Istituto Marangoni library

A small group of the trainees visited the library at the Istituto Marangoni, the international Fashion and Design School, at its London campus on Tuesday 8 November. We were met by Katherine Rose who took us through to the building, past groups of trendy-looking people and rotating red sofas, to the library. The library itself is just one narrow room with huge windows on one side looking out onto the street and shelves filled with bright, shiny books and magazines on the other. Katherine is the only librarian at the London campus (there are two other campuses of the Istituto Marangoni in Milan and Paris) and her attention was needed by some students as soon as we arrived, while the trainees had a browse around the shelves.

When we sat down to talk, Katherine explained the London campus had been there for six years and until she arrived in Summer 2010 there was no librarian, no collection development plan, no classification system and no thought about the library at all. In the past few years the Istituto’s programmes have been validated by Manchester Metropolitan University and one of the conditions for validation was that the library be brought up to standard.

Katherine talked us through her first year at the library, from choosing and implementing a library management system, writing and updating the collection development plan, cataloguing and classifying the entire collection from scratch and trying to persuade students unused to the idea to use the catalogue. It was interesting to hear from a solo librarian and there are definite advantages and disadvantages to working alone in a library. The best part appeared to be having the opportunity to try your hand at every element of librarianship; however the downside was that Katherine rarely left the library for more than ten minutes each day and could never attend external training or personal development events. She did talk about the online networking that a lot of solo librarians take part in and that most of her contact with other people in the profession was through email, forums or blogging.

It was evident from the times that Katherine had to go and help students that she clearly knew her readership and collections extremely well, in total there were approximately 1,400 books and a large magazine collection. The large fashion and history of fashion collection is supplemented by books on history of art, architecture, interior design, graphic design, marketing and fashion business. Katherine also spoke about the three specialist e-resources that she had chosen to invest part of the budget in. The library is currently reference only for the 600 or so undergraduate students but as the institute now aims to validate its postgraduate courses, the library must make a percentage of its collection available for loan which means another large project for Katherine in the near future.

Katherine finished her MA in Library and Information Studies from UCL in 2010, so we took the opportunity to pick her brain about courses and the application procedure. It was incredibly helpful to have her and Anna – the other Courtauld graduate trainee and a recent graduate of the City course – there to give us advice about those particular Library and Information Science courses. Katherine spoke about her experiences at UCL and which modules she particularly enjoyed.

Our visit to the Istituto Marangoni ended with biscuits and a look around the workrooms and studio of the fashion school. As all of the trainees are currently working in small to medium sized libraries, it was incredibly interesting visit: the size of the collection, the subject matter covered and the recent history of the library was completely different to what we were used to. It was also insightful to hear from a new professional working as a solo librarian and was a thought-provoking way to start our series of visits.

Jen (Courtauld Institute of Art)

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