Visit to IALS Library

Yesterday myself and the other graduate trainees went to visit IALS, which is just off Russell Square, housed in a large ‘Brutalist’ style building, designed by the same architect who designed the National Theatre. (It moved there around 1976.)

We were shown around the Institute’s law library by David, the Deputy Librarian, and attended two sessions, one on IALS’s Document Delivery Service and one on helping users with special needs. It was an interesting and informative visit, (with yummy biscuits included!) and thanks go to David, Adam and Catherine for taking the time to show us around the library, talk to us and tell us more about their roles within IALS.

  Here is some information in (hopefully!) easy-to-read bullet points from the tour:

·         The IALS Library has recently increased its opening hours so that it is open Mon-Fri ‘til 11pm and on Sunday as well.

·         The Library for IALS is actually housed on the 4th floor- this is unusual, as most academic libraries are situated on the ground floor, and it means that students have to travel downwards to 3 separate floors in order to access the collections.

·         Main users: Main users for the IALS Library are PG students only- e.g. LLM (Masters in Law) students, PhD students and academics. IALS get around 2000 students p/a, including those from Kings, SOAS, UCL and LSE.

·         Virtual subscriptions and databases are provided for users

·         Access is also available to barristers, solicitors and big law firms. (These are known as ‘commercial users.’)

·         There is no free access- you have to pay to access the Library. (From £26 for a day pass.)

·         Interestingly, David told us that the needs and wants of academic and PhD students drive what they buy in terms of collection stock.

·         Also, limited space means that one of their computer rooms becomes a training room in the Autumn Term, offering sessions and 1-2-1s on Westlaw, Lexis Nexus and other e-resources. There is a strong emphasis on training and web skills- which David also thinks are key skills for the modern information professional/librarian.

·         Because of the high level of enquiries, there are 2 staff at the enquiry desk at all times. There is also an extra member of staff to provide LLM services. IALS also has a high-in-demand Short Loan Collection which, as David informed us, ‘provides its own dynamic.’

·         IALS Library also provides self-service machines which give students greater flexibility in terms of being able to issue and return books themselves

·         The ground floor of the Library has just been refurbished and there are plans for all the floors to be done in the next 7-8 years.

·         Also hoping to set up a virtual accounts system for photocopying and printing in the summer

·         IALS Library has a unique classification system (neither Dewey nor LoC) but it has been in place since 1950 so, as David suggested, it is a little worn in places!

·         Collection covers: digests, legislation, subsidiary legislation. It is IALS’s aim to collect all the major sets of legislation, textbooks and journals, as it is a national resource. Interestingly, this means that it never disposes of anything- which consequently means it also has problems with space! The library has already been extended to try and accommodate this, and mobile shelving (i.e. rolling stacks) are in place, but more space is still needed as the collections are continually growing.

·         99% of stock is on site.

·         Each floor has a display of the most recent issues of popular journals so that academics can scan them and students can keep up to date. This seems particularly popular with students and academics.

·         Wi-Fi runs throughout the Library and the café

·         Most of the LLM students are from overseas

·         The IALS building is actually a listed building, which means that redecorating extensively is restricted. (E.g. no air conditioning is allowed.)

·         They also have an ILLs (Interlibrary loan) service.

Notes on following librarianship as a career

David raised some intriguing and useful points on following librarianship as a career, and on choosing to undertake a course in librarianship/information studies. They run as follows:

·         There is a lot of variety in librarianship and a lot of variety in (day-to-day) tasks

·         Distance learning (e.g. at Aberystwyth) is always an option for librarianship courses, and in many ways it may be more affordable

·         You do not need to have a legal background to work for the IALS Library. A lot of graduate trainees go on to other law libraries and law firms, but also art libraries and reference libraries.

·         At the moment, academic libraries are tending to get rid of senior staff and keep on junior staff, so this (hopefully!) lessens the competition for jobs.

It was really interesting to see so many aspects in a large-scale law library, situated in the heart of London. It was encouraging to know that IALS’s main priority is meeting the needs of its students, and that support is provided for those with special needs, learning difficulties, or chronic illnesses. We also had an opportunity to network and chat to the other graduate trainees at IALS. I particularly enjoyed the sessions we attended on Document Supply and dealing with users with special needs. I thought they were very detailed and well-presented, and they gave us an added insight into the day-to-day roles of some of the information staff there. I’m looking forward to the other trips we have planned so that I can compare and contrast their different services, training, and priorities.

-Eleanor Keane, 23/1/2013

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