Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Kings College Maughan Library

The tuesday after our break, we had an optional visit to the Kings College academic library, the Maughan Library.  This library was magnificent. I wish all academic libraries could look and run the way the Maughan Library did.

Kings College's libraries are spread over many campuses across London. The Maughan Library is the most substantial of the branches and is also the headquarters of administration. The library houses 1.25 million books, 300,000 ebooks, and 600 databases.

The library seemed to be moving toward a digital set up, as many other libraries we visited have also done. They had self check out machines in the front entrance, near the information desk. I keep seeing these, and similar, machines at the lending libraries we visit and I think they are the most innovative things.

The one thing we were shown that I haven't seen yet at any library is their automated book sorter. The books that are returned are automatically sent through a sorter that checks them in and sends them to the appropriate bin for shelving.  The library's goal is to have everything back on the shelves within 4 hours after they are returned, which I found to be very impressive, considering the size and scope of this library!

 We were told that the library used to be the Public Records office, and because of that the building was built in such a way that if there was ever a fire or a flood, the rooms could be closed off from one another to save the majority of the records.  Now that the building is a library, it is very much like a maze.  There are many rooms that house offices, books, study areas, and lecture halls all throughout the building.

The library has created a map of sorts that breaks each of these areas into "zones" for silent study, quiet work, and discussion areas.  Each reading room and area has a sign to let visitors know which zone they are entering into.  In my opinion, this is an ingenious way to let patrons know when they can talk and when they need to be silent without treating them like children and constantly quieting them or removing them from the space.

The "zone" areas and rules of each zone
Like I said above, I really wish that all academic libraries could look and work as well as this library does. Not to sound cliche, but it definitely seemed like a well-oiled machine at work, and everyone working knew where they were to be and what they needed to do.  The modernization and technologies of the library were also very welcome. Just like I had mentioned in previous blogs, it is so nice to see how a library that has made its home in such an old building can still preserve that history while keeping with the changing face of libraries.

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