People often joke that they wouldn’t mind being locked in Bromley House Library, with its comfortable chairs, constant supply of coffee, and most of all, no chance to get bored with the wealth of books on the shelves. This morning, however, we were locked out of the Library. Something inside the mortice lock on the front door had slipped, meaning that no-one could unlock the door. At the same time, the Central Library had a queue of people on its doorstep as it had a power cut, and so was closed.
So, we gathered in Cafe Nero just up the road, got in touch with our locksmiths who said that they could be there within the hour, and waited for them. You’ve heard of pop-up shops and galleries – well this was a pop-up library! We even had bookstock – a parcel delivery took note of our redirection notice and came to find us. So members joined us, our trainee catalogue mentors and the French conversation group were there. We considered doing poetry readings, but the wait wasn’t long, and then we were back in the building.
For those members who hadn’t indulged in Cafe Nero we offered free coffee whist we opened the building up and coaxed the technology back to life, realising we too had had a power cut. By just after ten thirty life was normal again, well, as normal as it ever gets in Bromley House…
So, this is it. Last night our cataloguers, both professional and volunteer, enjoyed a glass or wine (or maybe two) as they celebrated the end of two years hard work. Basking in the knowledge that they had achieved, if not the impossible, certainly a herculean task (See DB274). They have explored the darkest corners of the Library (DD2318) and there retrieved books that have languished unloved for many a year, or perhaps decades. They have grappled with a classification system that predates the railways, although we have 59 books about the railways (CB02639). They have got to grips with accession numbers, shelfmarks and ISBNs. Our cataloguers have shared their enthusiasm (DD2908) with each other, and laughed over the titles of some of the books (DC4779). They have discussed nuances of meaning and the difference between items that are ‘not for loan’ and those that are ‘Reference only’.
And the staff? They have nurtured the volunteers and instructed and advised them. They have directed them towards collections that they will enjoy, and been patient when technology has found a building from 1752 (EX1968) difficult to navigate. They have found ways to meaningfully catalogue collections that are organised in a way that may best be described as ‘organic’, so that they retain their cohesion as collections but are easy to find and identify on an online system.
Our rare book cataloguers have tracked down and compared books of which we have several copies with different provenances (CC199), displayed some of our more esoteric material and instructed the British Library that they may have made a mistake in their cataloguing. (CC142). Handwriting has been deciphered (CC785) and they have at times concurred that perhaps the Library Assistants of times past should be sent to Night School to improve their handwriting.
One thing about our cataloguers, they have had no need to read DD3081….
So, now it is done, over 40,000 books have been taken off the shelves, dusted, catalogued and replaced. Two books missing for 30 years were rediscovered down the back of a shelf, and some never catalogued books can now be found and read. It isn’t an end, but a beginning, a time when forgotten novels by forgotten authors will find new readers, old readers may be reunited with lost loves, and members can continue to be delighted, intrigued, informed and enthralled by the books they encounter at Bromley House Library.
Find the link to our catalogue on our website at www.bromleyhouse.org