On Tuesday I took the afternoon off work to attend a CILIP in Surrey visit to the Library at St Paul's Cathedral. I actually looked at cathedral libraries and archives for my Masters dissertation, so I was really excited at getting the chance to see one. We were shown around by the Librarian, who took us up to the Triforium level behind the South West Tower, where the Library is located.
The original Library was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666: though it was not housed in the Cathedral itself, it was located nearby, and fell victim to the blaze. A few manuscripts were saved, however, and were taken to the new Library, which now contains over 30,000 items. The Library is located in a room designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and the wall carvings make reference to the ecclesiastical subject of the tomes contained within. The Library's collections, which relate to Wren, the building of the new St Paul's, the history of the Church and the Church in the city, can be used by anyone who needs to make use of them.
In some ways the visit was more of a behind-the-scenes tour, as we got to see parts of St Paul's hidden from the average visitor, including the gallery at the back used for TV cameras during special events, the collection of historic fonts, and the large model of one particular design for St Paul's. It was fascinating to be able to learn about this unique library and the space in which it is housed.