King’s College Maughan Library

Thursday June 15

Today we visited the Foyle Special Collections at the King’s College Maughan Library. We were greeted by Katie and her colleague John. The Maughan Library is one of 9 King’s College libraries spread throughout the city, and houses the humanities and law materials as well as the special collections. The college itself is strong in the medical field, and has quite a lot of material in the special collections relating to that. They have a team of 8 working in the special collections, and according to Katie this is average for special collections of their size in the UK. Like many special collections around the world, they have a modest to small acquisitions budget, so most of the collection is made of donations or bequeathments.


The library does exhibitions about three times a year, and after the exhibit is taken down, all the material is then digitized and put online for public use. This is a great way to make sure the collection is being digitized and a cleaver way to have a wider audience view exhibits. Some of the past exhibits were on revolution in any sense, and a Shakespeare exhibit. The Foyle collection has a copy of the first edition UK version of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, as well as a book about the charters of Philadelphia printed on a press owned by Benjamin Franklin, and signed by him too! It was fun to see a bit of American history all the way across the pond.


After we looked at some of the collections we had a brief tour of the library. I didn’t catch our guide’s name but she was a cute little Scottish girl from Glasgow. She showed us the original cells, which were rooms with iron doors and iron and slate shelving that were used before the library belonged to King’s College and it was still used as archives for the national government. When the college acquired the building, they were able to make quite a few changes, as long as they kept some historic facets, like the original cells. We also got to see the round reading room, which was in a wing that was added on in the 19th century. It was designed to model after the reading room in the British Museum, which is still locked up and not able to be used by the public. The round reading room has a zinc ceiling, one of the few surviving in the UK. The room is a quiet study space, and when we walked in you could have heard a pin drop everyone was so quiet. There was barely any noise and a good number of people studying. It would have never happened in an American academic library, that’s for certain!

Afterwards, we met in the Weston Room which contained original 16th century funeral monuments and stained glass, and was absolutely gorgeous for some tea. The Weston room is now used for displays and special functions, and there are no books stored there.

While the round reading room and the Weston room were breathtakingly beautiful, my favorite part of the library was the working card catalogue in the Foyle special collections area. A librarian’s dream! We were all a little fascinated by it, and I admit I spent a long time flipping through the cards.


Ellen came along for notes, but our photo together wasn’t too flattering so here is a modified Ellen selfie



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