Day 11: St. Paul’s Cathedral Library


Monday, July 6, 2015

First up this morning was St. Paul’s Cathedral Library with the wonderfully knowledgeable and witty Mr. Joseph Wisdom. Do you remember this building from a previous post?

St. Paul's Cathedral (via K. Emmons)
St. Paul’s Cathedral (via K. Emmons)

Now, let’s take a look at the inside… a professional picture…

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Now pause for a moment and imagine what the library for this sort of building might look like…

Yeah. Now take a look at this:

18th Century. Breathe it in. (via St Paul's website)
18th Century. Breathe it in. (via St Paul’s website)

It’s even better in real life.

Unfortunately, a researcher was using the library when our tour was supposed to begin which delayed the group from entering. Completely understandable (libraries are designed to be used!), though it did shorten our visit since service began at 12:30. BBC was also setting up cameras to broadcast the Tuesday evening service in remembrance of those killed in the 2005 London bombings.

Our group just got a glimpse of the library, but it was enough for me to fall deeply in love with the room and its contents. Joe Wisdom was also a treasure. He spoke quickly and knowledgeably about any and all subjects. Just to sit and listen to him talk longer would be a dream come true. If he does any talks with library associations I will make it a point to attend – he’s that good, and I only met him for 20 minutes.

He’s the type of librarian that I want to be: quirky and interesting, yet knowledgeable and personable.

The building, when its architecture was first conceived, was alien to English eyes. This was because the dome at the top was very Italian. The original building, before 1561, had a spire. The construction of that building began in 1087 and was consecrated in 1240 (Wikipedia). We saw a replica of it in the Museum of London. The new St. Paul’s with it’s dome was constructed after the Great Fire of London. Consequentially, the current library space was not originally created as a library space.

The Cathedral is located on the highest hill in London and right next to the River Thames. The library is at the top of a very tall, spiraling staircase. Joe talked about the appropriate conservation for the collection – and reminded us that there is no single correct answer for libraries. Each library is unique and each collection needs to be considered individually if librarians want to care for them correctly. That’s hard to think about in a day where time is money and things needed to be done yesterday. Getting to know a collection is time consuming, but worth it in order to be a “good” librarian.


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