Tuesday, July 12, 2011

London Library

The London Library is a subscription library that was founded by Thomas Carlyle in 1841. The library is the largest independent private lending library in the world with 97 percent of the books available to be loaned. To use the library a person needs to become a member which then gives them open access to about 1 million books. These books include 30,000 rare books, 2,500 periodicals, and 750 current periodicals. About 8,000 new books are added each year in fifty different languages. The books are placed on about fifteen miles of shelving. Books cover topics from the 16th Century to the present and include the subjects of: Arts & Humanities, History, Literature, Biology, Art, Science & Miscellaneous, and Religion. Currently there are 7,000 members and 150 corporate institutions. Early members included Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, George Eliot, TS Eliot, and Virginia Woolf.

In the beginning the library was located in a rented town house. Rapid growth occurred in the library and expansion was necessary. The library has expanded the building a few times with the most recent just being completed a couple of months ago. The library now consists of four different areas with plenty of room for further acquisitions.

The most interesting thing about the London Library to me was that they do not use the Dewey Decimal Classification or Library of Congress Control Numbers. All books are arranged and classified according to subjects. At first I was a little skeptic about the subject shelf arrangement but once the system was explained more it made sense. The books are classified by a main subject such as art or science and then placed in a lower subject classification and placed on the shelf. Members of the staff and subscribers seem to really like this classification better and think that it is easier than the other systems.

Another really interesting thing about the library is that no book has a dust jacket and all books are hardbacks. Since most books are available for loan, any paperback book is converted into a hardbound one which is more durable. All of the books look like they are from the early 1900s or earlier due to the fact that all books are intermingled regardless of age.

I really liked this library and the systems they have in place. This system might not be the best for all libraries but it is beneficial to the members of staff and to the patrons of the library which is the most important.

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