Thursday, July 29, 2010

Library Visit: The Maughan Library

The Maughan Library, the major library in the Kings College London university system, is located on Chancery Lane on the KCL Strand Campus. Interestingly, the looks of the library are immediately deceiving; the building in which the library is located, you see, was built in 1851 as a records office. The Maughan Library has only been housed in this particular building since 2001, making the library itself rather young, especially when compared to other libraries I've visited on this trip.

The combination of the Maughan being in a relatively new space and being an academic library make it particularly interesting in terms of this month of library study. Even though the library collections cover a wide range of time periods--special collections, for example, has items from the 15th centure--the library as an operating institution is rather modern. The old building offers over 330 computer terminals for patron use; the 1000+ patron seats available in the library include group working spaces, currently becoming more and more popular in academic libraries.

The library staff are also starting to think about newer concepts like complete self-service (when it comes to checking out books and renewing items) and roving reference. I am particularly interested in the idea of librarians roving about the library space in order to meet patrons and their needs in situ, as it were. I don't know anything as far as patron feedback statistics go, but I think it would be incredibly useful to library patrons if they could encounter a librarian in the stacks when they actually need assistance, instead of always having to trek back to a centralised reference desk. A set reference desk will still be necessary, of course; but I do like the idea of changing techniques with the changing times.

We got a full, if quick, tour of most of the library spaces. I was particularly impressed with how well the Maughan has seemed to work around the obstacles of their building. Because the building is historically listed, by law the Maughan is unable to make any structural changes to the now-library. Thus, in a time when open floor plans are in vogue for library design, such a plan is architecturally impossible for the Maughan. They seem to be working quite well with what they've got, however. And, so long as students continue using the library, that's all that immediately matters.

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