Thursday, 15 July 2010

The London Library

The London Library was created out of angst over the British Museum Library. Thomas Carlyle hated how he could not bring home the books he wanted to research from the British Museum Library. In response to that, in 1841, Carlyle created the London Library and allowed people to check the books out. Today, it is the world's largest independent lending library.

The library is still a lending library, but the members have to pay for the services. Depending on the cost, it can range from £16.60 per month or £32.90 per month to use the library. Yes, that is a lot of money for anybody to spend, but the cost is worth it to use the library if you're a serious researcher, writer, or enjoyer.

It's worth paying the money though because of the library itself. They have over 1 million books and 97% of the books can be checked out while 3% of the rare books have to be read under close supervision. Books that date back to the 1700s are shelved with all the new books and anybody can read them and take them home (as long as they are careful). The books all looked the same because they are hardcovered with no dust jackets. Since it's a lending library, the books need to last, hence, the use of the hard covers. Unique to this library, and it seems to have worked for over a hundred years, is the classification system. The books are divided into subject, such as Art, and arranged in alphabetical order by the author's last name. And there's no stickers to indicate either! I've never heard of it done that way before, but it works for them.

Another cool thing about the London Library is that they have their own conservation room. The conservation room takes care of not just the rare books but also the regular books that need to be updated. Six to ten books a day are fixed and the conservation room will bind and rebind over 4,000 books a year!!!

For the outside, the London Library doesn't look like much but on the inside, it's huge!! The library is four different buildings put together. The library had a complete update which connected all the buildings and gave the library more room to move collections back to their original section. The main part of the library stacks is from the original 1930s building which used steel graded floors and steel book cases. You can see three stories up or down through the floor which was awesome. It felt great to be in the stacks and with the books, not separated out. I guess that's one of the best things people enjoy about the London Library is being with the books and able to check them out.

The best part of the visit was being able to hold a book written by Henry VIII, published in 1521, denouncing Luther. The cover was beautiful, even though it was so old. To hold something that old and of great importance was incredible! The binding needed to be fixed, but I'm sure that when it's done, the members will be able to read it in the Reading Room, which is also beautiful. Even though the members pay for the library services, the staff are super sweet and willing to go the extra mile to help a member answer a question. If you need research done and have the money, the London Library is the place to go!

To learn more about the London Library, please visit

Photograph provided by the blogger.

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