St Bride Library restructure – “nothing is at risk”

The chief executive of the St Bride Foundation says a restructure will affect public access to the library but will help to preserve its historic collection.

Image by flickr user themostinept
Image by flickr user themostinept

The chief executive of the St Bride Foundation says “nothing is at risk” as it restructures its library and workshop programme.

Chief executive Glyn Farrow says funding pressures, as well as uncertainties due to neighbouring building works, mean the foundation has had to reconsider its public access to the library, as well as making staff who run it redundant.

But he says that “nothing is at risk” in the historic archives, which features a vast collection of typographic literature and artefacts.

St Bride’s collection includes original maquettes of Kinneir and Calvert’s road signs, a collection of works by Eric Gill and 1,051 boxes of punches from William Caslon’s foundry.

Farrow says: “The library is perfectly safe – it is not being disposed of. We will aim to keep our care and conservation programme of the books and artefacts – these are our jewel in the crown.”

Farrow does say that the library will be disposing of any duplicate items and will also try to bring printing presses that are currently in an off-site warehouse on to the site, “while we decide what we’re going to do with them”.

The restructure and redundancies will affect public access to the collection, Farrow says.

In the future access will have to be pre-booked and generate funds for the library.

Farrow says: “What you can’t do is come in today and say: ‘My great grandfather was a compositor on Fleet Street and I want you to spend 25 hours doing research on him – and I might give you £5 if I feel like it.’”

Farrow says there will be a charge for access, which will be used to pay staff to resource this demand, as well as to fund the foundation.

He adds: “Nothing is at risk. If we hadn’t taken this decision we might have put our collection at risk because we’d be eating into our cash reserves.”

Access to the library has been on an appointment only basis since last year due to building work around St Bride.

As well as the library and the workshop – which offers hands-on training in traditional printing techniques – the St Bride Foundation also operates the Bridewell Theatre, the Bridewell Bar and venue hire. These are unaffected by the changes.

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