Curating the Stacks: Research Guides

Librarian Antony Ramm takes a look at the secret library at the centre of the Central Library, and highlights some useful resources for getting the most out of the books held there…

Many visitors to our Central Library remark on the grandeur and elegance of the building itself, as well as the quality and quantity of the services and books provided by our staff. But what many of those visitors won’t be aware of are the many thousands of extra book-shelves living at the very heart of the building. These are known as the library stacks.

1966 image showing some of the 80,000 books moved to the basement during the construction of the stacks (Leeds Library and Information Service,

Construction on the stacks began in 1966, on the recommendation of structural engineers, and officially opened in 1973. Today, the majority of the stock held there is managed by our Reference team; comprising over 200,000 volumes, and covering pretty much every subject you can think of, the collection contains many classic works in their respective fields. Particular strengths include history, the social sciences, fiction and literary criticism. All that is excepted are books and other stock belonging to our existing specialist departments: Local and Family History, Music & Art and our Drama collections.

Many of these Information and Research books are generally available to loan (the exceptions being those over 100-years old), and can be identified using our online catalogue (just ask the staff in the department to retrieve any books of interest).

Taken together, these stack collections offer an undergraduate level of self-education to the users of the Central Library; that is to say, the people of Leeds. However, working through that online catalogue to find what you want can occasionally be a dispiriting process, and there are no open shelves through which the magpie-reader can serendipitously browse in search of what-they-don’t-know-they-want.

So, to aid this process of discovery, staff in the department have created a series of handy research guides, which break down the full collection of books in the stacks into bite-sized and expertly-curated lists on specific themes and subjects. Several are currently available: click the images to see the full contents of each.



You can see our full list of available research guides, covering a variety of different departments and subjects by clicking the link.

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