Wednesday, July 1, 2015
The London Library is a bit smaller in size and scope than other libraries, such as the British Library.
The London Library was founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle who was unhappy that he could not take home any of the books at the British Library (then the British Museum Library) to use. The London Library was his response, because it acts as a lending library. The London Library is a member-only library. Anyone can become a member though!
Some of their most famous members include: Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Henry James, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Birginia Woolf, Isaiah Berlin, Laurence Olivier, Agatha Christie, and Harold Pinter. Four Poets Laureate and and nine Noble prize-winners have used their collections. There are currently around 7,000 from all ages and backgrounds. (History of the London Library)
Members can check out the majority of the books located within the building. Some of the reference books must stay in the building, but I find this normal for most library collections. The London Library collections number around 1 million volumes, with 8,000 titles added yearly. The stacks are open to roaming members, though!
The books on the shelves are arranged by subject according to its own classification scheme. All books are hardback on the shelves and none contain dust jackets. This means that space is conserved and mold has no chance to grow between a jacket and binding. On the day we visited, the weather was stifling and hot. The library, like most places in the United Kingdom, did not have an air conditioner and therefore opened the windows to ventilate the space. These books need room to breathe on the shelves due to the changing weather climate.
The building used to be an old house and has been added on several times to house the growing collections. The process is ongoing. The London Library has plans to continue refurbishing all areas where books are held and increase the number of reader’s desks from 55 to 200.
Personally, I ADORED this library. It was intimate, yet professional; cozy, yet spacious; stereotypical, yet on the cutting edge. Our host showed us the newly renovated rooms and updated website. I loved everything about the place!