Middlesex South Reading Room has retained much of its period charm, but also its excellence at its intended function as a quiet, spacious and well-lit reading room. Like all Reading Rooms in Senate House Library, this one was once permanently staffed with a dedicated enquiry desk.
Observant readers may note that, near to the entrance of the room on the north side, there are two strange light bulbs on the corners of the book cases. In two different colours, these once alerted library staff to incoming internal and external telephone calls, flashing silently to avoid disturbing readers. Since the system was removed decades ago, these two bulbs alone have survived, waiting for calls that will never come.Close
The current Service Hall was known for decades as the Catalogue Hall, and, as the picture below demonstrates, it housed rows of card catalogues in the decades before computers. The narrow, almost restricted, space was well suited to these very solid pieces of furniture, which were once indispensable features of every library.
The Library’s main card catalogue, which has since been digitised, remains intact at our offsite store, where it sees many fewer visitors today but is still occasionally a source of otherwise unavailable information on older titles.Close
This display case contains some examples of indispensable equipment for the Library and its operations. Included here are some older examples of that key librarian’s tool, the stamp, but also a ruler, still bearing marks of ownership, which explains the puzzling new decimal system, and a crow-bar.
Staff here have fond and diverse memories of the uses to which the crow-bar has been put over the years, from the obvious opening of crates to hanging pictures and breaking up furniture, and defrosting the staff freezer. In its heavily used, imperfect state, it is a rather powerful reminder of quite how complicated a physical problem running a library presents.Close