London Libraries

Research in London is really a redundant term for those of us who love the place and want to learn more about it. Just walking in the streets is a worthwhile experience…however, sometimes we want to dig deeper.  I had that opportunity last week. 

The British Library catalogue is easily accessible on line and you can set up a log-in account and save titles you are interested in looking at.  It is all explained on their website and since I was able to manage it, I am sure others will find it user-friendly too. 

You can pre-register for a Reader’s Card on line, but once at the BL, you must go through a short interview and show a passport and a  document with your home address — I used my Wisconsin driver’s license.  If what you are interested in is easily accessible at other libraries, you might not be allowed to get the card. So be sure whatever you seek is relatively rare.  I asked for two documents which I ‘d never seen in any other library catalogues.  

Once you have the Reader’s Card (it’s good for several months and can be renewed), you have to put all your belongings in  locker except for your notepaper, pencil and/or computer, and maybe your wallet.  Though they said they had clear plastic bags available to carry these things, they’d been all used when I was there, so I filled my pockets.  This is the same system at many libraries to protect their collections — so if you want to carry much, have your own clear bag with you.

Then you proceed to the room you had indicated in your on-line request as your reading room of choice (I picked Humanities 1), choose a seat and note the number, then present your Reader’s Card at the desk for your materials.

In my case the two documents I had requested were only 21 and 12 pages long.  I was amazed — although I am sure if I had read the catalogue info more carefully, I would have known.  Anyway, I finished in about an hour and was most pleased with the experience.  I had lunch in the library cafe, filled with other researchers.  I could have requested something else to study, but they warn it takes up to 24 hours for many old things kept off-site, so being a bit jet-lagged, I decided to take a walk in the fresh air (as if there was any along Euston Road).

The next day I did research at Hertforshire Archives an hour north of London and also at the Vand A Museum Art Library, but I’ll give you the details of those experiences another time. Both have their catalogues on line — and will copy things for you for a small fee.

We are recently back from the tour of charming Heidelberg and a delicious lunch of wurst and beer — that reminded us exactly of home in Milwaukee. Now I need a nap — cheers, Victoria, who is really sorry she can’t include any of her photos yet. Stay tuned.

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