Accessing the library at St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

Sixth Class Blog Post:

We ended our Tuesday with a tour of the library at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  We were not allowed to take photographs inside, so I do not have any great photos to share, but it was exciting to tour the areas that aren’t normally open to the public (not even those with paid tickets).

On a Harry Potter-related note, we got to look down at the Winding Staircase/Geometric Staircase where they filmed the Divinity staircase scenes in Harry Potter.  The librarian leading our tour did not specifically point out that it was the Winding Staircase (maybe he isn’t as interested in Harry Potter as we are), but we knew.  It is a pleasant surprise to encounter Harry Potter filming locations around town because I am not looking for them and yet, there they are.

I think that the general air of the St. Paul’s may make a person feel as if he or she is intruding.  To enter the physical space, one must buy a ticket or attend a service.  The idea of buying a ticket to visit a cathedral seems contrary to the purposes of a holy space, but then again, it is rather unfathomable for the cathedral to accommodate such a large number of tourists who are there to look at the place, rather than use it as a holy space.  The modes of entry are quite limited and can deter one from visiting.  Since the cathedral does not appear to be accessible beyond service and admission, why should the library?

In fact, the library is actually more accessible than one might initially think – a person just needs to demonstrate need and proof of identification.  This seems to be the basic requirement for most libraries – definitely at the British Library where I got my reader’s card.  In fact, at the British Library, one needed to provide two forms of identification, so they might require more than the library at St. Paul’s Cathedral does.  The security around St. Paul’s always makes me think that the library is not open to the public, but the basic tenets of libraries are to provide open access and share information (thanks Ranganathan!), so I’m pleasantly surprised to hear that anyone with a need may have reasonable access to their library.

I get the general feeling that anyone with reasonable needs to use materials within a library, no matter how restricted that library may seem, should just inquire because the chances are that the librarians will work to accommodate or point you in another direction.  The point of libraries are to share information and pass on knowledge.  I can imagine that some institutions cannot or will not share their resources, but one cannot force the hand of a private institutions, just merely make your case and hope for the best.


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