Last month, Jane was fortunate enough to visit the chained library at Wells Cathedral.
Built in 1450, this working library has been in use for over 550 years. Wells is only 1 of 4 chained libraries remaining in the country.
An iron gate separates the reading room from the library where some books are still chained to the shelves. The move to chaining books to the shelves in the 1600s was seen as a way of increasing access! Previously books were stored in chained boxes and readers had to ask for each box to be unlocked by the custodians. By chaining the books to the shelves, readers only had to request to be let in through the locked gate. They could then browse the shelves and then read the books, at chains length, on the shelves below.
(Note from Charley: there is surely an analogy to be drawn here between chaining books to shelves and open access, but we won’t get into that…)