Library Services


A review of SSEES Library

16 January 2023

Kristy Campbell, IOE PhD Student, shares what makes UCL’s SSEES Library so unique.

Looking at the book shelves in SSEES Library.

When I first entered the School of Slavonic and East European Studies Library it felt how I imagine being inside a kaleidoscope might be. Everywhere I looked, light bounced towards me, away from me, off something else; there was a glimmer and shimmer and shine. I felt like a message in a bottle, left on the shore under the blazing sun. I stood on the ground floor, somehow looking simultaneously in and out towards the centre of the library, and it was mesmerising. From here, I could see rows of volumes lining the worlds situated just beyond the reflective surfaces in the upper and lower levels of the library.

The tiled floor in the entrance resembled a deconstructed optical instrument and was as much an illusion itself. Despite its elaborate construction, the library at first seemed smaller than others I had visited. It was an intimate, quiet space, with fewer study areas, but this was made up for by the bounty of books stored in the space, creating patterns and mazes of scholarship across each floor.

Walking around the library, I came upon more and more individual desks available, tucked away amidst the shelves. There are 176 seats in total. The atmosphere of the space was tranquil, it allowed students to focus in isolation without the usual background murmurs, coughs and sniffs of larger spaces. If you’re an early bird, you might just manage to secure one of the communal hot-desk spaces so you and your friends can work in tandem, but do keep in mind, the library encourages a hushed ambience.

The resources are in abundance, with digital and hard copies of books and journals, as well as a microfilm reader (for those of you keen to explore the miniature archives), films and documentaries on specialist interests, computer screens, laptops to borrow, and scanning and printing services for us old-school readers and researchers.

Finding my way around the building (given the abstract features of the structure) wasn’t as daunting as I had first envisioned. Additionally, there was a lift running to all floors, plenty of signage, a member of library staff at the helpdesk and a security person at the SSEES reception to support the exploration of new (and old) visitors.

If I was looking to escape the electricity of UCL student life across the campus, and to indulge in some deep learning, I would pencil in some time at SSEES.

Visiting SSEES Library

Check out SSEES Library on the UCL website for more information on how to make use of this fascinating space.