Gladstone's Library, Hawarden

By Rhian Waller - Gladstone's Library PR and marketing

One of the new additions to Gladstone's Library is a series of signs designed to help passers-by understand what the Library is all about, and to help new guests navigate the building.

The outside signs will hopefully aid us as we face two challenges here.

We are aware people might walk past our building and assume it's a completely private premises, a country house or a standard hotel.

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These people may never set foot inside if they believe that there is nothing for them at the Library, that it is a completely closed and private place.

This would be a shame, because anyone curious about the Library is welcome to pop in, pick up a leaflet, enjoy a cup of coffee at Food for Thought restaurant and find out how to access the Reading Rooms (they can stay as a resident, book onto a twice-monthly tour or sign up as a Reader).

The second challenge is at completely the other end of the privacy-openness spectrum: we sometimes receive visits from people who believe the Library is something along the lines of a tourist attraction, that they explore every room in the building at their leisure.

New signage outside Gladstones Library.

New signage outside Gladstone's Library.

It doesn't happen often, but on occasion, I have been pulled away from a task by somebody opening my office door (which has my name on it), whereupon I'm greeted by a stranger who cheerfully says they 'just wanted a look inside'.

This balance of privacy and openness is particularly important in the case of the Reading Rooms, the most famous and visually spectacular part of the Library. We are not able to let people walk around them at the drop of a hat for several reasons.

Firstly, we want to preserve the silence of these rooms. These are working spaces and it is too much to expect our residents and Readers to carry out concentrated work while the curious public wanders around them at unpredictable moments.

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Secondly, we must consider the security of our guests, their belongings and also our belongings: the books in our collections.

Thirdly, we carry archival materials that, for various reasons, are not suitable for public display, and researchers accessing these letters and documents do so in an expectation of privacy and with the oversight of the Reading Rooms team.

Finally, and crucially, as a hospitality venue, there are health and safety considerations - it is important to know who is in the building, particularly the parts behind closed doors, in case of an emergency.

At the same time, we want to welcome people into this wonderful environment.

These new signs, created by Daydream Designs based in Holywell, will hopefully give people an idea of what's on offer at Gladstone's Library before they even set foot through the door. And, if you are one of the people who have been curious about what goes on inside this beautiful building, you too can pop in to find out more - but perhaps knock on my office door before you open it!