In 2009-2010 the Library was transformed again with the former Printed Books section forming the nucleus of the Library you see today. The Prints and Maps and Manuscripts sections moved to London Metropolitan Archives but some major manuscript collections are still housed at Guildhall. Guildhall Library now shares a building with the City Business Library, so users can now move very readily between current and historical business resources as well as having access to the Internet and the Department’s extensive range of online resources. In fact the City Business Library, once called the Commercial Reference Room, has returned to its original home: first housed at Guildhall Library it moved to Basinghall Street in 1970 and later to Brewers’ Hall Garden.
The new Guildhall Library is a major public reference library, very connected with its past, holding a wide range of important works and sources including: a comprehensive collection of printed books on the City of London and its history, the Lloyds Marine Collection, a large collection of pamphlets from the 17th – 19th centuries covering political and social issues, a complete run of the London Gazette from 1665 to the present, extensive parliamentary resources including eighteenth-century poll books and a complete set of House of Commons papers from 1740, broadsides and an unrivalled collection of local and trade directories from 1677 to the present.
Before I set off for Bedford Central Library, whilst I was checking the address and map, I came across Google reviews of the Library. I have never bothered to read reviews of a library before as they are always a mixed bag and I believe people are more likely to write a review when they have something to complain about. The first reviewer had been complaining about the fact that there were mothers and babies singing nursery rhymes all the time. So I thought it hilarious that I turned up at exactly the moment baby rhymetime started!
Bedford Central Library is in a pedestrian area and looks very inviting and colourful from the outside. The ground floor has an information desk and a book drop-off point but then you need to get on the rather grubby and drab escalator (or take the lift or stairs). However when you get to the first floor you enter a very big library space with another wraparound mezzanine (or gallery) above. As it is open plan, it is true that you could hear the nursery rhymes throughout. But, as a past frequenter of baby rhymetimes I don’t have a problem with half an hour of singing in a library and I could hear other readers subconsciously singing along to Wheels on the Bus as well.
It was a Thursday morning (on Thursdays the library closes at 1). It was very busy and bustly and felt like a genuine hub of the community. The stock was easy to navigate because it was open plan with clear sections and signs and I saw plenty of helpful looking staff around.
There was a silent study area on the mezzanine which was partially screened off with glass but perhaps it could do with doors too. There were, what looked like, noise reducing panels on the ceiling so I’m presuming noise has been recurring issue for the library. But better a noisy well-used library than an empty quiet one!
I had brought my father along on this visit and as he is an ex-local studies librarian. We spent most of our time in that corner. He found exactly the book he wanted and we had no problem locating and using the photocopier. He grumbled that the local studies material wasn’t very secure but did note that the filing cabinets were at least locked. I noticed lots of helpful leaflets, guides and posters and this one which I thought was a great use of librarian talent:
We sampled the tea and cake in the small café and admired the view which we thought was a church but have now learnt is a shopping centre. We finished off with a short walk along the river and a look around The Higgins – Bedford’s Museum and Art Gallery.