Checking in at the Wellcome Library

Second Research-Related Blog Post:

I unexpectedly found a few hours to visit the Wellcome Library to do research on Marie Stopes for my paper.  I was stressed about finding the time to go because we had a morning visit to the Royal Geographic Society (which was super cool because we got to see and learn about some really amazing explorers) and I had to pick up my cousin Michelle from St. Pancreas Station.  Fortunately, Michelle gave me the wrong time, so I walked over to the Wellcome Library (it is about ten to fifteen minutes away from St. Pancreas).

Wellcome Library

Picture of the Wellcome Library taken from because I did not have my camera on me during my impromptu visit.

The Wellcome Library’s collections generally relate to medical history, so I was not surprised when I initially learned that they have a Marie Stopes archive.  The building is in a very sleek and modern style.  As with many libraries, the collections/archives are not browseable and one must request the items for use.  This system can be frustrating for the researcher because we have no idea about the physical capacity of a collection.  Reading a finding aid is not the same as looking at a collection and understanding the scale of the collection.  It is often not physically feasible or at all likely, especially in an archive, for a researcher to browse the collection, so I know that I have high and unobtainable hopes.

At the library, I first signed up for a reader’s card using two forms of identification, akin to the requirements at the British Library.  It was a quick and painless process.  It took less than ten minutes for me to obtain my reader’s card.  I am always amazed at how easy the process can be to obtain access to these world-famous institutions.  I love it.  After depositing my personal belongings in their lockers, I headed over to one of their desktop computers to start looking up information for Marie Stopes.  I wish that I had my laptop, but I made it work.

I had a bit of a rough start figuring out how to request and obtain the materials, as the collection is an archive of her materials and I had to filter through several layers of a finding aid.  Basically I had to go from collection and box levels to the item levels to request items.  I do not have a lot of experience working with archives and finding aids, so I assume that other people could have easily figured it out, but I am definitely more used to catalog entries, so I had a bit of a struggle.  I had some help from a nearby librarian who graciously explained the system to me.

Screenshot of the Marie Stopes archive contents

Screenshot of the Marie Stopes archive contents

It took a bit of time sifting through the large amount of items in the collection.  I ordered a few items of interest, but I knew that I did not have enough time to stick around and look at them, as they need processing time to retrieve and deliver the materials and I needed to be back at St. Pancreas Station in thirty minutes.  The librarian who helped me earlier actually suggested ordering materials before the end of the day, so that they would be ready on Saturday.

Overall, the trip to the Wellcome Library really helped me grasp my head around my paper more.  I definitely left the building feeling more confident and aware of my paper.