26 July 2013

Day 35 - London: Middle Temple Library

Middle Temple Library (http://www.middletemple.org.uk/library-and-archive/library/) is a library for one of the four Inns of Court. It was neat to get to, because you walk in off a busy street and there is a warren of passageways, with little gardens, and buildings that you never knew were there off of Fleet Street. Before heading to the library, we stopped to look at Temple Church, built in the 12th century by the Knights of the Templar:
A service was going on, so we didn't go inside. 

Then we headed over to the library:
There is a record of library on site since Tudor times, although it fell into disuse until 1641 with a donation of 4000 personal books, so they weren't all law books. And then in the 19th century the library really developed because so many more legal books were being published. The current library dates to 1958 and is made out of reinforced concrete to withstand bombings. The library is used by law students, barristers, and solicitors. We were able to visit all three floors, and then were taken on a tour of Middle Temple itself, and led into rooms where the public does not get to go, so that was fun. English law is based on precedent, so it is important to keep everything. 
All four libraries of the Inns of Court have specific law specialties - they all collect English law related items, but then rather than duplicate collections they further specialize in various parts of law and foreign law. Middle Temple's collection jurisdictions include EU and US law and insurance and tax laws as subject specialties. In addition to it being a jurisdiction of the collection, Middle Temple has other US connections, such as US law textbooks among other items...including a rare, 19th copy of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by members Middle Temple:
They had received a donation of US books from the Carnegie association, and have had a close US association since the 18th century. Currently they take part in exchange programs with a number of US law schools. 

The thing I found most interesting about the library is that they have no classification scheme. The founders of the library wanted it to be a "gentleman's library" and not have labels on the spines of books! So the books are all shelved in alphabetical order by author and the journals by title. Everything is in the catalog, but shelf-browsing for similar titles just cannot be done with this set up. The other libraries use the Moys Classification Scheme for Law Books, which makes more sense to me, however it would definitely be a huge undertaking to have to label and re-shelve thousands of books. 

Members of the royal family are invited to be honorary benchers (the Inns of Court are run by their members, but since there are so many, you are nominated to be a bencher, who makes the decisions) and one of the current benchers is Prince William. Also important for me to note, some scenes from Downton Abbey were filmed here! The rooms are definitely atmospheric, including what was formerly the Smoking Room for the benchers:
After our visit, Dr. Welsh our professor treated the whole class to lunch at the Old Bank of England pub!
It was so nice, and it was a good ending because we all ate together our first night in London, and here we were all together again near the end.

In the afternoon I did boring housework tasks, like laundry! And then in the evening I went out with a few friends to Camden, where I had not yet been. We saw a version of Macbeth which was so fun and then after wandering out we decided to see the Simon Pegg movie, The World's End, which won't be released in the US for at least a month. Allison, who has most definitely met the most celebrities while over here (I think is up to at least 22?) had gone to the premiere of the movie and seen its stars!  It was funny and a really wonderful night out. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post, so interesting. Let's see after today, two days til we see you again! Love Mom and Dad :)