Specializing at the Wiener Library

Wiener Library exterior

Exterior of the Wiener Library taken from http://www.wienerlibrary.co.uk/About-Us

Ninth Class Blog Post:

After our visit to the British Museum, we grabbed lunch and then headed over to Russell Square in search of the Wiener Library.  I imagine that one usually has a reason to visit this library, as it is housed in a flat on Russell Square with no particularly loud signs.  The Wiener Library is specialized, as it has the oldest Holocaust archives and focuses on Holocaust and Nazi Germany-related materials.  Generally, the nature of the materials and the relative anonymity of the building lends itself to visits from those in the know rather than the random tourist.

I absolutely adored the space itself, as it made practical use of a rather narrow flat.  The front reception/exhibition room is multifunctional as it employs a divider to close or expand the space as needed.  The exhibition panels are custom-created magnetic sheets, which the person(s) in charge of exhibition can easily move and rearrange if necessary.  The interior is painted white and makes use of the vertical space and light, giving the entire library a very light and airy feel, which is an odd contrast to the serious nature of its collections.

As seems typical in the UK, the Wiener Library employed its own classification system.   The library grew from Alfred Wiener’s collection of Holocaust materials, so the library and staff developed an organic and specific classification system to meet the needs of the collection and their users.  They seem to have a very intimate knowledge of their books and archives because of their system, thus allowing them to better aid their users.  I particularly like the idea of working a specialized collection because one can really develop a decent understanding of the material, which appeals to me.  It is one of my goals to work with a specialized collection, though not necessarily a special collection.

The function of the building definitely seems tailored to the specific needs of this library.  For instance, the reading room had very tall shelves, which seem impractical because the top shelf books are unreachable without the use of a ladder.  Since the Wiener Library uses its own classification system, they can tweak their shelving to place less frequently-used books at the top, while keeping the more popular books at eye-level and within reach.  This allows maximum use of storage.

Overall, I think that the Wiener Library is a great example of a special library that has customized everything from its space, exhibitions, classification systems, and shelves to better suit the needs of their patrons.  It was a pleasure learning about the unique collection it holds and I really think that it is a valuable resource for those interested in genocide, Holocaust, Jewish studies, and its related fields.

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