When did you last visit?

Teddington library date unknown


Your first visit to the library was probably when you were a child. You may have scanned the shelves with eager eyes for your favourite books and delved into make-believe worlds, exciting adventures or unearthed fascinating facts. The hushed atmosphere, back then, was perhaps reminiscent of a church. Your possession of a library ticket gave you a permit to enter in on tiptoe and browse or borrow books under the gimlet eye of the stern librarian.
Sadly, many people who leave behind their childhood also leave the library along with it. Unless or until they have children of their own it remains a fond memory. Now what they won’t have realised, perhaps, is how vastly different today is the modern public library. I know. I’ve worked for Richmond upon Thames Library Services for more than twenty years and things have changed enormously in that time.

Computers and IT help

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We have laptops and a range of the latest tablets for teaching & demonstrations

The widespread use of computers has affected almost every aspect of our lives … and libraries have embraced this change. Did you know that you can get free access to computers, printers, scanners and that we have free Wi-Fi access in every one of our twelve locations? In addition, we’ve staff on hand to help you make the most of them.

We offer free one-to-one computer help. The Information and Reference Library runs a programme of IT events including hands-on lessons, demonstrations and drop-in sessions. Whether you’re a beginner, want to learn something new or perhaps would just like to try out the features of different tablets before you buy one – we’re happy to help.


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Dance in Libraries event

You’ll find we also have a lively programme of events across our libraries. For the jobseeker there are Work Clubs where you can get help with your CV, learn about job searching and use the Universal Job Match website. You might be interested in our reading groups, knitting clubs, French conversation class, women writers group, book launches and author talks, dance projects, Storytimes, Baby Bounce sessions, craft fairs, play reading, or Chatterbooks for Kids, perhaps? Our libraries really are vibrant places at the heart of the community.

cropped - CR2OQREWEAA2r9h frances firebrace from IRL twitterWhile all this activity is a long way from the reverential atmosphere of an old-time library we’re still an excellent place to research and study. Our Information and Reference Library in the Old Town Hall houses the Riverside Room, a unique 40-seat hall for silent study where the quiet tap of keyboards and the gentle rustle of turned pages is all you’ll hear – although we can’t quench the lively sounds that drift in from the riverside on a warm summer’s day. The room is a haven for students borough-wide and is packed to capacity in exam season – so arrive early if you hope to find a seat!

Frances Firebrace Aboriginal Storyteller


We also have a thriving Home Library Service ably assisted by hard-working volunteers who deliver books and other library materials to people who can’t come to the library in person.

Deborah card 2020 copy freedom pass from webWe’re also on hand to help with renewing your Freedom Pass and can assist you to find the information you need about the full range of Council Services.

For the digitally connected, the Online Library brings our services to you wherever you might be. You can search our catalogue – including the holdings of our consortium partners in SELMS (the largest public library consortium in Europe) – and reserve items ready to collect next time you visit. It’s easy to check your account or renew your loans online too. We also have a clever feature called an Alert Profile which allows you to set up your account to send you an email when we buy anything by your favourite author or on a topic of your choice. You can have as many of these alert profiles as you like!

Looking local?

Want to know about local halls for hire, join a chess club in the Borough or discover a community centre near you? What about horse riding schools, events, activities and services for children? Try our Community Information Directory. It’s free to use. You can list your organisation and your events in just a few clicks and keystrokes. www.richmondlibraries.info

Our Online Library

Everyone knows that libraries lend books and many are also aware that we have audiobooks and DVDs. But did you know that with our e-library you can borrow e-books and e-audio books? We also have ‘streaming’ (i.e. listen online) spoken word and music .

If you’ve never explored the library’s free e-resources now is a good time for doing so. We have selected authoritative, extremely useful and fascinating information sources that you really shouldn’t miss.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) is a fantastic resource for information about prominent British people which includes more than 55,000 entries, the majority of which are illustrated.
Within the DNB you can find people by name or select one of a range of ‘Themes’ which include topical Feature Essays, Reference Lists such as Climbers of Mount Everest and Reference Groups to discover more about a group – for example Women’s Social and Political Union – bringing together the history of the WSPU as well as biographies of the key people in the women’s suffrage movement.

Go Citizen (for the Life in the UK test) and Theory Test Pro (for the Driver’s Theory Test) are perfect study aids. You can revise all the questions and read the official handbooks online and even take practice tests to make sure you’re ready for the big event.

Berg Fashion Library
Berg Fashion Library

One of my favourites is the Berg Fashion Library where you can find in-depth articles about world fashion, reference works, bibliographic guides, lesson plans and timelines. There is a wealth of fashion facts and images to discover.

Are you a budding family historian? Then Ancestry Library Edition is an excellent place to get started and you can getShowImage Ancestry - from the web free access to all their genealogy databases. No need to worry about paying monthly charges as we have subscribed for you!

There more still. On our Online Resources page you’ll find our subscriptions to online newspapers, business databases, encyclopaedias and a wide range of reference titles including Who’s Who, Oxford Reference and the Very Short Introductions (VSI) series on a huge range of subjects. The VSIs is a brilliant series which give you brief but expert summaries on people, institutions and the very many complicated “ologies”. Try them here.

I could go on enthusing about all the fantastic things you can do at the library but it’s best if you come and discover it for yourself.

[ Elaine McClelland, Library Assistant ]