Westminster Reference Library

Westminster Reference Library is tucked away behind the National Portrait Gallery but it is one of the busiest public libraries I have ever been in.
Image via Flickr user Jamie Barras.
It is a hidden gem in the West End that not only houses an incredible collection of print and electronic resources, but it is also a hub of culture and innovation with rolling exhibitions, installations and live events. As a reference library it has had to think on its feet to keep people coming through the doors in recent years, due to the availability and dependence on increasing online resources. It offers free WiFi for laptop and smart device users, and PC’s to connect to the internet for anyone else who wants to get online. Its core subject areas of Art & design, Business, Law, Performing Arts and UK Official Publications are comprehensive and the whole collection is used imaginatively to support the many live events that also take place. The library hosts group study space that can be booked, a suite of PC’s that allow access to a wide range of online databases, in-house only resources and mailing lists that would be otherwise inaccessible to small businesses and people starting up on their own. The library has moved on from being strictly reference only and has a collection of around 10,000 loanable items and has an incredibly knowledgeable staff who are on hand to advise and help with queries.

This is the library I remember of my youth in terms of feel and staff that instil you with the confidence that they can find a solution to any query. Nostalgia is often the word used when people discuss their love of libraries or indeed the reason people will fight to keep them running. If nothing else this library is a testament to how public libraries should adapt for the future and the attitude they should adopt when trying to demonstrate how a community will suffer without it. The library answers to its user group which is truly eclectic and I would imagine, demanding with a footfall averaging 1,000 people a day to use the range of services it offers; it cannot be denied that this is a public library that goes above and beyond expectations.

Image via Flickr user Jamie Barras. 

Anna (Courtauld)

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