Thursday, 17 July 2014

Palace Green Library, Durham, England

During Mini Break, one of my classmates and I visited Durham, England for a day. We had heard that one could book a dorm room in Durham Castle for a night, so we jumped on the chance to say we stayed in a castle! Like everything else on this trip, it was amazing. I think we were giddy about it the entire time we were there!

While in Durham, we had the privilege of taking a tour of Durham University's Palace Green Library, which is the home of the university's special collections library.  The university's librarian, Jon Purcell, gave us a tour of the collections housed in the Palace Green Library, as well as a short history on the library and the castle.

The library was founded in the 17th century by Bishop John Cosin.  One of the collections we visited was Bishop Cosin's library.  Cosin founded his library as a public library for clergy and other scholarly visitors.  The room we visited on our tour was the original place where Cosin built his library. Mr. Purcell told us that there have been modifications to the room to ensure preservation of the materials, but as a whole, the room remains very much like it was when Cosin built it.

Cosin created his own classification system. He had pictures of theologians surrounding the room, and the books by, or about, each theologian were placed underneath each respective picture.  The library has kept this system the same over the years.  Most of the collection is in french, and very rare, and everything has been cataloged for public access.  The room itself is open to the public from 2pm-4pm three days a week.

The collections as a whole were outstanding, and the fact that this library has so many magnificent collections in its possession was just amazing.  Mr. Purcell kept stressing to us that he and his colleagues strive for the libraries and collections to be living. He wants to keep the collections useful and alive.  The library regularly brings local schools and groups in to use and view the collections, and they have recently built a learning center within the Palace Green library for school visits and interactive tours of the library.  Mr. Purcell and his colleagues were very passionate about their work and it was exciting to see a group of workers that involved and that thrilled about the work that they do and the impact it makes on their community.

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