Thursday, 15 July 2010

National Art Library

V&A Museum, National Art Library

Made up of over one million volumes, this closed access library offers books, manuscripts and periodicals on fine and decorative art, craft and design from all periods.  There is an online catalog detailing items acquired since 1987.    The Centre Room seats up to 20 readers, offers self-service copy  machines, digital cameras for rare/fragile items, and the Enquiry Desk.  The Reading Room, where you first walk in, has camera stands to hook up your own digital camera and is a silent room.  New patrons can attend an induction class that will show them how to navigate the library and its resources, reserve books, a seat and utilize the catalog. 

This exhibit outside the library is by Rintala Eggertsson and is called "Ark".  It is a giant wooden library tower.  I was immediately drawn to it, and would have stayed in there all day reading!! It reminded me of this wooden ship one of my school libraries had when I was growing up.  That is one of my favorite memories of reading and one reason I originally wanted to become a children's librarian.  So many good memories! 
The National Art Library does not use a classification system-they shelve by size because of the scope of their collection.  The goal is the preserve the collection rather than outsource for conservation.  Single issue items are usually outsourced for binding however funding is limited at a time like this and items are currently not being bound.  Items are not weeded which offers a comprehensive look at the history of art. To preserve items, there is a machine that creates a box or envelope to the specifications needed.  Enter the dimensions, and this machine will develop an acid free container to house the item for safe keeping. 

Currently the staff consists of about 30 members, however this number is decreasing.  Also decreasing is library space, as the museum tends to need gallery space for their increasing collection.  There is one gallery area that used the be all library space.  Shelves actually are locked to prevent the public from taking books down.  I thought this would increase circulation for the library but there are no statistics to indicate so.  The public going through the gallery can easily see there is a library available, which is a fact that could have been out of sight.  The only downside is that if a patron wants a book from that section, a librarian needs to get a screw driver to access the item! 

In viewing the special collections, I found myself sitting inches away from a Shakespeare first folio from 1623.  It contains all plays in one work and is considered the most authentic because it is by the Kings Players, those who actually performed the shows.

Is it:
A) art
B) a book
C) both?!

I didn't want to give it away, but it's both!  This item is a book sculpture made from a desk.

copyright skull and crossbones!

Visit them online at

The V&A is one of my favorite museums. They have seven miles of gallery space, almost all free.  There are additional Study Rooms to get a closer look at items like the Prints & Drawings room, RIBA Architecture room, South & South-East Asia and Textiles study room.  Some are self-services, however most follow the closed access model of the main library.

Search the study room catalogs at

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