Sunday, 23 September 2012

Visit to Lambeth Palace Library

After I'd finished studying the Librarianship MA at Sheffield, I ended up working in London at a law college - as did three other people from the course. Someone else from the course got a job in Lambeth Palace Library and was kind enough to organise for us to visit (in two separate groups, so that there would be someone left in the office!).

Lambeth Palace Library is in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, and has been described as the earliest public library in England. This is slightly misleading, however, as although anyone who wishes to can consult the collections - there is no need to be a member of a university, for instance - you can't just walk in off the street, you have to provide ID.

The Library holds over 120,000 books, as well as periodicals and pamphlets, mainly relating to the history of the Church of England. There are archival collections too - the records of the various Archbishops of Canterbury over the years are collected here. Collections are held in different storage rooms throughout the Library, and many archives are stored in the Tower, which also contains the in-house conservation department.

Emma and her colleague showed us over the Library, and kindly got some special items out to show us. These included a miniature Bible, an early printed book and a manuscript record. The special collections holdings at the Palace are amazing and I was rather jealous of the librarians who got to work with them! As well as the rooms in which the Library holdings are stored, we also got to see the Reading Room, in which Library users can work. There are over 2000 research visits each year from people wanting to make use of the collections.

Finally, we were shown the beautiful garden, complete with swing. I was really impressed by the Library and amazed by the incredible collections available here.