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.