Met Office

The Met Office is the UK’s national weather service. In 2004 its headquarters were moved to Exeter. It is a stunning building, with a sidewalk-inspired interior complete with street lamps, trees and a small creek. The Met is a huge organization, and has its own in-house library and archive. Last week I shadowed their librarians and archivist for a morning.

Trying to find the Met Office proved to be challenging. As a stereotypical twenty-something, I am overly dependent on my phone, and didn’t see the need to print out a map. Mistake #1, as the area is in a GPS black hole. As soon as I left the train station I got turned around. However, with the help of a few nice strangers I was able to make my way to the offices, just making my appointment. Phew.

The Met has a unique setup with both its archives and library on-site. While they are in different buildings and are run by different staff, many of the requests coming into the Met require information from both places. While the library was nice, I was most impressed with the archive. Each storage unit was temperature controlled, with air-decontamination units activating everytime a door opened. Furthermore, it looked like a “proper” archive (aka one from the movies) with its dark looming corridors and copious amounts of fire proofing.

Some of the things I saw (and got to handle!) include the original d-day weather forecast and the first iteration of the Beaufort wind scale, taken from Beufort’s 1806 diary.

Talking tech with the librarians was also very interesting, as their systems are much more advanced than ours at the NHS. I must admit some of the weather-specific language went way over my head though.

Finally I spoke with an Information Officer, who told me more about their user base. As it is a public library, many different types of people request information and want to use their resources. For instance this can include scientists as well as fiction authors wanting meteorological accuracy in their next historical novel. One of their more popular requests is for weather fact-sheets for baby books. What a great idea! Everyone here seemed to enjoy their work, and it seemed to be partly due to this variety.

Overall, it was a very eye-opening trip, and I look forward to the next libraries I visit!


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