Well, I learned from my first trip to Oxford Brookes and made sure to have everything in order for a visit to the National Brewing Library this time around. And, lo and behold, everything worked out great! I corresponded with Eleanor Possart, the archivist in charge of special collections, who was on holiday the first time I visited and who was also away on my next visit. Thankfully I was left in the very capable hands of Jodi Wilkinson, a library assistant who works with the special collections. Ms. Wilkinson was extremely helpful and was nice enough to print out informational materials for me and give me a tour of the library. She could not have been more helpful.
As you might have guessed based on the first photo, the National Brewing Library is more of a collection than an entire library unto itself. It consists of only about ten shelves of materials and is located within the special collections of the Oxford Brookes University library. However, it is treated like a library all its own. It is classified by Dewey and covers and extremely wide range of topics; almost everything, in fact, related to alcoholic beverages. This includes science (the science of brewing and distilling); medicine (the health effects of alcohol); hospitality (the practice of running a pub, restaurant, or hotel bar); literature (poetry and fiction related to alcohol); and much more. Almost any topic that has anything to do with brewing, distilling, or alcohol in general can be found here.
Most of the books are in English, although some volumes in other languages can be found (mostly German, Dutch, and French). Most of the collection has been classified, although there were a few boxes of unclassified materials. The collection is actually set to be moved to a different location, so the librarians and archivists in charge of classification are waiting until after the move to begin classification on some materials. Some of the more interesting unclassified materials I saw were patents related to the devices and processes used in the production of alcoholic beverages. There were literally dozens of boxes of these patents from all over the world.
Housed right next to the National Brewing Library is a related collection: The Michael Jackson collection. No, not that Michael Jackson; Michael Jackson was an English beer and whisky writer and one of the premier authorities on those subjects. His collection includes a full range of his books in multiple languages as well as his personal collection of books on alcoholic beverages. It also includes over 20 filing cabinets filled with his writings and miscellaneous items. These range from small, handwritten notes of no apparent significance to an entire folder filled with labels from beer bottles. Essentially, upon his death the materials in his office were donated, sorted, and filed. This means that a large range of materials can be found in the collection. Thankfully the collection is cataloged and searchable online.
For a beer aficionado like me, both the National Brewing Library and the Michael Jackson collection were utterly fascinating. Really I could spend all day going through these collections. It was great to see how a library deals with collections like these and a great insight in general into special collections. I feel privileged to have worked with these collections.