The National Art Library is located inside the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. The library was founded in 1837, which predates the museum, and moved to its current location in the 1950s. To use the library a person must register as a library reader. Doing so allows the user to obtain six books or three special collection books at a time. All material must be viewed in one of the reading rooms of the library and books cannot be borrowed. The main audiences of the library are post-graduates or curators of the museum doing research.
This library was surprising to me due to the size and nature of the collection. The library’s collection is mainly on fine and design arts. It is also the curatorial staff of the museum regarding the art of the book. In the library collection are 8,000 periodicals with 2,000 being current periodicals. These periodicals are bound for safety and preservation purposes. The library also has about 3,000 artist books in their collection. Materials are not just in English but in many languages.
The most interesting thing to me was how this library arranges the material. Some materials are arranged by subject but most are arranged on the shelves by size. This forces the library to have materials with like subjects in different areas in the stacks. Materials can be located quickly due to press marks on the materials and finding lists throughout the stacks. One of the books we were shown was an original manuscript of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. The book has been placed on large paper and has a relaxed binding. It was awesome to see how the library has preserved the book and it was nice of them to actually let us touch this book and others like it.