We have taken the decision that from January 2020, the size, type and number of bags which users can be bring into the Reading Rooms will be limited. Anyone working in the galleries will be limited to one laptop bag and one small rucksack or shoulderbag. Anyone with more than two bags, or bags which are large, will be restricted to the ground floor. This will help Gladstone’s Library maintain its historic fabric, and the collections as well. Careful handling and behaviour costs nothing; repairs and restoration can strain a library’s budget to its limits.
Until 2013 no bags of any kind were permitted in the Reading Rooms and all possessions had to be decanted into clear plastic bags. This remains best practice where Special Collections are concerned, and many libraries with collections as old and unique as Gladstone’s don’t allow any bags at all (the London Library, for example, or the British Library). However, after careful consultation with users, we took the decision to permit personal bags so that laptops, folders, etc, could be safely transported up and down the spiral staircases. This system has worked very well and we don’t want to do away with it completely.
However, as the Reading Rooms have grown in popularity and traffic has grown heavier, the number of bumps, scrapes and dents in the shelves and in the books are increasing. The galleries are particularly narrow and at risk of damage. It’s also unsafe to navigate the spiral staircases without a free hand.
We’ve only made two other changes of this kind in the last five years; all decisions of this kind are driven by the need to protect the collections while managing a thriving, bustling workspace. The Reading Room team has added two extra armchairs and three extra desks to the ground floor in 2019, increasing capacity and offering access to anyone who requires it. We hope that any impact caused by this change is minimal.
If you have any queries please ask at the Enquiry Desk or speak to a member of the library team.