous1920s building on the Euston road and has had a recent refurbishment: we had a talk in a lecture room next to the glass walled special collections room (about 5 librarians to 1 user! Rows of desks laid out with book cushions) and padded (plush carpet) though some of the book collections to the main library rooms. Users can access free wifi and, despite our guide's protestation that they have a space problem, each shelf has a generous gap for future knowledge and the Wellcome's main closed access storage space is under the main building (really, who can afford central London storage space!).

Having said this, the library is not without its problems: even though Wellcome are solvent enough to catalogue any back catalogue- something which a lot of academic libraries would struggle to finds the funds to do- the cataloguing system itself is at best quirky. Apparently, they use at least 3 different in house cataloguing systems for different collections and within the main medical history collection, the layout of the books is somewhat counter intuitive.

Also, somewhat surprisingly for a medical library, there are access issues for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility because of the way the lifts essentially bypass some of the security doors. These users can only gain access to some of the collection if accompanied by a member of staff. Also on a practical level, there are many tall ladders and books on tall shelves which could potentially be a health and safety issue.

However, all in all, this was on in my top 3 library visits. Of course, this was also helped by the Peyton and Byrne cafe downstairs and some divine cakes....High recommended.

Micol's profile

Hi, my name is Micol and I am the trainee at the Institute of Historical Research (
The Institute was founded in 1921 by A.F. Pollard and used to be where Birkbeck College is now. The IHR’s aim is to promote the study of history and provide a meeting place for researchers. In order to achieve this, numerous seminars and conferences are organised every day, as well as MA courses. The Institute also houses three research centres: the Centre for Metropolitan History (CMH), the Centre for Contemporary British History (CCBH) and the Victoria County History (VCH). More crucially it also has an amazing library!
The collection is mainly focused on printed historical primary sources for the medieval and modern history of European countries and their former colonies. Therefore, we would collect things like diplomatic papers, ecclesiastical records, charters, correspondences and diaries. Apparently it is the best/biggest open access library of this kind in the UK, holding around 177.000 items and over 300 periodicals (needless to say that I’ve copied this from the website). The collection also has substantial holdings of reference works, such as guides to archives, bibliographies, historical dictionaries, atlases and biographical sources. In short, anything that could help a researcher with his work.
Only postgraduates can have access to the library, as well as members of the public who wish to join the Institute. However, the latter are not particularly numerous so most of our readers are MA/Phd students and researchers. The library is for reference only therefore, we cannot issue books and hold only one copy of each item.
As a graduate trainee I am mainly involved in acquisitions, dealing with sellers, processing invoices, check the books in when they arrive, classify them and on some occasions, catalogue them. Luckily a cataloguer checks my bibliographic records so we don’t end up with bizarre entries! I also have to answer enquiries from the readers, which I find particularly interesting and challenging.
I really enjoy working here as it’s a very varied kind of job and I am constantly learning new things. Moreover, I have studied history at uni so reading book reviews of newly published works in this field and finding out what historians are working on is great. I also love the training programme and the visits to very different types of libraries, which are giving me an idea of where I would like to work later on.
Next year I should hopefully start the MA at UCL. I am really looking forward to that.

Victoria's Profile

Hiya, I'm Victoria and I'm a trainee at the Courtauld Institute library.

A bit about the Courtauld library: The Courtauld Institute of Art is a centre for the study of art history and conservation. Hence the majority of library users are Courtauld BA and MA art history students and Courtauld research and teaching staff.

The Library’s collection reflects this, covering the history of western art and comprises books, exhibition catalogues, permanent collection catalogues, sales catalogues, theses, rare books and pamphlets and some online and digital material.

The Institute is based at Somerset House (a pretty swell location) and the library itself is underground, in the old brick vaults which apparently used to be grain storage and cellars. This has the advantage of having no mobile phone reception but also a worrying tendency to flooding and leaks!

Most of the collection is catalogued on the online catalogue however there are still a large number of items only recorded on the old card catalogue. There are no plans for retrospective cataloguing, rather such catalogue such things are catalogued on an as-and-when basis, if a user wishes to borrow them.Most of the collection is borrowable and on the open shelves but some of the older and more precious material is stashed away and staff retrieve material several times a day.

My own background is in art and I’m a total bookworm so I love working here. On a day to day basis I do a bit of everything: issue desk, cataloguing, accessioning, serials and helping sort through some of the special collections.I’m currently torn between applying for library school or returning to art college!

Beyond Google

Months ago in the CILIP gazette I saw a small article by Martin De Saulles at the University of Brighton who has developed a programme called "Beyond Google: Developing Training Skills for Library and Information Professionals". The programme has been funded by the Higher Education Academy Development Fund. He offered to send a copy to the first 20 people who emailed him. I did and he has now asked me for comments. I told him about our training programme and he offered to send more copies if the recipients would give him comments.

Would anyone like a copy with a view to keeping it and in return emailing him some comments. He would like to use them to get funding to develop his programme further

Deborah's Profile

My name is Deborah Butcher, and I’m the graduate trainee at Birkbeck college library ( Birkbeck is a world-class research and teaching institution and the student population is very diverse: a wide variety of programmes is offered, ranging from full and part-time traditional undergraduate and postgraduate degrees to a range of short, certificate-based courses. The college is London’s only specialist provider of evening higher education, and our library’s extended opening hours, and its emphasis on providing and extending its broad range of e-resources, reflect the needs of part-time and distance learners.

The college encourages applications from those without traditional academic qualifications. Every year around 19,000 students study at Birkbeck. A large proportion of our students are mature students, sometimes returning to education for the first time in years – often a daunting prospect but eased by the library’s provision of a wide selection of study skills materials and the provision of inductions and specialist training sessions offered by our subject librarians in course-specific information resources as well as generic sessions offering support in accessing electronic journals, databases and research skills. We also have a strong Access Support section, which provides IT and practical resources and assistance to students with disabilities. The library therefore provides academic support across a variety of arts, humanities, science, vocational subjects and short courses. Birkbeck also welcomes membership applications from a range of affiliate users via the M25, alumni and SCONUL access schemes.

As a trainee at Birkbeck, and part of a large team of staff, I have been fortunate enough to be able to sample the work of each department, spending at least a month with each individual team. However, the bulk of my time is spent within the Resource Management team where I have been responsible for accessioning items, cataloguing theses and reclassifying items. I have also worked extensively with the e-journals assistant, and learned much about managing online subscriptions and troubleshooting access queries. At the beginning of term, I had the opportunity to work on updating the library’s webpage, which I really enjoyed.

On a daily basis, I work on the busy issue desk, dealing with membership and circulations enquiries, and I very much enjoy the interaction with the readers that this provides. I have also given library tours and brief training sessions in the use of the library Opac to groups of students at the beginning of term, which gave me the opportunity to chat with new students and to discover more about their research needs and expectations of an academic library. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to promote the library’s services at the open evening, and to meet and encourage prospective students. I look forward to spending time with the Systems, Reader Services and Subject Librarian teams, and learning more about their roles, over the next few months.

Before my graduate traineeship, I had already spent a year working at City university’s Reader Services’ department. I had also worked for 2 years in public libraries, mainly in the children’s section organising outreach events and homework clubs, liaising with local schools, creating displays. I liked this work because it gave me the opportunity to get to know the individual children and to work as part of a small team, which of course gave me the opportunity to get involved in many different activities.

One of the great things about working at Bloomsbury is the large choice of local parks, where I often go for lunch (weather permitting). Being 2 minutes walk away from the British Library is an added bonus, and it’s always enjoyable to visit new exhibitions after work.

Next year I plan to study the MSc Library and Information Studies at City University. Either that or I might up sticks and quit London altogether (very tempting, and probably the more affordable option)! After gaining my masters, I would like to broaden my experience of different information sectors, and to work perhaps in prison media or health libraries.

Visit to Imperial College Library

On 27th January, we visited the recently refurbished Central Library at Imperial College. We were treated to a comprehensive tour of the library by the Team Leader of Public Services, Angus Brown. I for one gained a valuable insight into some of the challenges such a major project inevitably involves, and a hint of what the academic library of the future might well resemble.

The use of space for level 1 of the library has been totally reassigned over the course of a two year refurbishment costing around £11 million. The library now has a very innovative and contemporary feel, created in part by the modern art donated by artist Bob Brighton, the waffle-like concrete ceiling and the vibrant orange and walnut colour scheme. The environment is bright, enlivening and stimulates interaction. Interestingly, library staff have not felt the need for signage to dictate the way that space is used or defining general codes of conduct – the clever architectural design means that the layout itself guides student behaviour.

The fact that much of the furniture is impermanent means that the library has the flexibility to move and redefine spaces to meet the ever-evolving needs of its users: the sliding mesh screens and the round tables (each linked with their own flat screen PC) that are so conducive to group discussion are all easily dismantled and moved, and the thin walls and glass screens separating the short loan collection are easy to relocate, should the section need to shrink or expand.

The whole of level 1 has a spacious, light feel and also contains several semi-open study capsules (each with their own flat-screen PC) encouraging group discussion and the free exchange of ideas. However, students favouring quiet study can still find plenty of space on the upper levels, where the traditional layout of rows of book shelves, and individual study, spaces can be found.

Downstairs the emphasis is now very much on flexible study, with large sections devoted to group study. The reliance of students on the Internet and various software packages is reflected in the large amount of space devoted to PCs. Wi fi connectivity is available throughout to enable the use of laptops, and around 90 new computers have been installed. There is also a plush 30 seat training room available to support the library’s provision of research and study skills’ training. Seating has also increased generally from 666 to 1090 – Angus identified the increase in seating as one of the most basic yet core aims of the project.

Feedback from student surveys, (assessing student needs and preferences), and the visiting of other libraries that had recently undergone refurbishments informed the new design. Perhaps the most exciting part of the library, for the students as well as for us, was the library café, situated adjacent to the entrance. Open til 11pm most weeknights, the café is in many ways the hub of student activity and offers an array of hot and cold snacks to users working away well into the night – a necessity since the library is open 24 hours a day. The café is separated from the library only by a glass screen, and is more an extension of the study space rather than a separate eatery. Many of the tables are complete with flat screen PCs for group use, and there are also rows of computers for individual use - it’s a surprise to find students actually using the area solely as a space eat and relax!

Visiting the science library of this prestigious college was a real treat, and very different to the arts and humanities libraries where most of us work - in terms of the range of its collections, the length of time materials are kept, the level of funding available and also in terms of the privileges it extends its users.

London Summer Schools


Maybe some of you are interested in the following links:

London Palaeography Summer School

London Rare Books Summer School

The first one is a series of one-day courses which can be booked individually whereas the second one is a one week course (a bit expensive..). The full-day courses of the first one cost £75, there are also some half-day for £50 (one on manuscript making which sounds quite interesting...)

Hilary's profile

My name is Hilary and I am the graduate trainee at The City Law School Library, part of City University. The library is in Gray’s Inn Place, close to the central London law courts and the Inns of Court.

The library’s collection includes: practitioner texts and loose-leaf works, law reports, legal journals, practical skills books, legal encyclopaedias and mooting DVDs. It also makes available electronic law resources to the students, such as Westlaw, LexisNexis and HeinOnline.

The library’s users are mainly students enrolled on City University’s Bar Vocational Course, Legal Practice Course or LLM courses. I have a legal background myself, so the library is the ideal place for me to work!

My main duties are: assisting at the enquiry desk for a few hours each day; carrying out finance related tasks such as maintaining the invoices register and other relevant spreadsheets; dealing with withdrawals of old stock and book returns; and gathering statistics.

I really enjoy being able to help the students with their legal research enquiries and one of the best things about the job for me is that I have been able to help out with training the students on how best to use the legal resources available to them. I also post information on the website for our Law School students: Through this website, our students access legal resources, find out about news and events, and read articles on different areas of the law.

On Fridays I work in the law library at City University’s Northampton Square Library. I assist the law librarian there with preparing material for City University’s legal portal I also sit at the enquiry desk on the law library floor and answer any questions that the students might have about the collection there. Most recently, I have been involved in the marking of online legal resources assessments which test the students on their legal research skills.

In September I am going to do the MSc Information Science course at City University, which I am really looking forward to.

Sophia's profile

My name is Sophia Hendrikx and I am the graduate trainee at City University's main library at Northampton square, Islington. It’s a great location as it’s close to both the West End and the City. My favourite place close to work is the antique market at Camden Passage close to Angel Station. (I especially love to browse the jewellery stalls!)

The library covers a broad range of subjects including informatics, law, engineering & mathematical sciences, arts, social sciences and health sciences. Our readers are mainly the university's own students, both under and postgraduate, and staff, as well as members of the broader academic community. More than 40 per cent of our students are international, the majority of these from outside the European Union and all following a hugely diverse range of courses. This diversity is one of the things I enjoy most about working here; it’s great to have the opportunity to interact with people from hugely varying backgrounds.

At the moment, the library is executing a long term project making a significant portion of its resources, and the majority of its over 1500 current journals available electronically. This is being combined with a large scale refurbishment increasing the study space and providing a mix of group and informal, as well as individual and silent study spaces. Students are able to connect to the university's wireless network throughout the building and the library provides access to electronic information, including databases and electronic journals. In most cases these resources are available on all networked PCs and many of them are available remotely, enabling students to access material whenever and wherever they want without physically having to get hold of it. Phase one of this exciting project was completed last August, just before I started working here; phase two will take place this summer. Although personally I have my reservations about electronic libraries (for starters a library without many printed books is a somewhat sad sight!) it is certainly an exciting project and it is interesting to see it take form.

The digitisation of the library has had a huge impact on my own job as part of the periodicals department. The library offers an extensive collection of journals and is currently aiming to make all of its current subscriptions available online. Starting in January we have begun to make this switch and the vast majority of our subscriptions are now available electronically. Unfortunately the transmission to online resources has also led to the decision to bin part of our printed journals collection, including material that is not available online; to me this is the sad part of the job. My role in all this has been to double-check that our subscriptions have been changed as planned and to check that no mistakes were made when binning part of the collection. (Sadly, sometimes it turns out we have binned exactly what we wanted to keep and vice versa, but overall it seems to have gone according to plan.) I combine this with an extensive stock take of the whole collection. In addition to this, in a typical day I spend two to three hours working on the issue desk, I maintain our (very small) newspaper collection, and gather the readers’ requests for printed journals twice a day. The hours spent working on the issue desk are often my favourite part of the day. I enjoy the interaction with our readers and particularly getting feedback about the new electronic resources.

My professional background is in the rare books trade and when I started my graduate trainee year it was quite a change and I found it hard to adjust sometimes. But so far my experiences here have been very positive and I definitely would like to keep working for university libraries in the future. At some point I intend to take the MSc in Library and Information Studies at City. I have also thought of taking the course at UCL because of the rare books modules it offers. But the material these cover is quite similar to a course I’ve taken a few years back, and in the end City seemed the better option for me, as the course here seems more in touch with recent developments and changes in the information profession.

End of traineeship outing

I thought it would be fun if we could arrange an outing towards the end of our traineeship year. Sometime around the end of June or the beginning of July maybe before we all go our separate ways

Would anyone be interested in a day visit to Oxford. We could take the Oxford tube (a reasonably priced bus from outside Victoria Station), visit the Bodleian (I'm sure we could arrange a visit), have lunch, perhaps try and meet up with some of the Oxford library trainees, have tea, maybe visit one of the other interesting libraries in Oxford (my manager David Clover tells me there are many) and then come home on the Oxford tube.

Does the idea appeal? Or if you like the idea of an outing but not to Oxford post your other ideas

A name for our website


We're trying really hard to get going with our website. And we'd love to make it look nicer and have a new name. The current one is SAStrain, which we think is a bit boring. At our lunchtime-website meeting today we decided that the new name doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with SAS or UoL - we can put that into a subtitle. It would be nice if the name had something to do with knowledge, library, information etc.

Wouldn't it be cool to have a website called a name that you have come up with?? So please think, google, or even use a fancy dictionary in you library and let everyone know your catchy ideas by commenting on this post....


Visit to the Wallace Collection on 17th February

The Wallace Collection is a national museum displaying the works of art collected by the first 4 Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the 4th Marques. It was bequeathed to the nation in 1897. It is therefore publicly funded but has to raise a portion of its running costs itself

The library belonging to Sir Richard Wallace does not form part of the collection, although some of the books from his library have since been acquired.

The present library was originally established as a research library for the curatorial staff. The collection therefore reflects the collections within the museum. It is also a reference library open to the public by appointment. Acquisitions since 2000 are on Opac

The library has two members of staff; the librarian Andrea Gilbert who is currently also the archivist, and a cataloguer. The archives relate to the founders of the collection, the actual collection and the history of the museum itself.

A number of challenges were highlighted during the visit. The first was the acute shortage of space, particularly for the archives. Also the library collection is scattered. Most of it is housed in the offices of the different curators. It is therefore important for visitors to state in advance what they would like to see. The most recent acquisitions are in stacks adjacent to the library.
What is key in locating a book therefore is the date of acquisition.

Because curators are used to having what the reference books close at hand there is also a reluctance for the books to be moved so that they can be arranged more systematically elsewhere.

Another challenge with such a small staff is supervising the library so that the public can have access while at the same time keeping up with other necessary library duties.

Very little of the library collection had been catalogued before Andrea arrived and this is now being done systematically. In the meantime location is key to finding a book. While it is possible to download some records, alot of the books are very specialist and therefore new catalogue records have to be created. The library has adopted the classification system used by the Courtauld, where Andrea used to work, which focusses on the type of artificate e.g porcelain, portraits, gold and silver etc.

An interesting visit that highlighted the pressures of a specialist library with a small staff and conflicting demands.

IT Training Courses

Here the dates for Richard's next HTML and Dreamweaver courses:

HTML/XHTML – Level 1 – Web Development – Tuesday 03/03/09 - 10am-5pm

Dreamweaver 8 – Level 1 – Web Design/Development – Tuesday 10/03/08 - 10am-5pm

The courses are free for Central University staff. However, there is a fee for all other UoL staff:
Attendance on an in-house IT training course = £75 per person, per day (for a participant who is not registered to undertake the ECDL with us).

For any participant registered to undertake the ECDL here at UoL, the costs are:
- £28 for the ECDL registration
- £7 per module test (minimum of 7 = £49)
- £7 per re-sit test (if applicable)
- IT training (optional) £60 per person, per day.

IT training courses include access to our e-learning platform and all materials are provided (in a paper copy manual).

I think whoever has done a course so far will agree that they are fabulous. Richard is very helpful and his enthusiasm for the subject is just great.

Society of Antiquaries

On the 10Th of February we visited the Society of Antiquaries and toured their Library. We were met by the Head of Library and Collections Heather Rowland and welcomed with coffee and biscuits and were given a detailed history of the society and the Libraries role within the society. the society have their home in the north west wing of Burlington house, which they share with the Royal Academy of the Arts and four other national learned societies - the Chemists, Geologists, Astronomers and Linnean.

The society was founded in 1700 and in 1751 received its royal charter which charged it with' the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquaries and the history of this and other countries'. Today the societies member number 2,500 and include many distinguished archaeologists and art and architectural historians.

Heather informed us that the societies original library consisted of a box which they acquired to store their books in, today the Library is very much at the heart of the society. Indeed heather commented that their is no room within the building which does not house part of the collection. The Library holds collection on archeology, architectural history, heraldry and the decorative arts, as well as British local history and genealogy. The society also holds a prestigious collection of paintings and illustrations. There are four members of library staff and while the collection deals with antiquaries it is not itself antiquated and is constantly expanding and being updated with new material.

The Library room itself is a delight to behold. it is a three tired building with ornate marble pillars, beautifully bound books and notable paintings. The Library is open to its fellows and to visitors who have a note of introduction. Students may also use the facility if they have a letter of recommendation from their supervisors, while members of the public may apply to the Library for consideration, if the provide proof of identity.

It was a very interesting visit and Heather was extremely welcoming. I think we all relished the opportunity to visit such a beautiful library. It may also be of interest to note that the society's 'Making History' exhibition is currently on in Stoke on Trent and exhibits rare objects from the societies collection.