Visit to Lovells LLP

On Tuesday 9th June we visited the library of the London office of Lovells LLP (http://www.lovells.com/Lovells/Homepage.htm), 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 (www.bl.uk)  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 fa├žade 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