Category Archives: About

Westminster Reference Library – Celebrating 90 Years! 8th Oct 1928 – 8th Oct 2018

A big Happy Birthday to Westminster Reference Library! 90 years old! Opened to the public on 8th Oct 1928, the Central Reference Library as it was then known has continued to serve the public throughout its 90 years, morphing its way through the myriad information formats, books, magazines, microfiche, floppy disks, CDROMs etc and on into the age of the internet and world wide web…  WRF90thPartyThe library’s journey throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st reflects the evolution of the library as institution, in particular the curious beast that is the reference library, a rare breed now, almost extinct!  Indeed the use of the word ‘reference’ in the library’s name is something of a misnomer as what were once purely reference and information services now includes lending, with the library focused on its special collections in BusinessLawArt & Design, and Performing Arts.

Current visitors enjoy access to characterful reading rooms with study spaces over three floors, an Exhibition space, free access to internet & pcs, free wifi, as well as access to books, magazines and newspapers, all complemented by the wealth of online resources also available via 24/7 Library.  The library hosts regular events  with a special programme of talks and workshops throughout October.

WRFStairs

Even libraries benefit from having a USP these days and earlier this year the library was refurbished and its unique heritage brought to fore.  Situated on what was the site of astronomer Isaac Newton’s house, the library’s architecture reflects the style of the original building.  Plaques marking the site’s historical significance always adorned the foyer and the exterior, but now a portrait of Sir Isaac Newton and images of the telescope he invented along with his study decorate the foyer and stairwell.  This decorative renovation was inspired by and designed to coincide with the Reach for Skies project, launched in May 2018,  with the library now lending telescopes!

Tucked away off Leicester Square and behind the National Gallery, often people report only finding out about the library when passing by. Lending telescopes is already working to put the library on the map and reach new audiences.  If you haven’t visited Westminster Reference Library recently or before, do come see us.

Our Celebration party is on Monday 8TH October, 11am – 3pm and everyone is invited!

There will be cake and crepes and an opportunity get to know the library better by taking part in a Cryptic Quiz which runs to the end of October. Full of clues about the library, its history and collections, you will be in with a chance to win theatre, concert, opera tickets, book tokens, and free access for 1 year for a lucky entrepreneur to exclusive KOMPASS Global B2B database.

No need to book, just turn up. Whether you’re a regular customer or first time visitor, we look forward to seeing you!

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Salon for the City

As the Salon for the City starts its 6th year at the Westminster Reference Library it feels like a good time to have a bit of a retrospective.

In case you hadn’t already heard, Salon for the City is a series taking a look at London through a different lens on the last Wednesday of each month at the Westminster Reference Library.

The Salon is very popular and regularly attracts 40+ people who brave all sorts of terrible weather conditions to attend (last month’s talk on London transport was beset by a snow storm that ironically shut down vast swathes of London and despite those conditions the Salon was still heaving)

The Salons always sell out and Hendricks lubricate the library each month with a specially prepared cocktail of that most London of liquors: Gin.

The salons usually take the form of two illustrated talks by invited speakers in the fields of history, the arts, business, fashion and culture. The talks are followed by a joint Q+A and conversation. We also have occasional performances, themed interviews and films.

There is time to mingle, converse, browse the amazing collection of the Library in the company of other London lovers.

We started off with this : London at the library

and grew to this :

Salon1

As the 50th Salon took over the entire ground floor with 10 London experts talking about their favourite Londoner.

Salon2

But normally it coexists quite well with normal library business going on around it:

Salon3

If you would like to come along you can book a ticket here.

Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

Into the next millennium

Books & the City - 1000th post

We can scarce believe it, but this is the 1000th post on Books & the City! The original aim was to shed light on ‘the life of the Libraries & Archives service, what’s happening, occasionally a little insight into what goes on behind the scenes. And a certain amount of random library-ness too’, in (we thought) one or two posts a week… This would have meant post number 1000 would have taken between ten and twenty years to arrive. The aim remains the same, but of course there has been a LOT more to write about than we foresaw, and it’s taken just 5 years and 3 months to get to this point.

Door(s) to the Marylebone Information Service reserve stackSo to celebrate, we thought we’d look back at some of the most popular, interesting or strange posts since 1 July 2010.

There have been posts about books, and posts about history. Posts about national projects and individual experiences. We’ve helped you use online resources and save money, we’ve introduced new services, reviewed hundreds of events from author visits to concerts and shown you some of the hidden places in our libraries.

What do the statistics tell us about what you want to see? You like a chance to get involved (Little Big Stories (A Mail Art Call)), you lap up pictures of works in progress (The rebirth of Maida Vale Library), and you love the idea of getting married in a library (Wedding ceremonies at Mayfair library).

Testing the technology and finding homes for the books, not very long before reopening... eek!The Marylebone Room - One of the two beautiful marriage & civil partnership rooms at Mayfair LibraryA piece in the 'Little Big Stories' mail art exhibition at Pimlico Library.

But most of all you want to read about the history of the wonderful City of Westminster, whether it’s in the form of a post from the Archives Centre (most popular subjects: Charles Dickens, swimming baths, Nathaniel Bryceson), a re-enactment to mark an event (Marylebone Library in the Park) or an exploration of a minute detail of library architecture (An ‘uplifting’ relic of Charing Cross past).

Hungerford Stairs, near the site of a blacking factory where Dickens worked as a boy. Image property of Westminster City Archives.Marylebone Library in the Park 2015 - Francis, Anabel, SabinaRelic of the London Hydraulic Power Company, to be found in Charing Cross Library

Posts about children’s activities are always popular too, and while they barely scratch the surface of the huge number of events that go on every week (especially during the Summer Reading Challenges), these stories do fulfil the stated aim of shedding light on ‘what’s happening in libraries’. Pictures of Lego rockets, vast papier maché penguins and duffle-coat clad dignitaries are among many that have caught the imagination.

Lego rocket and enthusiasts at Maida Vale LibraryPapier Mache Penguin in progress - St John's Wood Library, February 2013Paddington Bear visits Paddington Library, November 2014. Photos courtesy of Gavin Conlon Photography Ltd.

And what of this editor’s favourites? Well, being able to boast not one but TWO posts entitled, quite legitimately, ‘Polar Bear in the Library‘ has always pleased me, and I confess to a puerile giggle at having the chance to publish a post with the heading ‘Explosive bowels‘. But my favourite post of all was the one that seemed to say all that needed to be said about the modern public library service, the pride and ownership you the customers feel and how very wrong people can be about libraries (but also how gracious they can be in admitting their mistakes): ‘Frankly, my dear, we *do* give a …‘.

Frank Skinner at Church Street Library

We look forward to the next thousand posts and hope you’ll join us for the journey. Now, shall we watch some fireworks?

[Ali]

Happy National Libraries Day!

National Libraries DayToday, 7 February is National Libraries Day – are you coming to the library today? We’d love to see you.

If you haven’t been to the library for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer. This Saturday in Westminster Libraries you can find:

These are just the special events this Saturday – we have literally hundreds of other events going on every day of the week across our network of libraries. Keep an eye on the Forthcoming events page for one-off events and at the regular events section of your own library’s events page for regular activities.

Or just come in and have a look at our wide range of books for both adults and children, use the library computers, ask a question, borrow a DVD or CD, find out about local history at the Archives Centre, use our amazing special collections or use the study space we offer.

Regular library users – or even lapsed ones – will enjoy the Twitter-based quiz we’ve got going on this morning. We’re posting pictures of details, features or aspects of many Westminster libraries and asking you to work out which one it is – take a look at #HowWellDoYouKnowYourLibrary? on Twitter to have a go. We’ll also be posting the pictures on here and Facebook later on.

If you can’t get to the library today, have a look at our brilliant online resources – you can download e-books, e-magazines and e-audiobooks for free, and use the Guardian newspaper archives, Naxos Music Library and KOMPASS business directory (and much MUCH more) from home too.

And if you can’t get to the library at all because you are disabled or caring for someone at home, don’t forget that we have a Home Library Service for you.

There are loads of reasons to love libraries this National Libraries Day. Come and find out why!

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

We wish all our followers a Happy and Peaceful New Year 🙂

“Islands of kindness in this busy world”

"Island of kindness" by Simon Williams

We received a lovely written comment from a customer last week, thanking us for (among other things) providing overdue reminders by email and making her feel ‘very comfortable and welcome’. She ended her message with the words

“Thank you very much for keeping islands of kindness in this busy world.”

It seemed like the perfect comment to shout about on National Libraries Day, and inspired one member of staff to do this great illustration!

If you visit a Westminster library today, please take the time to let the staff know what you think – perhaps you could tell them what you use the library for, how it’s helped you, or about your favourite book, service or event. If you can’t get to a library, feel free to add your comments here (by ‘Leaving a reply’ below), on Twitter (@WCCLibraries) or on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you.

Books & the City: 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Happy New Year!

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 15,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.