I signed up to the ARLG visit to the RADA Library as I love the theatre, and thought it would be very interesting to have the chance to explore the library of one of the most famous actor training grounds. The Library is located at 18 Chenies Street, London, WC1E 7PA, very near in fact to the CILIP headquarters. It was established in 1904, initially via donation, including some from Bernard Shaw. In 1995 the Library was moved to this purpose-built space. In recent years, a cataloguing programme has ensured that all essential stock is now catalogued.
The Library has over 40,000 items including more than 12,000 plays, which form the core of the Library's service and are sorted, in A-Z order by author, on shelves in the middle of the space. Other books relating to particular authors, such as biographies, are shelved with works by that author, while other supporting material such as history and acting/directing manuals are shelved separately. The Library also has a selection of DVDs and videos, a music collection and links to digital resources including Drama Online, Digital Theatre and the RADA Accents Archive.
We were given a talk by the Library Manager, James Thornton. He explained that the Library is for the use of staff and students, with full-time students able to borrow up to 8 items at once. Books must be returned or renewed within 4 weeks. The Library is open six days out of seven during term time, including some late evenings. A cash deposit is required from students before they are able to borrow, which I thought quite surprising. External researchers are discouraged, as the resources are there primarily to support RADA students: they can use them if needed but are charged £10 per day.
After a look around the Library, we were shown some of the archives: RADA has registers of all students dating back to its founding, and we were able to see some of these including the entry for John Gielgud. It's exciting to think how many well-known actors have passed through RADA's - and the Library's - doors.
Thanks to RADA and ARLG for a fascinating visit.