A small group of ARLIS delegates visited The Leeds Library, a subscription library tucked away above some shops in the centre of Leeds. The oldest surviving library of its kind in the British Isles, it began life in 1768.
The Librarian, Geoffrey Forster, has incredible knowledge of the library and the history of Leeds. He and Claire (the Assistant Librarian) gave a fascinating overview of the library’s history, current state and future plans, including their current bids for Heritage Lottery Funding.
The library collects books requested by members along with items to add to historic collections and anything they think the members will like. Members are allowed to borrow anything; although as the library collects for perpetuity it has some valuable and fragile items which are restricted. In the early days of the library catalogues were printed so members could select books at home and then send a servant to collect them! Nowadays part of the catalogue is online and accessible through their website.