Our visit started with a very informative talk by the Institute's librarian, Robert Lyons, about the scope of the library and the services that it offers to its readers.
Founded in 1921, the library contains a large collection of printed primary sources for the medieval and modern history of Britain and Western Europe and their former colonies. The materials are for reference only, and the library is open access and does not seek to build up special collections. An interesting and unique feature of the library is that its rooms not only house the collection itself, but also act as venues for frequent seminars.
After the introductory talk, the graduate library trainee Micol showed us around the library so that we could see the great variety of the collection. It not only holds books and periodicals, but also microfiches and copies of past University of London theses in history. Where possible, the materials are grouped according to country/ geographical area. After the tour, Robert Lyons spoke to us about the issues which the library has faced when considering how to re-design its space effectively. Any plans need to take into account the dual purpose of the library (the home for the collection, as well as a venue for seminars), the needs and views of its readers, and the various requirements set out by legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act.
At the end of the visit, we were treated to a coffee in the Institute's Common Room. All in all, it was a very interesting and informative visit and it gave us an insight into some of the challenges faced when organizing collections and planning library spaces.