I didn't know what to expect from our visit to the National Maritime Museum, but I trully enjoyed myself. The Caird Library, which is part of the museum, was an excellent library. The library opened to the public in 1937 by the generous benefactor of Sir James Caird. Since it is part of the National Maritime Museum, the library receives public funds from the government. Today, it is the largest maritime reference in the world with around 3,000 to 4,000 patrons a year.
The Caird Library is divided into two parts, the regular library and the archives. Together, they hold books, records, manuscripts, pamphlets, charts, and tons of reference books on maritime for a total of four miles of shelving. The library has a total of twelve staff members who do varies jobs. Some manuscripts and such are on a digital archive, but not everything. There is two off site locations for all the manuscripts and such to be stored.
At the moment, the Caird Library is in the process of moving into a new building that is being built. Instead of being open for six days, they're only open for three. It's not the best situation, but when the library is officially moved, it sounds like it will be much better. Instead of ordering a book and waiting three to four days for the book to be delivered, most of the collection will be on site, so it will only take about one hour for the book to be brought up. There will also be more room for people to sit and be in a central area, not in a far corner of the library. The official opening of the Caird Library won't be until next summer of 2011.
So far, this has been my favorite library to visit, because the library and people are more relaxed for a research facility. At some of the other libraries, the patron has to sign up for a library card, be interviewed, and explain why they want to see the book in question. At the Caird Library, anybody can come in and ask to see something. People can handle rare documents as long as they're careful. To me, that's more welcoming than having to explain why you want to see a document. I understand why they do that, but it is a little too formal. Also, at this library, we were shown some documents and books and told about their importance. The articles that were selected were interesting, and we actually got to hold them. It's always fun when you can hold the object. The Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum was a great library and anybody looking for a specific thing about maritime history won't have a hard time seeing the document.
To learn more about the National Maritime Museum and the Caird Library, please visit www.nmm.ac.uk
Photograph provided by Wikipedia