Visit to the National Poetry Library

On Tuesday 27th June I had the pleasure of visiting the National Poetry Library on a trip organised by the UoL Lit Librarians. This is a group set up by a couple of University of London librarians with subject responsibility for literature to share ideas and knowledge. As the Arts Librarian at City I am lucky enough to be included and this was my first chance to meet the others in person as the first meeting I had attended was online.
The National Poetry Library (NPL) is located on the 5th floor of Royal Festival Hall. Outside the library is a children’s space and this demonstates the support they provide to the community. They run Rug Rhymes and also do workshops for schools. The NPL is open for anyone to join and membership is for life.

Little Library children's space with books and seating
There were similarities with City, for example, they have book displays and at the time of visiting Windrush was the focus.

Windrush book display

But in other ways it is very different. There are only a few study spaces so these have to be restricted to those making use of the poetry collection. They are a print first library although they do have Overdrive for e-books. They are also looking at audiobooks on Overdrive as an alternative to their current practice of sending out CDs as an alternative format. The NPL aims to hold all poetry published in the UK and also parallel translations. They have one reference copy and one lending copy of each title. The reference copies are never really weeded, rather they are sent to storage as space is required.

Rolling stacks in rainbow colours

In terms of magazines they will accept anything donated including zines.

It sounded like they get interesting enquiries. The most common being:

  • How to publish poetry
  • Poems for life events such as weddings
  • ‘I remember this line but don’t know the poem’

Their collection includes material to help with the first two and there is access to a database called LitFinder to help with the third one.

The advantage of being in an arts space is the opportunity for collaboration. For example, they are part of the Southbank Centre’s Poetry International festival at the end of the month.

One thought on “Visit to the National Poetry Library

  1. Very interesting Fiona. The National Poetry Library has often piqued my interest when i’ve been around the South Bank, but have never had a chance to visit. And the UoL Lit Librarians group sounds like a useful network too.

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