As most of academics, I began to spend a lot of time in libraries when I started my PhD. In London, I was frequently going to the law section of the UCL library, the “Bentham Library“. Leading to the library, the impressive staircase, decorated by statutes, contributes to create a grand and calm atmosphere. In the law section, the books stand on bookshelves so high that they require the reader to climb up on a ladder to examine some of the books.
Another amazing library is the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, located at Russel Square. Open only to Postgraduate students of the University of London and to academics, this is a library ideal for work and reflection. The entrance of the Library is on the 4th floor of a grey and cold building. Inside the library, I like the individual tables, hidden at the end of rows of bookshelves covered by legal journals. They are little holes where one can fully concentrate on his or her reading or writing.
Less frequently, I have also visited the prestigious British Library. At the entrance, I was asked to leave my handbag and to carry my personal belongings in a British Library plastic bag. Finding books and borrowing them is not as easy as in other libraries but the building is very beautiful.
In Paris, I especially like the “Bibliothèque Cujas“, located Place du Panthéon. Any academic can easily access the Library. It is a wide and bright library, with stunning bookshelves leaning against each wall, and if you cannot find what you are looking for, your book is probably hidden somewhere in the incredible large basement of the Library. This library is first mentioned in … 1475 boasting then 17 manuscripts. It now proudly collects one million of books, spread over more than 26 km in store.
As a member of the School of Law of the University of Essex, I also have to mention our recently renovated library, the Albert Sloman library, and in particular its peculiar lift, the “Paster Noster“. This lift never stops, it constantly goes up and down, and requires any visitor to, jump off the lift when he or she arrives at his or her destination. If you have your hands full of books, this is not so easy and requires a bit of agility…
My love of libraries does not only include academic libraries: I also enjoy visiting local libraries. As I am often working at home, going to a local library presents several advantages. When my children are around, the library is certainly quieter than our home. It also avoids any of the “home temptations” (such as having a long coffee break or answering to phone calls). I usually don’t have any access to my emails when I am at the library and then can focus completely on my writing. In particular, a few years ago, I used to go to the Library located on King’s Road: the 15-minutes walk from my son’s nursery to the library was beautiful and I like the peaceful atmosphere of the library in the middle of this busy road. The Library welcomes not only the passionate book lover but also the homeless who look for a warm place in winter, or the newspaper reader who can read most of the papers for free at the library.
And you? Do you often go to the Library or do you prefer to use online resources? What is your favorite library and why? Would you share pictures of them with us?
Laure Sauvé, Lecturer, Essex School of Law