Monday, August 8, 2011

King’s College Maughan Library

main entrance to the Maughan
During the final week of class we visited three sites.  The first was the Maughan Library, one library of King’s College.  It’s located on the Strand Campus, which was about a 10 minute walk from our apartments.  King’s College was founded in 1829 as a “godly institution.”  University College London had been founded as a secular institution of higher education and King’s was specifically founded to keep religion central to education.  Theology was one of the central courses of study, and many ministers were trained at King’s. 

King’s College has four campuses spread throughout London, and each campus had its own library until recently.  The building which currently houses the Maughan Library was acquired by the College to be a central library to house most of the collections in one place.  The College now has six libraries, several of which are much smaller than the Maughan and which focus on the sciences and medicine.  The Maughan specializes in humanities, engineering, and law.  It also houses the Foyle Special Collections.  The building has a long history of public service; it is the former Public Records Office.  As such it was built specifically to store records and information.  The Chancery Lane PRO Building was completed in the 1850’s.  It was the first fire proof building in the UK. 

The land is owned by the Crown, and it is leased to the College by the Corporation and the City of London.  Since it is a historic site restrictions were placed upon future improvements.  Any alterations had to be approved by English Heritage, the Corporation, and the City of London.  The original building was very soundly built and was designed to hold rooms and rooms of books and paper records.  The library has benefited from the original construction and has not had to reinforce any parts of the building.  The library has complied with all the regulations and has only made what changes it deemed necessary, such as installing elevators. 

The Maughan Library contains over 300 computer terminals, and has enough seating to accommodate over 1,000 readers.  The library holds over ¾ of a million volumes in all its collections.  11,000 students study at the Strand Campus each year, and the library receives especially heavy traffic during exam weeks, as does any university library.  The library is part of the University of London system so any students from the University can use the collections, and King’s students can use other system libraries. 
The library is trying to increase its accessibility and appeal to students.  The library currently has one café in the basement, and it is the only place in the building where food and drink are allowed.  They are looking to add more such spaces on the other floors, and adding more social areas, for group meetings and phone use.  The library recently made the transition to self-service.  All their items were fitted with RDIF tags, and they are trying to add more self-serve stations to ease checkout.  The staff is trying to increase their digital presence as well.  Physical buildings are also being upgraded.  The Waterloo Campus Library (where we have been staying) is undergoing major refurbishment works this summer.  All the libraries are working together to make system-wide improvements.

After the introduction to the library we visited the Foyle Special Collection and saw several rare and important items.   We saw a 1493 Nuremburg Chronicle, a 17th C manuscript of a doctor’s notebook which was full of his own illustrations, and Florence Nightingale Crimean War Handbook which she personally presented to the St. Thomas Hospital campus.  They also had a copy of the Pennsylvania State Charter printed and signed by Benjamin Franklin.  The collection also has modern items, such as a signed and annotated copy of Alan Ginsberg’s poems which he presented to a faculty member in the 1980s. 

The final part of our visit was a tour of the highlights of the building.  We saw some of the original slate and metal shelves that were used by the Public Records Office.  Almost all of the library collections are open stacks; we passed room after room of books, sorted by subject.  The library has begun to purchase shelves on wheels in order to better make use of space.  The library has a round reading room, a miniature of the one in the British Museum.  Unlike at the British Museum we were able to take a peek inside at the Maughan. 

King’s College Library site:
Maughan website (including floor plans):

I’ve done some research on the history of British Archives, so actually visiting the old Public Records Office was really neat.  I remember reading all about it and seeing the room with the slate shelving was interesting.  The Maughan’s current exhibit is on the King James Bible, in celebration of its 400 anniversary.  We were able to see the exhibit; many huge old Bibles were on display.  I enjoyed physically seeing the progression and transformation that the Scriptures have undergone over the years.

Overview of the KJV exhibit, including a video link:
(The exhibition PDF guide link doesn’t appear to be working.  I picked up a physical copy of the guide when we were there, its quite thick and detailed about each item they displayed.)

One of the spaces I really liked in the Maughan was the clock tower.  Each floor of the tower has about 10 study rooms.  Half of them have windows that overlook London, the others face the inside wall and are windowless.  I’d love to be able to look out over London while I was doing homework.  I’m not sure how productive I would be, but the view would be fantastic. 

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