The Middle Temple Law Library is housed in one of the four Inns of Court in England, this particular library specializes in American and International Law. As I have stated Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of court and calls barristers to the bar, these organizations date back to the Knights Templar (prior to 1500). There are several famous literary figures that are associated with these organizations; for example Charles Dickens was a member of Middle Temple, and Bram Stoker was a member of the Inner Temple (another one of the four). Each Inn houses its own library in order to better accommodate the barristers.
The building the library is housed in has survived since the 1600s, and in 1641 the library was established by Robert Ashley. The library faces some serious issues which are common to many libraries both in the United Kingdom and in North America, first is that there is a lack of space to house printed materials, and two almost everything is available digitally so what is the point of hanging on to all of these printed materials? The library actually keeps all previous editions of law textbooks for precedence, which as any student knows textbooks take up a lot of room.
There is no classification system in place at Middle Temple Law Library books are shelved alphabetically by author, additionally there are some basic subject divisions. One interesting feature of the library is that there are no labels on the spines of books like we commonly see in North American libraries, this is due to the fact that the benchers, who are the most senior members of the Inn simply do not like the look of the labels on spines and instead want the library to look and feel like a “gentleman’s library”. The archive at Middle Temple only collects institutional papers.
The Middle Temple Law Library has a fantastic online catalog they use international subject headings for easier access and absolutely everything in the collection from rare books to contemporary journals is available to view in the catalog. There is no lending of books at the library, however members of the Inns may take textbooks out overnight. An interesting fact about the Middle Temple Law Library is that there are two royal benchers per Inn, the Middle Temple claims Prince William! Prior to Prince William becoming a bencher at Middle Temple the royal benchers were Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.
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