By indexer
159 days ago

The Senate House Library of London University

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This building is the Senate House in the Bloomsbury area of London (next door to the back of the British Museum). It is where I started my first job as a librarian, more than 40 years ago.

This is the central administrative building of the University of London and it houses a library that is open to students and staff who belong to any of the University’s many colleges. The library occupies most of the building in the picture, beginning at the second row of small windows and going all the way up to the top of the tower. When I was there it contained around one million books – what its capacity is today I simply don’t know.

On finishing my degree course (at Bangor, North Wales) in 1974 I was unsure what I wanted to do as a career. I thought that librarianship was a possibility, so I applied to join a scheme that offered one-year placements for graduates at university libraries, at the grade of “student assistant librarian”. This was like an internship, but a proper salary was part of the deal.

So in September 1974 I started work. I found a place in a hostel in Muswell Hill (north London) and commuted into central London by bus and tube.

I learned a lot at the Senate House. There were three of us who started on the same day, all from different universities, and the library staff devised a plan by which we would work in two different departments in each of the three terms. They shifted us round so that we never worked together at the same time.

I therefore got a grounding in Circulation, Acquisitions and Reference work, as well as working in some specialist subject libraries. It was in the pre-computer age, as far as libraries were concerned, so there were rows and rows of catalogue drawers to file cards into, a highly complicated filing system for Acquisitions records, and a huge row of trays of tickets for the manual issue system.

A regular job involved searching the closed stacks for rare items and for PhD theses, the latter of which were stored at the very top of the tower – the only part of the building that was not heated!

The library contained a number of special collections that had been bequeathed to the University at various times. The strangest of these had to be the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature. Harry Price had been a noted psychical researcher (i.e. ghost hunter) in the inter-war years and he had acquired a large collection of material on many aspects of the paranormal. The library was stored in a remote part of the building to which the public were not normally admitted. The wind whistled through the pipes to add a distinctly eerie atmosphere, and many of the library staff did not like visiting this collection as they sensed a “presence” when they did so.

In recent years I have often wondered if J K Rowling ever used this library as part of her research for the “Harry Potter” books. She would certainly have gained a lot of information had she done so, and the similarities between the Harry Price Library and that of Hogwarts School are quite striking. I also wonder if that is why Harry Potter is called Harry.

After my year at the Senate House I felt ready to carry on and become a proper librarian. I therefore won a place at the College of Librarianship Wales (at Aberystwyth) where I gained my professional qualification in 1976 (I returned in 1987 to take an additional Masters degree).
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Sherzy Good to know thanks
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fortune So majestic building. When I finished school, I wanted to be a librarian, all my spare time I spent in our library, and books were a very big part of my life. But the librarians were not valued in my country, they earn very little salary, so I went to study medicine. And it was my mistake. After 5 years of work in this field, I run away. And again started studies, this time it was home decor. And although, I am happy with my current work, very often I regret that I did not became what I wanted from the very beginning - Librarian. It always looked almost saint job to me.
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soncee Very nice artikle
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annie07 Good to know about..
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Issaka Wow. that's amazing.
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indexer @fortune I'm not sure that it's a well-paid job anywhere!

I have certainly had an interesting professional career, starting with the British Council (I spent the summer of 1977 at the British Embassy in Moscow, setting up a library), then working in college libraries and in high-tech industry (firstly at Hewlett-Packard then Marconi), and I now work part-time at De Montfort University (Leicester) while also doing voluntary work at a local public library.

The thing I have always enjoyed most is the "detective" work of finding things out on behalf of customers - that is why I now spend so much time researching facts and writing them up as articles!
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Shavkat Nice information
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