Apparently Cambridge University Library has appointed someone new to be in charge of the manuscripts room. That man is a jerk. He wants to make his mark, so has “increased security.” Yes, I know; we all wince when librarians do this.
This I found out today when I tried to look at the catalogue of manuscripts in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples. As a manuscripts-related book, access to it is through the manuscripts room, to which I have access (which required a special letter of introduction).
I arrive at the door of the reading room, with my special clear plastic bag containing my wallet, notebook, assorted pencils, etc. First I have to sign my name and card number in a paper register. Then I am denied access. I am handed a key and told to leave my bag in a locker outside, and hold in my hands whatever I need. I do so.
Then I come back; and they still won’t let me in. I have to give them the key to the locker; and they give me a tag for it. Then they let me in.
Then I go to where the book should be. It isn’t there. Indeed there is no sign of a whole range of books in that shelfmark. I go to the desk; they don’t know where it is either. After messing me about for 10 minutes I just want to leave this creepy, horrible place.
And then, of course, I have to go through the rigamarole again in order to leave. Remember, not a single person in that room has got there without already passing a vetting, before they were even given a library card.
Possibly I could have ordered the book at the desk, gone away, and come back again, going through this “security” nonsense FOUR TIMES. Frankly I couldn’t face it, and went without.
Finally… CUL has no mechanism for complaints. Very angry and frustrated. They have the book. I want to look at it. I’m authorised to look at it. And I can’t.