Wiener Library

The Wiener Library is located in an unassuming building in Russell Square, however is it home to one of the largest collections of Holocaust materials in the world. The Wiener Library has received international recognition for the collection and research it houses. The library also houses the worlds oldest collection of Holocaust literature with materials dating back to the 1920s. Alfred Wiener was the founder of the collection and one of the first to write critically about Mein Kampf; Hitler’s memoir. In 1914 Wiener was drafted into the army, his experiences there shaped his early writing career. Wiener wrote about issues in the Middle East, particularly the creation of a Jewish state, and he was also concerned with the rise of anti-Semitism following World War I. 

After Hitler came to power Wiener left Germany and headed to Amsterdam taking the majority of his collection with him. As the collection grew it began to resemble a library and others began to use its resources. But Wiener and his collection were not safe in Amsterdam and in 1939 he fled to London again taking most of his collection along. During World War II Wiener worked for the United States government in New York, sadly Wiener’s family was imprisoned during the war, and while his three daughters survived his wife died shortly after she was liberated. Following the war Wiener supplied information for the Nuremberg Trials and helped in reuniting families and advocating for restitution. 

The Wiener Library has its own unique shelving system and cataloging system as well, materials in the collection are organized primarily by subject. The library contains materials not just from Jewish groups but from all those who were persecuted during the rule of the Third Reich. The library is adding materials faster than ever as Holocaust survivors age and want their stories to be represented. The library is adding many audio and audiovisual materials as well. One of the newest areas of the collection are materials relating to genocides besides the Holocaust from around the world. The library was moved to its current location in 2011, there are over 70,000 books in the collection, 2,000 documents, and 17,000 photographs. The catalog is fully available online and all materials in the collection are available to be viewed in the reading room. Around 15% of the collection is housed in off-site storage. 

For someone with a background in History such as myself and as someone who has studied the events surrounding World War II extensively I was very excited to have a once in a lifetime opportunity to take advantage of the primary sources available at the Wiener Library, the staff were extremely friendly and helpful and I was able to look through some great material when I returned to the library to conduct my own research. 

For more information about the Wiener Library click here

The reading room at the Wiener Library

The reading room at the Wiener Library



Barbican Library

The Barbican Library is basically the public library of the city of London, this poses unique challenges for the library and influences the types of services that they offer to their patrons. it is the highest issuing library in London and the eleventh highest issuing library in the United Kingdom. The Barbican Library, which opened in 1982 is part of the larger Barbican Center which is a cultural and art center which is funded by the London Corporation. The library was constructed using tons of concrete which is not conducive to housing a library, additionally the open floor plan of the building carries a great deal of noise from the lower floors. The Barbican Library, much like the British Library was built over plague pits and the entire area was completely destroyed during World War II bombings. 

The children’s center at the Barbican caters to children aged 0-14, they are allowed to check out a maximum of twelve items and they also are not able to be charged fines. The fiction section is separated into age groups, which most libraries refrain from doing due to the overall cost involved. The age ranges are 5-9, 10-12, and 13-14, the non-fiction section is arranged in Dewey order. The Barbican also has a growing graphic novel section and houses 1,500 children’s e-books.  

The oldest book that is available to be borrowed from the Barbican was printed in 1738, and the best part is that you do not have to be a resident of the City of London in order to receive a library card. However like in the children’s center only twelve materials may be checked out at a time. There is a charge applied if a library user wishes to check out CDs or DVDs, this provides a revenue stream for the library. There are thirty-five full time staff at the Barbican, they also have stock librarians and are one of the last libraries to do so. 

The Barbican Library has within it an award winning music library, which is used primarily by student researchers and musicians. There are over 9,000 music books, and 1,600 scores which cover multiple genre, composers and periods in history. There are also electronic keyboards that are available for use (with headphones). The staff at the Barbican was absolutely wonderful, they were so full of energy and life and it was a pleasure getting to speak with them about their wonderful library. 

For more information about the Barbican Library click here!

Entrance to the Barbican Library

Entrance to the Barbican Library


British Library

The British Library is a legal deposit meaning that it receives a copy of everything published in the United Kingdom, every newspaper, phone book, etc. if its published this library gets a copy. As one might expect there is a massive of influx of materials into the library each year, in fact the collection grows by at least nine miles annually. Astonishingly only 20% of the collection is printed materials. The current British Library building was opened to the public in 1997, and is the most expensive public building in London. The library has 300 miles of underground shelving to hold its materials, despite this massive amount of storage 40% of the libraries collection is housed off site. The materials which are rare or in high demand stay on site for researchers and the general public to use, the remainder is sent to off site storage. The library was built over top of plague pits, which were massive graves used during the Bubonic Plague that devastated the entire continent of Europe and killed nearly a third of the population. Every time something was excavated from the site it caused delays and ran up building costs. The library also has an under croft which is an empty space below the basement which is used to prevent flooding. 

The British Library houses eleven reading rooms, each reading room hosts a specific subject. There is an automatic book retrieval system in place at the library and on average it takes about seventy minutes to receive materials from the main library, for materials stored in offsite storage it could take up to two days to receive materials. The British Library uses custom shelf marks and thus has a cataloging system that is completely unique to their facility.  One really cool feature that the British Library offers is in their business resource center, not only do they host workshops but there is a skills swap center as well. For example if a graphic designer needs a bookcase built and a carpenter needs a poster designed they can each post their skills and needs at the library and exchange services! Any materials that the library has in their collection which were printed prior to 1850 must be read in the rare manuscript room, anything in the collection printed after 1850 may be used in any of the other reading rooms. The King’s Library Collection which is housed at the British Library suffered massive destruction when it took a direct bomb hit in 1940. 

One of the most amazing experiences at the British Library is the treasures room, there you can see materials that span the course of history, from rare manuscripts to Gutenberg Bibles, to the original lyrics to the Beatles’s songs written on napkins and scrap pieces of paper as well as the Magna Carta; there are so many artifacts which I was nearly shaking at the thought of being so close to!

For more information about the British Library click here!

British Library King's Collection

British Library King’s Collection

Stowe School Library

Stowe School is a private boarding school on a massive swath of land in the English countryside and it is easily one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been in my entire life. The grounds are home to beautiful walking trails and a few dozen temples which were an absolute joy to explore! One of the most fascinating things about this tour was the fact that I needed to keep reminding myself that this beautiful property was a working high school and that students came to this amazing place everyday to receive their education Our hosts at Stowe School were gracious enough to let us tour the grounds and treated us to tea and cookies before our tour of the library. 

The history of the Stowe School library is fraught with difficulties and loss, in 1922 the property was bought with the intention to convert it into a school, the property is absolutely massive with the main house containing 400 rooms and sitting on 1000 acres of land. In May of 1923 ninety-nine boys began school at Stowe in a program to study art and architecture. By the 1960s the school was struggling financially and in 1989 the gardens on the estate were sold to the National Trust.Today the Stowe House Preservation Trust helps to fund the school.

The space that is now the library was originally the ballroom in the 1730s, in 1760 the space was divided into a dining and drawing room. In 1797 the space was transformed into the library and had remained a library ever since. The Duke who originally owned the property was fiscally irresponsible and a visit from Queen Victoria to the estate bankrupted him. In 1848 the gardens were sold off and in 1849 the manuscripts were sold. When the property was purchased in 1922 everything in the library was sold off, as of today the only original elements of the library are the mahogany bookshelves and the fireplace surrounds.

The library serves the students of Stowe School by teaching library and research skills, and is staffed from 8:30 am-9 pm everyday. Both individuals and entire classes make use of the library. Interestingly because if the massive selling off of library materials many of the building records are sitting in the archives of the Huntington Library in California where they remain largely uncatalogued. 

For more information about Stowe School Library click here!

Stowe School Library

Stowe School Library


Bodleian Library

I have always wanted to travel, to see the world and experience new cultures and as a student of history and art history actually see firsthand the things that I have studied for so many years. Finding myself in London was a surreal experience, I had to keep reminding myself that this was actually happening and not just some fantastic dream. The first excursion that the class participated was a trip to Oxford, and our first stop was the Bodleian Library. Walking through the courtyard I was awestruck by the sheer size and elegance of the complex, entering the library itself the detailing of the architecture was absolutely astounding to look at, it did not hurt to lean that the room where we began the tour in was used as the hospital of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. 

The tour guide was enthusiastic and gave us a very thorough history of the Bodleian and the contributions that have influenced the Library and Information Science Field since its inception. It was Thomas Bodley who refurbished the library following the Reformation, due to the fact that the collection was increasing rapidly in size the books were stored vertically instead of horizontally thus allowing for an increased amount of storage space. Books were also stored away from the walls in floor to ceiling bookshelves for the first time which prevented damage from moisture;this also led to the creation of gallery spaces which could be locked from below thus eliminating the need to chain the books. 

Thomas Bodley reinvented the cataloging system to be able to keep better track of the ever increasing quantity of books, Bodley also sent a copy of his catalog to every European university so that all academics would be able to familiarize themselves with it and make use of the libraries vast resources. The first librarian appointed at the Bodleian was Thomas James, he was responsible for looking after all of the work that took place at the library, James also took it upon himself to archive all of Bodely’s letters. 

There were many innovations that took place at the Bodleian over the years; for example the library was lit with electric lights in 1929, there was also an underground storage system built in 1912, poor but bright young boys who later came to be called Bodley’s Boys were handpicked by the librarian to retrieve books from storage and deliver them to the scholars. In exchange for their work they were tutored by the head librarian himself, thus gaining an education that would have been otherwise unavailable to them. The New Bodleian was built in the 1930s and was designed by the same man who built the famous British telephone booth and holds five million books; in 2000 the library expanded again this time outside of Oxford.   For more information about the Bodleian Library click here!


Bodleian Library reading room.

Bodleian Library reading room.

Final Reflections

Across the semester my knowledge of the LIS profession has evolved dramatically. I came into this program with no idea what it was like to work in a library or information setting or what was expected of me as a future LIS professional. 

I am very thankful that I have learned so much this semester about what exactly the LIS profession is, what it does, and just how important it is for the community it serves. 

My ideas about working in the LIS profession have changed as well, I have greatly enjoyed working in a public library setting and would like to explore this career field further. 

One of the most important things I bring to a future employer is the desire to help people. I really enjoy getting to interact with patrons and help them find what it is they are looking for, be it help with the computers or help finding the latest romance novel! I am excited to continue learning about the LIS profession and I feel that going forward I am prepared for a career in Library and Information Science.