Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Library Visit: Zoological Society of London Library

The Zoological Society of London Library is located in the ZSL office building just outside of the London Zoo itself. The library got its start as a shelf of books in the ZSL Secretary's office way back in the day; today it occupies a good-sized room all of its own, complete with reading space and some comfy chairs for informal reading.

The current library facility was last refurbished in the 1960s, so the vibe of the whole place is reminiscent of that time and place. The library collections, however, continue to be very up-to-date. In addition to continuing to hold historical monographs, pictures, and archives, the library actively collects zoological literature from the world over. Some of the zoo library-specific collections include zoological conference proceedings; zoo guides from zoos anywhere in the world; stud books, or those volumes that give the ancestry information of zoo animals to aid in breeding efforts; and books on animal husbandry.

These niche collections reflect the variety of users that the ZSL Library aims to serve. On any given day, readers may include London Zoo staff members, ZSL members, students from the nearby Institute of Zoology, and just regular curious members of the public. Anyone with an informational pursuit is welcome to use the library.

One particular project that was mentioned on our tour, and which I found interesting, is an 18-month Retrospective Book Cataloguing Project. Currently in month two of the project, the ZSL Library was able to use a grant to hire a restrospective book cataloguer specifically for this work. She's been working her way through the card catalogue that still provides search access to much of the collections, and as she catalogues each item, she also performs stock checks and weeding as necessary. I would personally find a year and a half of nothing but cataloguing tedious, but I know it needs to be done. When all is said and done, the ZSL Library's collections will be that much more accessible once all of their holdings are searchable via OPAC. I'm not entirely sure how many people without an explicit interest in things zoo and zoological would opt to search the collections this way, but even the opportunity for easier access is a positive thing!

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