Thursday, December 17, 2009

London's Libraries and Distributed Collections

In a letter to the editor of The Times a reader reflects on how London's libraries offered an early model for distributed physical storage (Times):

Sir, In 1946 the London metropolitan borough public libraries instigated a scheme where each of the libraries had a part of the alphabet for which they were to aim to collect all the fiction works of authors within their allocation, to enable out of print novels to be available through the inter-library loan systems. The scheme allowed libraries to send to the appropriate library fiction that was past its use-by date and therefore allowed a copy to be preserved.

Hence when Harold Pinter was looking for Murphy, a novel by Samuel Beckett, it would have been no surprise to find that a copy was sitting in the reserve stock of Bermondsey public library, since its allocation was BAJ-BEC (“Pinter’s 59-year pause”, letter, Dec 16).

Rarely did the participating libraries prior to 1988 catalogue their collections but they were known within London at least and the scheme was well used. In 1988 the scheme was enlarged so that many public libraries throughout England are participating in a “fiction reserve” scheme on a similar basis.

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