When is a library not just a library? …. When it’s a work of art!

The library: a world history by James W.P. Campbell, photographs by Will Pryce, leads the reader through a tour of the most varied and visually stunning libraries the world over. From the libraries of the ancient world to the 21st Century and beyond, from the most ornate of the The Theological Hall, Strahov Abbey in Prague, Czech Republic to the modern National Library of China, Beijing.


Architectural historian Campbell’s authoritative account of library architecture is matched only by Pryce’s beautifully striking and spectacular accompanying photographs. It just goes to show that libraries, whether they be public, academic or National don’t have to be musty, concrete, lifeless buildings but can be the heart and soul of the town or city.

As the dust jacket perfectly sums up “The finest libraries are repositories not just of books, but also of learning, creativity and contemplations: they embody some of the highest achievements of humankind”

Many of the eighty libraries visited by Campbell and Pryce can be described as nothing short of works of art. The book can, rather unsurprisingly, be found in the Architecture Library!

Campbell, James W.P. (2013) The Library: a world history
ISBN:  9780500342886
Classmark: 727.8 CAM (ARCHI)

How do the books get to the library?

Have you ever wondered how the new books get to the library shelves?  Who picks them?  Where do they buy them? Well, this post, one of a series of ‘demystifying cataloguing’ will give you a brief insight into the process.

A pot of money is allocated by the university for books to be bought (that’s an oversimplification by the way!).  Schools, in conjunction with subject librarians, choose which books they think should be bought for their subjects.  Ideally, these would include all the books on your reading lists (if you find items on your reading list are not in the library – let library staff know, and also prompt your lecturers to contact the library too).  Other items will be chosen because we have previous editions, because they complement exisiting collections, because a new course is starting, because your lecturer has written it, because it is needed for reasearch, or because someone (and that could be you!) has suggested that the item would be a good addition to the library.

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Items other than books!

Order forms come to the collection management department, based in McKenzie House on Newport Road.  For now they are paper slips, but we are working on implementing electronic orders to make the process more lean.  Collection management staff (a department which comprises acquisitions staff and cataloguing staff); check the details of these orders – whether we already have copies, or whether we need to create a new order etc.  The orders are then sent (electronically) to our library supplier, Dawsons.  We get the majority of our ‘normal’ items from this company, but more exotic stuff (foreign language material, DVDs, music CDs, out of print material, etc) can be ordered from a whole host of places.


A delivery of boxes!

At this stage you will see a basic record on the library catalogue, but with no items attached you will see that it is ‘on order’.  Once the item arrives, and is unpacked from the delivery boxes and checked, it is received on the system by the acquisitions staff.  On the library catalogue, the book will have items attached but no classmark.

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Books awaiting cataloguing

A cataloguing assistant checks all the books, and if they are extra copies, or an update from a previous edition, they can go straight to the processing shelves.  Otherwise they are passed to the cataloguers to upgrade the catalogue records, and to add subject headings and classification (more on these processes in future posts).  Once the cataloguers have finished with the books they go to processing, where they receive their spine-labels and have their RFID tags activated; once finished here they are put on the shelves assigned to each library, awaiting the couriers to pack them up into black boxes and deliver them to the correct library.  The couriers go out each day to the main libraries (and twice a day to some).  Once the books reach a library they have to be ‘discharged’ on the library system so that they will now show as available.  Library staff then shelve them in their correct places according to classification; and you can find them and borrow them!

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Black boxes containing books waiting to be delivered to libraries

During 2012 collection management staff gave a brief presentation to library staff about these procedures, entitled ‘From pink slip to black box’, and you are welcome to view the slides.