Service desks

Lending desk at Hendon Branch Library, Sunderland 1908 – Architect: Edward Cratney

The service desk was designed to provide librarians with a screened reception to visitors and control upon entry and exit together with complete visual supervision of the rooms within the library from a central point. Most have been replaced or renewed but a few complete examples remain, the best being at Bethnal Green Library in London and Darwen in Lancashire.

Hendon Branch Library was originally designed “with a view to working the library with as small a staff as possible”[i]. The small library design was featured in 8 publications when it first opened operating on the “”safe-guarded” open access system” [i].

Plan of “Staff Enclosure” from CHAMPNEYS, A. L. (1907). Public Libraries, a treatise on their design, construction, and fittings … by Amian L. Champneys. London, B.T. Batsford.

Champneys 1907 design manual for the design of Public Libraries distinguished the set out of such a “safeguarded” system of open access in the UK: “Where this system is adopted, it is not, as in some American libraries, left practically to to the choice of the borrower whether he registers his loan or not. On the contrary, he can only enter the library by returning a book previously borrowed, or by showing his ticket, and can only leave it when another book has been charged and his ticket left in pledge.”

[i] Builders’ Journal and Architectural Engineer, 16.12.1908