The museum library : a survey of libraries in the museums and related institutions of the Greater London area, together with a study on the evolution of the museum library in England
The central focus of the present research is a survey of libraries located in, and associated with, the museums and related institutions of the Greater London area. This investigation arises from an awareness of a general absence in the literatures of both the library and museum professions concerning the role and function of these special libraries. A first means of analysis involved an historical survey illustrating the evolution of museums and libraries in England, with particular reference to the South East. This preliminary stage in the research confirmed the historical significance of London in terms of the development of the two communities, locally and nationally, as well as providing a contextual basis from which to approach the present state and status of the museum library. A statistical survey of eighty-four museum institutions and their libraries in the Greater London area comprised the second stage of analysis. The survey population was grouped by sectors as defined, with some modification, by the official advisory body, the Museums and Galleries Commission. Five categories represented the survey sectors under examination: National, Central Government, Local Authority, University and Independent. During the 1993-94 period, data were gathered on individual institutions in each sector through the use of a designed questionnaire and in-person interviews concerning various aspects of library operation and function, namely; Administration and Staff; Finance; Collections; Catalogues; Services; and Networks. Findings suggested that broad parameters existed in what constituted a museum library, i.e., ranging from a service facility to an informal curatorial collection. Consequently, organisation of the library and its role in relation to the parent body varied accordingly. More defined roles generally corresponded to those institutions supporting libraries which were formally organised and professionally staffed. The levels of public access, collections management and services were also significantly related to the sector under which an institution was grouped. These designations indicated, for instance, that the Nationals had the most comprehensive library facilities and services, whereas smaller institutions across the remaining sectors showed considerable variation in library provision. By default, the funding arrangements specific to certain groups and/or maintaining bodies had a documented effect on the state of the museum libraries surveyed. In general, a greater number of libraries are housed in or associated with museums than described in available sources. However, their role as information partner to the museum organisation is not significant on all levels of provision, particularly as an internally networked resource for the study of respective collections and as an accessible facility for the research public. This limitation in potential may be due to its perception within both the organisation and the wider community, although insufficient allocations to the parent body and the library itself are additional factors.