Monday, 3 June 2013

CILIP CDG Visit to the London Transport Museum Library

Since moving to London over two years ago I’ve developed something of an obsession with the Tube. In fact one of my more geeky pursuits involves trying to visit every single station on the Underground network. Therefore, when an opportunity arose to organise a trip to the London Transport Museum Library for the Career Development Group London and South East, I jumped at the chance.

We visited the Library in the afternoon on the 22nd of May, meeting in the Museum’s foyer and admiring the eclectic range of transport-inspired gifts in the process. Librarian Caroline Warhurst met us at the entrance and took us to up to the Library, a pleasant space at the back of the building.

The Library is primarily used by museum staff and Transport for London staff, but external enquiries come from students and researchers as well as the media and the general public. External users need to make an appointment, because of the size of the library and staffing levels. Enquiries have seen a boost this year because of the 150th anniversary London Underground celebrations.

Like many specialist libraries, the LTM collection has been catalogued using a unique classification system and has items covering public transport in general, though the bulk of the collection relates to transport in London. As the responsibilities of Transport for London (and its preceding bodies) have changed, so has the nature of the collection: it now holds material on taxis, river taxis and even the new cable car (the Emirates Air Line).

Caroline kindly got out a number of fascinating and often unique items to show us. As well as specialist transport-related periodicals (some of which I wouldn’t be surprised to see on Have I Got News for You one of these days), there were train timetables, staff registers and photographs of stations and vehicles. One of my favourite items was the personal scrapbook of Frank Pick, one of the most important individuals in the history of the London Underground, which showed him to have extremely eclectic interests.

After the visit I had a look round the museum, which has been refurbished since I last visited as a child. I found it really interesting and it was good to know that the Library’s collections have helped staff to research the exhibitions.

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