The Guardian's "Reading Room" at Kings Place

 by Martin Belam, 3 June 2009

On Monday night I attended a joint evening put on by AUKML and the SLA at The Guardian. The event was sponsored by LexisNexis, and mostly consisted of a tour around the newspaper's new Kings Place offices.

Kings Place At Night

Now, it might seem a bit churlish to go on a tour of your own offices just to get a free glass of wine, but actually I was genuinely interested to hear how our library and research facilities were described to guest information professionals.

The highlight of the tour was a lengthy stop-over in the "Reading Room". Richard Nelsson, The Guardian's Head of Research & Information, gave a short talk introducing the role the department now plays.

The Guardian's Kings Place 'Reading Room'

"Location, location, location" might be the buzz-words of a TV property show, but they seem to have held true at The Guardian. The "Reading Room" is located directly opposite the Courier Desk - and that means that plenty of members of staff standing in queues get to cast a curious eye over the the library. In fact, they have even had to introduce rules forbidding people sitting and eating their lunch in the room due to the fact that it is such a nice environment.

But location is also key for the researchers. Instead of being stuck in the library, at The Guardian they are 'embedded' with the journalists on news desks and in the combined content 'pods' of Kings Place. They contribute to the fact-boxes and increasingly to the production of the data-based infographics in print and online.

With a recession in full swing cost-cutting is hitting everybody, and there are plenty of doom-mongers recording the travails of the news industry. The Guardian's library is not immune. They have tried to cut down on the number of journals and periodicals that the paper purchases, arguing that two well-thumbed centrally held copies make more financial sense than subscriptions to provide a copy to be placed on every desk. They also act as a kind of informal 'legal deposit' for books that find their way into the Kings Place offices, which saves money as well.

It was heartening to see that old mainstay of the media library - the cuttings file - still in use. The Guardian's cuttings files are held off-site, but within 24 hours the team can summon up a reassuringly beige manila folder of aging newsprint on a subject. On this tour, Richard was waving a folder about Terry Wogan. The Kings Place building also has a controlled storage area in the basement which houses some of The Guardian archive. Now, I really must arrange to get a proper tour down there...

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