Wednesday 8 December 2010

Two new enquiry desks at The National Archives

Not an exclusive this time, because it has been open to the public since yesterday, but here it is anyway. The two new desks are not just new (and bigger), they are in new positions.

This is the larger of the two, which can can have up to 4 staff on duty at the busiest times. Most family history enquiries will be dealt with at this desk. There is a decent amount of space between the enquiry points, as you can see from the distance between the two computers shown here. On the right of the picture you can see a recessed area so that wheelchair users can get close to the desk without having to turn sideways.

Another improvement that might not be apparent to the public, but will be of benefit to the staff, is the increased amount of bookshelf space behind the desk. We keep reference books there to help with answering enquiries, but it used to be a bit crowded, and consequently hard to find the right book quickly. Now there is enough space to keep the categories separate, which should help.

The second desk is smaller, for two members of staff, and it too has wheelchair access. This is the place to go for help with general historical research; although most of our users are doing family or military research, we also have lots of graduate students and other researchers, and the single biggest record series that we hold is Foreign Office Correspondence.

One of the reasons for the current re-arrangement of the reading rooms is to make use of the extra space that we now have created. Now that we have far fewer microfilm cabinets and the microfilm readers that go with them, there is more room to consult the reference books that are in the open area, and in the Library itself.

There is still some way to go, with some more weekend moves and some painting and new signage to come. some parts of the room look decidely odd at the moment, which I haven't shown, but we're getting there. Watch this space.

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