The highlight of any library trip for me will always be an art library. Having worked in one as well as being an artist and an art history student collections including art books and treasures corresponding to the world of art are always going to be very close to me. And I am quite pleased with England for having established something as useful as a National Art Library to keep and preserve and make available for use materials to new artists and those studying art and design.
I did research in the NAL before our group had their tour there, so it was quite a treat to see behind the scenes of what I’d used. I have to say that the stacks were the highlight for me as I encountered quite a few books I’ve shelved before and that I miss seeing on a daily basis. One other aspect of the stacks that I particularly appreciated was that the NAL has a classmark specifically for publications of their museum, the Victoria and Albert, which includes a lot of important exhibition catalogues and records of materials held by the museum and the library. Of course it is necessary for the museum’s publications to have their own classmark as the NAL is responsible for keeping the materials needed by the curatorial staff and any archival materials associated with the museum.
Beyond the stacks and the main rooms of the NAL where readers sit and books are distributed, our group was shown items out of the NAL’s collection of artists’ books and bindings. The NAL is also known for being an archival center for aspects of the book, such as design, fine bindings, etc. Highlights of that included a clever pop-up book of bookshelves called, not shockingly, Empty Bookshelves, an artists’ journal that was extremely colorful and embellished as well as being readable and relatable while she was complaining about a job she had to leave, and one of my favorites being a bit of a typography geek, a society lady’s scrapbook where for each location she drew the place names in very different fonts with ink and sometimes included details such as Art Nouveau leaves and vines, although as a society lady she most likely had a lot of time to put into things like that it was very impressive and looked as though she’d rarely messed up and gone back over her lettering.