On a wet miserable Tuesday in February, we found ourselves in the impressive Wellcome Collection which calls itself a 'free destination for the incurably curious'.
Heading away from the crowds of school children downstairs, we came to the library which specializes in the history of medicine from earliest records to the present day.
The Wellcome Trust (which funds the library) was founded in the early 20th century by Henry Wellcome, a self-made head of a massive pharmaceutical company. Wellcome used the wealth amassed by his business to fund research into his interests: medicine, history of medicine and sociological issues relating to the body and health the world over, throughout history.
The Wellcome Library's aim is to provide information to anyone seeking to understand medicine and its role in society, past and present. Its collection therefore covers a huge scope: consumer health, popular science, biomedical ethics and the public understanding of science, to name a few.
professionals, consumers, journalists, artists and members of the general public. The library is completely open access and much like a public library, anyone can join. I would recommend that they do; the resources and facilities are impressive, the technology available to the readers is mostly specialized but even the photocopiers were state of the art.
There is a continuous respective cataloguing project ongoing but the cataloguing system itself is quite confusing. They use at least 3 different in house cataloguing systems for different collections both text and image based. They have tried to combine these into one which does not always prove successful but is useful for simple searches.
The library has recently undergone major refurbishment following a 'transformation strategy' that has involved huge investment, on the scale that most other libraries, academic or otherwise could only dream of. The result is quite impressive if slightly confusing architecturally; contempory polished reading rooms stand alongside the very traditional spaces but on the whole the labyrinth layout does work.
by Louise Flynn
The Wellcome Trust was founded in the early 20th century by Henry Wellcome, a self-made head of a massive pharmaceutical company. Wellcome used the wealth amassed by his business to fund research into his interests: medicine, history of medicine and sociological issues relating to the body and health world over, throughout history.
The library itself is basically open to the public as a reference library. New users have to be over 16, have an interest in the subject and provide proof of address. The online catalogues are open to all although there is restricted access to certain materials. For example, the images library has in its collection some sensitive medical images.
The library collections include books, manuscripts, archives, films and pictures. Users can access free WIFI and, despite our guide's protestation that they have a space problem, each shelf has a generous gap for future knowledge and the Wellcome's main closed access storage space is under the main building.
Having said this, the library is not without its problems: even though Wellcome is solvent enough to have a continuous respective cataloguing project ongoing- something which a lot of academic libraries would struggle to find the funds to do- the cataloguing system itself is at best quirky. Apparently, they use at least 3 different in house cataloguing systems for different collections, and the layout of the books throughout is somewhat counter intuitive. Also, somewhat surprisingly for a medical library, there are access issues for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility because of the way the lifts essentially bypass some of the security doors.
However, all in all, this was on in my top 3 library visits. Of course, this was also helped by the Peyton and Byrne cafe downstairs and some divine cakes....High recommended.