Stacks in our basement store

We are delighted to announce that The Wiener Holocaust Library has recently been awarded a small grant by The National Archives. The purpose of the grant is to test, explore, and evolve the way in which the Library collects, preserves, and shares access to its holdings. With this grant, we aim to improve public access to our collections by shifting our current on-site item request system into a remote online item request system. Additionally, we will explore the possibility of using this online request workflow to help us drive our collections management projects. 

Our Reading Room is open to the public with all books we hold on our open shelves immediately accessible to everyone. All other items within our collections, such as documents, photographs, microfilms, and periodicals, are held in our basement store. These are not immediately accessible as readers are required to fill out a paper request (our famous pink-call slips!) for us to retrieve them from the basement. 

Greg Toth, Head of Collections at the Library, adds: 

“Since our relocation to Russell Square in 2011, there has been a significant increase in visitor numbers, particularly in researchers and readers travelling from institutions based outside of London and overseas. These increased numbers of visitors from further afield means we are experiencing a higher number of visitors with limited time to spend in our Reading Room, so they need to plan their research time carefully. Feedback from visitors indicates that there is a demand for us to introduce an online document request system, enabling users to request items prior to their visit. This would resolve the issue of our visitors using time during their visit, as they wait for items to be retrieved, and consequently maximising their time spent at the Library. Therefore, we would like to evolve our current manual request system into a far more efficient and user-friendly online system.”  

The pink call slip data that the Library collects is crucial in driving collection management activities such as planning future digitalisation, prioritising selection for preservation, influencing collection development, cataloguing and outreach activities, and security. Our collections staff undertake the data entry and analysis of this information, which is often time-consuming. Introducing an online request system will enable us to gather statistics in a more efficient and resourceful way. 

The introduction of remote online document requests at the Library will introduce several positive improvements. It will ensure that we meet visitor satisfaction and expectations, as more and more of our visitors demand this service. Introducing an online service will continue to guarantee that we are offering streamlined and transparent access to our collections, and visitors will have a fuller understanding of how the retrieval service operates and be aware that they can request items from our archives in advance of their visit. The simplicity of this service will inevitably encourage more item requests and visits to the Library. It will ensure that our service is in line with that of similar institutions and ultimately increase the security of our collections. In short: this new system will be good for our Readers and the Library. 

The software development will start shortly, and because we’d like to involve our Readers in the process, we will ask for volunteers to test the system at a later date. We hope to introduce the online document request system in late 2020.