The National Art Library is free and open to the public providing reference on fine and decorative arts. The above picture illustrates the Reading Room, a quite space for research and study of any of the thousands of volumes. Any person is able to apply for a library card to use the library services and equipment, as over 30 thousand people have already done. The entire collection is “reference only” and can request eight items at a time.
The special collections of the National Art Library were quite varied in their design and preservation needs. Several of the items displayed had archival quality boxes or covering created especially for them. Preservation is the most important consideration at each step of collection development and maintenance. If an item is going to potentially added to the collection (either by donation or purchase) and the quality is too poor this will effect the librarians decision in it’s acquisition. While it might be difficult to refute adding an item to the collection it is the mission of the library to be sure that the item would be well taken care of. With limited budget and resources (including staff time) it is critical to set such priorities.
I’ve worked in libraries before where any donation was gladly accepted. While these items were not considered “special collection” worthy – items added up in stacks in room awaiting cataloging. This ends up being a disservice to both the items and the patrons. It was refreshing to learn about policies that libraries set to ensure this is not an issue and allocate resources reliably.
On a side note – the food in London has been amazing. I am impressed by the quality and freshness of every meal. I don’t think I had a terrible meal during the whole trip. I also felt that as a vegetarian I had many more options than even Seattle can offer. Many of those options were composed of actual veggies and not just a soy -based substitute.