UCL News


Library of the month: Institute of Education Library

28 March 2019

It’s Europe’s largest education library, and it’s right on our doorstep. myUCL Student Journalist, Robert Vilkelis, explores UCL’s Library of the Month.

IoE Library

In the heart of Bloomsbury, you’ll find walls of windows streaming with a new springtime light; you’ll discover three levels of bustling library overlooking renewing trees and greenery; you’ll find an inclusive space to call your own. That’s what you’ll find in the heart of Bloomsbury; in Europe’s largest education library. 

Join Library Manager Bryan Johnson as we delve into the sunlit desks, expansive collections and angular architecture that make this library a space of living history and progressive thinking.

“This building is the library’s greatest treasure”

The Institute of Education is a very striking 1970s building – the library, however, was constructed almost 20 years later; it’s an extension!

“We used to be over in Ridgemount Street,” Bryan divulges, “And it’s because Sir Peter Newsam campaigned long and hard that we are where we are now.” For this reason, the IOE Library also has another name: the Newsam Library and Archives. 

“This building is the library’s greatest treasure. I think it’s almost perfect as a library. It’s three boxes with a central stairwell in the middle.” Contrary to some of UCL’s older libraries, this means that even with its immense size, you’ll never find yourself walking down winding, double-back corridors and wandering through rooms.

With its three floors, you also have choices to make: if you like the soft pattern of people conversing in the background, grab a seat in the social area near reception; or, if you prefer the quiet, head towards the silent upper or lower levels.

Wherever you walk, you’ll find the IOE’s unique aesthetic of a deep, saturated blue paired alongside bright, warm wooden hues guiding you deeper into the library – a physically embodied chapter of the IOE’s history as an independent institution. Similarly, wherever you choose, you can count on something being present: nature.

“So many people comment on the outside space while they’re here: people love the library because they can look out the windows and over the trees. It’s a very light, airy space,” and that’s exactly what makes the IOE library a refreshing place to study. There’s a lightness in the air in this library: a sense of easygoingness to come and go where you can immerse yourself in a scholarly atmosphere at your leisure.

Several lifetimes of knowledge

With over 300,000 volumes spanning from every aspect of global education to teaching materials for an uncountable number of subjects and curricula to a dedicated collection of children’s fiction and picture books, you’ll find several lifetimes of knowledge in the library.

Ironically, Bryan concedes, “I know it’s a funny thing to say, but my favourite collection would have to be the ‘Non-education Collection’.”

From psychology to sociology to linguistics and beyond, this collection contains a great deal of foundational work for education as a subject – and if you have an interest in bridging over into education from your subject, then this collection on the lower floor is a great place to check out.

Where to begin? The first port of call ought to be the IOE Library LibGuides which have been expertly-crafted with you in mind, making research that much easier. If you love tapping into UCL’s rich knowledge base, then you’ll also want to check out the Institute archive collections. With over 130 collections starting from 1797, you might be surprised about what you find there!

Contributing to education and beyond

“The IOE has always had an ethos of support and education, of supporting children, and we support lots of initiatives that support children’s literacy.”

When you’re studying in the library, you never quite know when a world leader in the field of education might be just a few metres away from you, or when big events might be happening in the rest of the building.

“Gillian Anderson,” best known as Agent Scully from The X-Files, “comes here quite a lot. She was awarded an Honorary Fellowship for her contribution to children’s literacy.”

You never know who might be stopping by or what might be going on. If you’re passionate about education, then the Institute of Education Library is a sure-footed step for being closer to the initiatives in action.

Come and visit

“It’s almost like I’ve worked in two different libraries,” Bryan remarks, “When it was independent, it was a quiet research library. Now that’s we’re part of UCL, it’s very busy. I quite enjoy that.”

“I want all students and staff to know that they’re welcome here. We have the space to facilitate many different users, and we provide the services you’d expect from any UCL Library.”

With our days growing longer, our lives growing greener and the end of term drawing nearer, there’s never been a better time to come and appreciate what the IOE Library has in store for you.


Robert Vilkelis