Monday, 20 August 2007

Entry #16: The Guildhall Library

Our final class visit was to the Guildhall Library. I have to admit that by this point in the summer I was sick of libraries, museums, and anything scholarly, but I did my best to pay attention and take note of they showed us!

The City of London is a small area within Greater London that is mostly known for being the head of global finance. Within the city are five libraries supported by thirty-three local authorities. These libraries include one dedicated to City business, the Guildhall, and three lending libraries. The largest one is the Guildhall Library, which is a reference library open to the public and specializing in materials about/related to London. Materials are divided into three main sections: Printed Books, with 10 staff members; the Print Room, 4 staff members; and Manuscripts, 10 staff members. There are also 19 service assistants to help patrons gather materials.

The library hasn’t always been in its current location; in fact, it is the fourth building in the library’s history. The first building, built in the 1420’s, was located next the Guildhall Chapel. It later changed locations but was destroyed by the Blitz in December of 1940. The Library was rebuilt in 1974, and has since relocated to the current location.

Guildhall Library has international importance for political and cultural reasons. Most notably, they are the only library to have a complete compellation of London Stock Exchange annual reports (taking up 2 ½ miles shelf space), and they house the Lloyd’s Marine Collection.

The library has several computers with limited Internet access and allows digital cameras for recording use. They use two systems of classification for their materials, the London Classification for London works and the Dewey Decimal System for the rest. Something our guide mentioned that I hadn’t heard before is that their librarians do fee-based work. For example, a member of the community can hire them for £50 an hour to do specialized research. What a great way to make use of librarian research skills! The cost can go even higher than that depending on the services. This helps ensure that the entire staff isn’t always off doing long research projects, making more staff available to help the general public.