Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Carnegie Library, Dunfermline, Scotland

Dunfermline was the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie. The Carnegie Library there was the first one to be gifted by him. J.C. Walker designed the building and it was opened to the public on the 29th of August 1883. In the entrance hall of the building there is a bust of Carnegie’s mother. The library provides free Internet access to its users and the collection holds about 59,000 materials. The special collections include the Murison Burns Collection and the George Reid Collection of Medieval Manuscripts and early printed books.

In 1992 the museum expanded and opened a children’s section. The library offers “Rhyme Time” for toddlers and a summer reading program for school aged children. This year they had 139 children signed up for the summer reading program.

The library has a local history room. Items there are shelved by general subject, and then by specific areas of that general topic. They include family history research materials from 1561 to 1700 birth and marriage records. In the back room they have many items in storage including a gifted donation of glass negatives and accompanied handwritten indexes by local photographer Morris Allan, maps of Dunfermline, the 1851 to 1950 bound hard copies of the Dunfermline Journal, and the Scriptures of Saint Margaret Gospel (the other existing copy is in the Bodleian Library in Oxford).

A new museum and gallery is expected to open in Dunfermline by 2015. It will be an integrated facility with the Carnegie Library. Of course this is all dependent upon available money from the heritage fund.

Central Library, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh

Central Library of Edinburgh is a Carnegie Library and opened its doors to the public in 1890. The architect George Washington Browne designed it in the French Renaissance style. Above the entrance there is a quote that reads “Let there be light.” Apparently, Andrew Carnegie insisted that this quote be inscribed in the entrances of all the Carnegie libraries. Today the library has two floors below ground, and a lending library, resource center, and learning center on the ground floor. On the first level above the ground floor is the Board Room, and on the second level there is the reference library and fine art library.

This library has a 24/7 online presence. The librarians attribute its increased membership to the continual online availability. On the website users can get information about the twenty-seven community libraries and their services. The library’s goal is to make the entire collection accessible, or into a virtual library. On the homepage there is a link to online services and resources e.g. language learning, businesses, funding, and ancestry. The library’s use of social media can be found in “A Tale of One’s City” on Twitter, YouTube, or the Flikr Channel. The librarians maintain a blog and a quarterly E-newsletter that serves about 1,000 people. Library 2GO provides E-books and E-Audio books online. The overall goal is to increase the use of the library’s resources and collections.

The library does a great deal of outreach and marketing to its users and potential users. It provides author events where authors come to the library and branch libraries to promote their books. They create book clubs/groups and promote readers to read outside of their preferred genre. There are about thirty library volunteers who visit “carehomes” and read poetry and other genres to the residents there. The library has also formed partnerships with other literary organizations such as the Scottish Storytelling Center and the annual Book Festival each August.

The library also provides classes to teach computer literacy, literacy, and numeracy. The computer literacy lessons are informal and usually last for six weeks. The learners are matched up with a buddy and work one on one with that person. The learning center also works with Dyslexia of Scotland and provides support for children and adults with dyslexia.

National Records of Scotland

The National Records of Scotland is the consolidation of the National Archives of Scotland and the General Register Office for Scotland. In 1789 the building was opened to the public. There are 450 staff, six public search rooms, and nine websites. The collection contains seventy-two kilometers of historical records, dating from the 12th century. It contains the Scottish register of births, marriages and deaths, as well as the Scottish Census records since 1841. The bound records are color-coded: black for death, red/maroon for birth, green for marriage. Only the most requested records get priority to be digitized, thereby determined by user requests. The oldest document is a brieve (the land the king granted for a church) from King David I from the 1120s. Also available are the digitized wills of the Scottish people that date from 1501 to 1901.

Online service provided by the NSR include the following:

Scottish Archive Network: 45 archives

Scotlandspeople genealogical information, old parish registers, catholic registers, coats of arms,

Scotlandsplaces- maps, plans, aerial photos, geographical data

Scottish register of tartans

Scottish Handwriting.com paleography

Scottish Archives for Schools e.g. Glow (teacher resources/training)

Most of the National Records of Scotland users are from the older generation, say in the fifties and older, or professionals. The use of the records tends to increase with the airing of television shows regarding genealogy such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” Although the digital copies of records are available in house, they aren’t yet available online.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Christ Church Library, Oxford, England

The Christ Church Library was originally housed in the cloisters until 1772 when it was moved to his current location. The collection is organized by the name of the person who donated it, e.g. Aldrich, Stratford, and Wake. In the collection you will find first edition books by Copernicus and Galileo, Roman Scripts produced in England circa 550 to 1163, a 1326 illuminated manuscript for Edward III, eighty-six Byzantium Manuscripts from the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. There are also illuminated Hebrew manuscripts, and about forty Arabic manuscripts. Additionally, the library has a collection of Lewis Carol’s work e.g. Alice and Wonderland.

The users can access the collection by making an appointment. They can get copies of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts that are online in pdf form. In the future, the library will be getting a digital studio to prepare metadata for online availability.

The Bodleian Library, Oxford University

The Oxford University’s first library was established in 1320. It consisted of two floors and took the master builder fifteen years to finish. The collection started with the donation made by Duke Humfrey of Gloucester. The collection grew and the library was considered completed by 1488. However, during the Reformation under the rule of Henry VIII, the collection was destroyed except for three books that survived. Along came Thomas Bodley, a protestant, graduate of Magdalene College, and a fellow, later in life left his personal library to Oxford University, hence the name the Bodleian Library. In 1610 Bodley made arrangements with publishers to ensure the library received one copy of every book published in Britain at that time. Currently there are eleven million books in the collection. It is not a lending library and only librarians can retrieve the books from the shelves. Many books in the collection are on microfische. However every college within Oxford University has a lending library.

An additional library to the campus is called the Radcliffe Camera. Originally it was a medical library established by Francis Smith of Warwick and Dr. John Radcliffe. The building itself is quite remarkable. It is a round, multi-storied structure with a domed roof that floods the interior with natural lighting.

The Royal Geographic Society

The Royal Geographic Society’s librarian, Eugene Raye, led our group into the Foyle Reading Room to look at items from the “Hot & Cold” explorers’ collection. The “hot” part of the collection was from explorers that went to places near the equator such as those looking for the source of the Nile or mapping the Amazon. The “cold” part of the collection was from explorers trying to find the Northwest Passage, the North Pole, or the South Pole.

First we looked at the items from the “cold” part of the collection. The items included here were from the 1840s Perry expedition to the North Pole, e.g. Inuit shoes, and the fatal 1846 Sir John Franklin arctic expedition. From the Antarctic region there are items from Captain Scott’s Discovery Expedition, e.g. a supply list from Harrods Store limited and a food bag. Also included were items from Shackleton’s expeditions e.g. Shackleton’s bible, and an edition of the “South Polar Times” magazine, as well as photographs of the Endurance trapped in ice by the photographer Frank Hurley.

Recent items donated to the “cold” collection came from the contents of Mallory's pockets when Mt. Everest climbers discovered his remains in 1999. These items include a wristwatch, compass, Swan matches, and energy sweets. These were added to the Mallory collection that includes the planning papers for the expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest, photographs and a metal water bottle. Mallory’s camera has yet to be recuperated.

Next we looked at the artifacts from the “hot” collection. First we looked at items from Livingstone’s expedition to find the source of the Nile e.g. a sketch of Victoria Falls, a sketch map of the area, and Livingstone’s hat and compass. Included in this part of the collection is Henry Morgan Stanley’s hat. From the Amazon part of the collection, we saw Percy Fawcett’s artifacts. These included photographs, hand made maps, and an anode barometer. Included in this part of the collection is T.E. Lawrence’s sketch map of Arabia, and a replica bust of Gertrude Bell, the original is in Bagdad, Iraq. For good measure, the box sextant used by Charles Darwin when he was on the voyage of the Beagle was also on the table.

Overall, the library holds two miles of items including one mile of maps, and half a mile of photographs all stored in the archives beneath the city block. All of the items are onsite and retrievable within five to ten minutes time. In 2004 the online catalog was created. Unless users are members or people in education there is a ten-pound fee to use the reading room and access the collection.

National Art Library, Victoria & Albert Museum

The National Art Library was established in 1837 and was part of the School of Design. Since that time it has been moved to different locations in London from its original site at Marlborough House, next to Somerset House, and then in 1850 to its current location. It is a non-lending library so all research needs to be done in house. The reference room materials are open access otherwise the stacks are closed and materials must be requested with the limit of six items per request, unless they’re from special collections in which case the limit is three items. In the periodical room there are 8,000 titles including 2,000 current titles. This collection is related to the museum collection of Arts & Crafts, for example the library holds 99.9% of all Vogue magazines ever published in both English and French. They are bound for security and preservation. The collection also includes trade and exhibition catalogs dating from the 18th century to the present.

The books are classified and ordered by size. It is a historic collection therefore there isn’t a logical classification system. In order to find items the librarians use a locator map, pressmarks on the books and a findings list. The annual acquisition budget is about $300,000.

My favorite part of the tour was when we were led into a room with items from the collection on display. The librarian, Sally Williams, explained the background information about the items she’d pulled for discussion and our perusal. The collection includes a 1908 illustrated fashion design book by the then famous designer Paul Poiret. The illustrations were made with stencils and then colored in. Next there was an art book that had rabbit pelt pages. The oldest item on display was an illuminated manuscript from Paris dated 1410. There was the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield that had been donated by John Forster in 1876. The library also holds a copy of John Audobon’s 450 prints bound in a book. There was a preserved copy of Ross & Sons Great Exhibition Almanac of 1851. It was so exciting to be able to handle and go through these materials.

Due to the lack of funding very few items in the library’s collection are digitized. However, there are a select few items available on the database Empire online.

Most of the users of this library are university students, post-graduates, people related to auction houses, and curators at the museum. The users have free access to the database including JSTOR. There are also student theses available from the library by date.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


We spent the entire day and evening in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Once we arrived a few friends and I found the public library, a Carnegie library, poked around inside and talked to two librarians. Next we decided to tour the town via a hop on, hop off bus. The first stop was Trinity Church where Shakespeare attended and is buried. Then once back on the bus, we stopped by Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. The garden entrances were locked, so we walked around the perimeter and peered in through the hedges. We departed the bus at the Shakespeare Memorial statue near the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre. Once there we had a dinner at a pub named Swan Pub, but nicknamed the Dirty Duck. After dinner we still had two hours to kill, so we walked around town a bit and found our way over by the River Avon and watched the people, waterfowl, and activity on the river. Finally it was time to enter the Swan Theatre for the performance of Cardenio, the lost play of Shakespeare re-imagined. It was a spectacular performance with the added pleasure of flamenco singing and dancing as a finale.

The London Library

The London Library is located in Saint James Square. It is a private research library with lending services that receives no public funding or grant money. The Deputy Librarian, Jane Oldfield, greeted us at the intake desk. She led us up three flights of stairs to a meeting room. Once there we met the Head of Reader Services, Helen O’Neill. She gave a wonderful presentation on the history of the library, including current renovations. In 1841, Thomas Carlyle, one of the founding members, got fed up with the British Museum’s Library because they didn’t lend out their collection. In response he and a few others set up the private London Library as a lending library. This library predates the Public Library Act. Its collection is predominantly in the Arts and Humanities. However, they do hold the original Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Currently there are an estimated seven thousand members, including corporations. The entire operation is financially dependent on user subscriptions, fundraising, and people leaving money to the library in their wills.

Some examples of former members are Virginia Woolf, who first joined at twenty-two years old, and T.S. Eliot, who was not only a member, but the president of the library from 1952 to 1964.

There are fifty languages, mostly European languages, found in the collection. All of the books are arranged by subject and size, and there is open access browsing. Eight thousand new books are added to the collection each year. There is no ascension policy, and there aren’t any desk jackets. There is an in house conservator so they bind most of their books, however they also send items out for binding. Because there is no ascension there is a greater scope regarding the subject matter revealed in the collection.

One member referred to the London Library as…”the gentleperson’s Google.” John McNally.

The annual budget for acquisitions is about $446,276 (or 282,000 pounds). One third of that is spent on periodicals. Many books are donated, some of which are not kept and are included in the Friends of the Library book sales. Some members leave books to the library when they die. Also, the library has special arrangements with some publishers who give books to the library free of charge.

Sixty percent of the collection is available on the open access online catalog. Most everything in the collection can be checked out unless it is of high monetary value or in a fragile state.

The only part of the collection that has been digitized is the art prints.

There are four reading rooms: the Victorian Reading Room, the Lightwell Reading Room, the 1930s styled reading room where laptops can be used, and the Prevost Reading room.

My overall impression of the library is that it would be a wonderful place to spend many hours reading for research or simply for pleasure.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Imperial War Museum

In the morning I decided to go to the Imperial War Museum. It’s a short walk from where I’m staying at King’s College Apartments on Stamford Street in Lambeth. After a fifteen-minute walk I arrived at the entrance to the museum. The security guards were checking purses and bags. The one exhibit that caught my attention right off was called The Children’s War. Along with that was the Once Upon a Wartime exhibit. They were really well done with a variety of artifacts, including children’s letters home to parents, teddy bears, suitcases, and child sized gas masks. Throughout the exhibit were touchscreen displays that gave timelines of events and background history. There were so many stories of the children that were evacuated from London to the British countryside, the United States, or if they were orphans shipped off to Australia. From what I can recall there were an estimated seven thousand children killed in London, and about another seven thousand injured due to the Nazi Blitzkrieg.

Another interesting fact to me was that schoolteachers were required to evacuate with their students to the countryside. Classes were held in the morning and the students had the afternoons free to explore their new homes. At this time students were required to stay in school until they reached fifteen years of age. Near the school room display there was a touchscreen display that included a journal of a teacher at an all boys’ school. The teacher made entries about evacuation drills to the bomb shelters, how students were required to carry their gasmasks at all times, and how some students were absent from school because their father and/or older brother(s) were visiting on leave from their military duties.

Included in this area of the museum was a replica of the interior of a typical 1940s British home. It showed a child’s bedroom, a teenager’s bedroom, the parents’ bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom. What was most remarkable was the in home bomb shelter assembled in the main living space. It looked like a metal table with wire fencing on the side. Lovely!

Past this display was a replica of the interior of a prefab home. Apparently so many homes were either completely destroyed or uninhabitable that homeless London residents were provided with prefabricated homes. The replica reminded me of today’s modular homes. I was left wondering if any of these homes are still in use today, or if people replaced them when they were able to do so.

The next exhibit I visited was the John Singer Sargent Gallery. In it is his huge painting show the soldiers who have experienced mustard gas poisoning, have their eyes bandaged and are walking with one hand on the shoulder of the soldier in front of them. Within the same exhibit hall, there was another artist by the name of Nash whose painting style I really admired. On the same floor there is an exhibit of Women War Artists. I skimmed this exhibit but noted the beautiful depictions of women factory workers and women working with the war wounded.

New to the Imperial War Museum is the Explore History Centre. It is on the floor up from the ground floor of the museum and has two museum staff stationed at a help desk, and another room with about twenty computers for research. They boast to have a user-friendly catalogue and interactive multimedia displays of the museum’s archives’ treasures. While I was there, a woman researching a person of interest discovered that that person earned medals. She was very excited, but the only glitch was that she’d have to travel to Canada to see them.

If I hadn’t had an appointment to tour the London Library, I would have explored the museum store. Nevertheless, the museum is a fifteen-minute walk from where I’m staying so I’ll have to try to get back there at some point.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Greenwich, England

Our library science group left London to tour Greenwich today. Just to mix things up a bit, we took a boat from the London Eye Pier to the Greenwich Pier. It just so happened that the ticket salesperson sold me a two-way ticket. It was fun taking this sort of water taxi and seeing both banks of the Thames up to and back from Greenwich.

Once in Greenwich we walked through the University of Greenwich campus and made it over to the Stephen Lawrence Gallery. This art gallery was established in the year 2000 under some pretty sad circumstances. Possibly you had read about the racially motivated hate crime several years ago where two black youths were severely beaten by a group of white teenagers. One of the black boys, Stephen, died and his mother, Dori Lawrence, at the time was a student at the university. Later she worked at the university and she and the university community created this gallery in Stephen’s honor. It is open to the community and is a celebration of different cultures, personal expression, and as a memorial to Stephen and his love for art.

The current exhibit is entitled Uncaught Hares: Painting and Sculpture at Greenwich Studios: 1974-1994. The artists during this time period were heavily influenced by Abstract Expressionism such as that produced by Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. Although it’s not my favorite style of art, I do like the paintings by Marilyn Hallam Short Story from Max, Clyde Hopkins Ron’s Trippy Craft, and Patrick Jones Circle. There is a 1972 film on this art movement in Greenwich’s Docklands at this site www.spacestudios.org.uk/space.

At twelve o’clock noon we broke for lunch and were to reconvene at two in the afternoon. The group left the campus for lunch in the nearby town. Dr. Welsh pointed out where we were to meet at two, so I had lunch at a restaurant called Le Menu. While I ate a Croquet Monsieur, I read through The Greenwich Visitor, a local rag, and learned about The Fan Museum and the well renowned Greenwich Market both unfortunately closed on Mondays. After lunch I stopped by a nautical shop and picked up some useful items for Robert.

At ten minutes to two I was waiting and looking for the group at the predetermined location. I thought that I saw Dr. Welsh in the distance on two separate occasions. At two o’clock I was getting rather concerned about where the group was and if I misunderstood the time or place. By ten after two I went to the National Maritime Museum at the information desk to see if I could locate the group. Simon at the desk made a few phone calls and had no leads, so by two thirty I gave up hope of finding Dr. Welsh and the group. So at this point I backtracked again to the rendez-vous spot, went inside the Information Center and Greenwich Museum for a look around. Then I decided to take advantage of being in Greenwich, and I went the National Maritime Museum exhibits.

While at the Maritime Museum, I went through three exhibit areas. The first one was the Explorers exhibit on the ground floor. It had an exhibit showing a map and the goods traded from around the world. Apparently back when peppercorns were rare you could use them as currency to acquire other goods.

Two floors up there was an exhibit of other explorers and the nautical equipment that was used for navigation. Captain Cook and his three voyages was highlighted, especially his third voyage when he was up in Vancouver looking for the Northwest Passage and met his end in Hawaii. There were numerous types of maps ranging from a Polynesian map out of woven material that represented ocean currents and shells that represented islands, a map from an atlas made in Genoa showing the Mediterranean, and maps depicting Africa.

On the floor beneath this exhibit was one dedicated to the slave- trade. There was a comprehensive map depicting the Atlantic Exchange, showing the goods coming from and going to North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. Also, there were a lot of materials displayed showing what led to the eventual abolition of slavery under the reign of King George III.

Feeling pretty tired at this point, I decided to return to London by boat. So, although I didn’t have the same experience as the group did on their tour, at least the day trip to Greenwich wasn’t a total loss.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Freetime Exploring South London

Beth and I hooked up to explore east of where we are staying at King’s College dorms on Stamford Street. Originally we were trying to locate the Braham’s Museum of Tea and Coffee. There is a lot of construction going on in London right now, so I’m not sure if we missed the building due to all of the scaffolding, but we just couldn’t find it. Instead we found a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind, a floating museum. Then we toured the Clink Prison Museum and noted that the prisoners themselves had to pay for their incarceration. Imagine if California had this policy, we wouldn’t have such debt as we currently do. Anyhow, the many devices certainly made for a miserable stay. After seeing the museum we walked by the Borough Market, but it wasn’t open on Sundays. Walking along the bankside of the Thames, we saw the replica of the Globe Theater, had lunch at a Greek restaurant, searched for artifacts on the strand of the Thames, and returned to our dorms to rest. After a while, we met up again, went to Waterloo Station to get a seven-day travel card, rode the tube over to Buckingham Palace to take photos, and walked back through St. James Park. After walking along the Victoria Embankment, we crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridge that offers a panoramic view of Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, the London Aquarium, and the London Eye. It turned out to be a relaxing way to spend a Sunday in the city of London.

Daytrip to Dover Castle & Canterbury

Today, I signed up for the Day Trip to Dover Castle and Canterbury. Once the bus arrived at Dover, you could see the harbor and the ferries leaving to traverse the English Channel to France and other destinations. It was a bit too hazy on the horizon to actually see the French shoreline, but on a clear day I imagine it is visible. After departing the bus at Dover Castle, I first toured the Medieval tunnels. Next, I walked through the museum that highlighted Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and two of their troublesome sons, John and Richard the Lionheart. It’s funny to think that five years ago this month I spent the fourteenth of July, France’s Independence Day, with my family outside of Richard the Lionheart’s castle at Talmont-Saint Hilaire. I remember that the fireworks display was beautiful as it lit up the old castle ruins.

Dover Castle has a layered history like so many places in this corner of the world. Driving up towards the town of Dover, our guide pointed out a prehistoric settlement on top of hill, now grown over with grass, but to a trained eye recognizable. The area of Dover Castle itself was originally where a Roman lighthouse stood. Then the Saxons came built a church and turned the remains of the lighthouse into the bell tower. Next came the Norman Invasion of 1066. After that came Henry II and the castle was built. Fast forward to the twentieth century when the castle was used during WWII for Operation Dynamo to rescue British and French troupes from the German assault at Dunkirk.

The castle is a very impressive structure. As we were walking down the hill to depart I couldn’t help but notice all the trees that were growing up beneath the walls, and it reminded me of the Maya ruins at Uxmal in Yucatan, Mexico. I imagine if this area wasn’t still populated that in a few hundred years it would be reclaimed by nature, another lost remnant of the past. Of course this isn’t likely to happen this century.

The next stop was the town of Canterbury, famous for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the murder and sainthood of Thomas Becket. After having a delicious lunch of lamb tagine, I went to the Canterbury Museum. As the name implies it is a museum about Canterbury, first as a Roman settlement, then as a Saxon settlement, throughout the Medieval Ages as a popular pilgrim site, to the present. Most surprising to me was a collection of tiny gold Saxon coins perfectly formed. Actually most all of the Saxon artifacts showed a great deal of craftsmanship. For some reason I’d always thought the Saxons were somewhat primitive with crude skills.

The museum was definitely geared towards children. There were a lot of hands on displays and a timeline showing a very simplified version of how Henry II and Thomas Becket had a falling out. Hardly anyone was in there but a single family, a couple of older ladies, and myself.

Feeling a bit tired I meandered through the streets to the entrance of the Canterbury Cathedral. The fee was more than what I was willing to pay, and I didn’t have a lot of time left, so I decided not to go in. Later, I might regret this decision. Instead I decided to make my way back to where the bus was parked. The ride back was relatively quick and without incident. It sure made up for the miserable trip back from yesterday’s excursion.

Daytrip to Stonehenge & Bath

Today we took a day trip by coach (bus) to Stonehenge. It took about two and a half hours to drive from South London to Stonehenge. The terrain was much more hilly than I had expected it to be. Near the Stonehenge site there were nearby burial mounds. Of course for the sheep grazing this area they were totally oblivious to anything but those tender shoots of grass. Stonehenge was a fascinating site even though there was a moderate number of tourists, me included. You could hear various languages being spoken such as American English, French, German, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. It sprinkled off and on and it was a bit blowy.

The next stop was Bath, which is situated within a bowl of conjoining hills. It is somewhat of a wooded area, surrounded by pastureland and many happy sheep. Beth and I hooked up to ramble about. First we made a stop at an Indian restaurant, on the second story that overlooked a chocolate shop in the foreground and the Bath Abbey in the background. While having our meal, we watched a chocolate making class going on and tourists milling in and out of the abbey.

The first stop after the Indian restaurant was Minerva Chocolate Shop for some specialty chocolates for later in the day. Next we went into the National Trust store and bought some British goods. After that we paid the fee to explore the interior of the Bath Abbey. Inside there were beautiful stained glass windows, an impressive pipe organ, and grave plaques upon the floor and walls.

Once back on the street we made our way up to the Jane Austen Center. Seeing as I don’t have much patience reading through romance novels, I have to admit that I don’t remember actually reading any of her works. Although I do remember watching movies based on them. Besides, I am much more of a Virginia Woolf follower than an Jane Austen follower (Orlando, A Room of One’s Own, and “The Mark on the Wall.”)

Shortly thereafter, Beth and I made our way over to what was once known as the Costume Museum and is now called the Fashion Museum. The collection had a large display of wedding gowns from the last two hundred years, women’s clothing from various eras, and some torture devices such as corsets and high heeled shoes.

After that museum we made our way back to where the bus was to pick us up. We didn’t go into the Roman baths because there were huge crowds and we ran out of time. We arrived right on time to load the bus, but there was no bus. The entire group was milling about waiting for the bus, but still no bus. Then the sky was darkening and wind started blowing towards us. Suddenly, the sky opened up as did our umbrellas and we were experiencing a deluge. Ah, Britain in the summer! Five of us made an umbrella huddle, but the angle of the rain got our legs and shoes soaking wet. Finally, the bus arrived twenty minutes late. Everyone was in a somber mood, feeling damp and cold. Fortunately, Beth whipped out the bag of chocolates to soothe our spirits. Closer to London we hit stop and go traffic. It was a very long and uncomfortable ride back. C’est la vie!!!

The British Library

The British Library is a.k.a. the National Library of the UK. There are three areas of acquisition: acquire, keep, make accessible. The library’s common purpose is to provide leadership in the library community. They are required to acquire and maintain the national catalog. The books are kept below ground. The entire book collection covers a total subterranean block. It includes four floors and about thirty-five million books. There are actually four buildings in London that contain the entirety of the books/materials for the British Library. Currently forty percent of the collection is housed at the library, whilst sixty percent is housed in Yorkshire. Essentially, there are about one hundred and eighty-five million titles altogether in the collection. This covers eight to nine miles. Each year the library receives eight thousand books per day, therefore eight miles of shelving a year needs to be added for expansion. The British law dictates that the library keeps everything, no ascension/weeding here folks!

The Founding Fathers of the British Library:

Sir Hans Sloane, physician, traveler, scholar, believed that knowledge should be shared. He is most known for developing choline, an anti-malarial medicine. I remember taking this when I went to French Guyana in 1986. Anyhow, the good doctor left his private library to the nation via the Montagues and Russells, the founding families of the British Museum in 1753. Sloane is also renowned for bringing chocolate from the Americas to Europe. Yum, my savior!

Another notable founding father was Sir Robert Cotton. He left Cambridge in 1510, at the prime age of twenty-two, and amassed the entire countries monastic collection. You see Henry the VIII was cleaning house and church at the time, discarding those monastic treasures. Eventually, Cotton donated ninety percent of his collection to the British Library by means of the British Museum.

The librarian tour guide brought us into a room where there is the automated book retrieval system (ABRS). It is on this machine that books are retrieved from the closed shelves below ground. Because space is at a premium this library stores books according to size, therefore does not use the Dewey Decimal system or Library of Congress Classification System. So on the spine of every book is a location mark. Also there is a two card system used, one is placed in the book retrieved and the other is used as a shelf marker.

Next we went past the Glass Tower of books. It contains the personal collection of King George III. There are sixty thousand items in this collection. He wanted them to all be seen therefore they’re housed behind clear glass panels. Nearby is the biggest book in his collection, the 1660 Dutch atlas named the Klenche Atlas. It is definitely the biggest book that I’ve ever seen, and it, too, is displayed under class.

Other well-known items on display in the British Library are the Codex Sinaiticus (@1,700 years old), the Gutenberg Bible, and the Magna Carta. On the ground floor is a gallery with rotating exhibits. I took in the Science Fiction exhibit. There were a lot of surprises for me. My previous view of the Science Fiction genre was quite narrow, for instance I never would have thought to put Anthony Burgess’ Clockwork Orange in the SciFi genre.

Exploring the Neighborhood & Camden Town

I woke up at 6 a.m. and there was a light grey sky. I went into the common kitchen area for my routine coffee and breakfast making to find it raining. I read a bit from the Kindle The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester. It’s finally getting interesting with all of the discussion of the Enlightenment and geology.

After reading a bit, I decided to hit the road, stop in at the local bakery, and explore the neighborhood. Once I made my purchases at the bakery I worked my way down past Waterloo Station and explored that street (name unknown). It started pissing rain again. Right…I’m in London after all and that is how the summers pass, right, with precipitation. I made a wonderful discovery on this street. I discovered Greensmiths, a foodies delight! For some unknown reason I’ve been having a really hard time finding eggs. Well, at this store they had eggs, a butcher, green olives from Sicily, interesting soups, and a most wonderful version of ginger beer. Foodies paradise!

By 9am I was in the courtyard meeting Jamie and suggested we hit Camden Town. I’m really not one for crowds and I figured that with the rain and it being a Thursday we wouldn’t have to navigate through the masses to check out the merchandise in the stalls. So off we went to Camden Town via the Tube at Waterloo. Once we arrived we were a bit early, so we decided to head off to a coffee shop. Near the coffee shop there was an eclectic shop that had a mirrored covered Buddha in the window. After our coffee I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the mirrored Buddha. It was awesome! The rain started up again but we wound our way through most of the stalls that were open. Too bad we weren’t hungry because it was truly a gourmands delight in there with meals ranging from the Morrocan Tagine, Chinese Dim Sum, to the Italian pizzas. ‘Twas Yummy smelling and looking. I naturally gravitated to the Indian stalls and found some beautifully colored bangels, scarves, and delightfully smelling sandalwood incense. By 11 a.m. I was pretty well saturated with shopping and rainwater so we made our way back to the metro station. Back at the dorms I said my good-byes to Jamie and wished her a bon voyage to France, went to unpack my goods, eat lunch and prepare for the journey to the British Library.

British Museum Archives & Exhibits

Our class took the Tube to the British Museum to get a tour of the archives. Stephanie Clarke is the sole archivist for the British Museum. This archive holds the historical and administrative records of the museum from 1753 to the 1960s detailing the museum’s workings.

On average there are thirty inquiries per week and five to six researchers per week, the majority are academics doing research.

Examples of the records kept there are from trustees, staff, finance, and exhibitions. The records are bound in books, and the indexes are organized A-Z, page number and date. The archivist showed us an example of a book of bound letters, correspondences e.g. an archaeologists requesting money from the museum, and the museum refusing to send any more money.

Along with the collection are about 5,000 photographs related to staff of the building, not the collection, because those are kept with the individual museum departments. The examples shown to us were from Frederick Short, a photographer, who took photos of Egyptian antiquities on exhibit in the early part of the twentieth century.

Also in the collection are applications for use of the reading room and archives. Notable letters have been placed in plastic sleeves from the likes of Helen Beatrice Potter, Rudyard Kipling, and Bram Stoker to name a few.

The only part of the collection that is being digitized is the microfilms up to WWII. All other digitizing projects are placed on hold due to the economy in the UK. Items that are born digital might be stored on Sharepoint. The archivist indicated that the IT Department was handling that aspect of the collection.

I never considered that the record keeping of the museum would develop into such interesting archives. Consider the basic correspondence between the person managing the reading room with some of the better known authors.

After leaving the archives I went to several exhibits in the British Museum. On the ground floor I saw an exhibit on the traditional dress of Oman. Nearby was an exhibit of jewelry from the Balkans. Part of the tradition is for people to wear in boxes that are part of the jewelry scripture from the Koran. The people thought that jewelry not only exhibited wealth and social standing, but kept away the evil eye.

Next I went up to see: Britain and Europe 800 BC – AD 43; Europe AD 300 – 1100; Medieval Europe AD 1050 – 1500; Europe 1400 – 1800; and Europe 1800 – 1900. I find it interesting to note that many items that we humans still use haven’t altered much in designed such a tweezers, combs, buckles, and we still adorn ourselves with jewelry.

I was also surprised to see how many different groups of people with their own language and culture invaded/migrated to different areas of Europe, brought with them their favored possessions and adopted new ones in their new homes.

Around the Medieval sections of the exhibit there were new additions from recently discovered hoards in England. There was even a web site posted for people to report their discoveries www.find.org.uk

My question is sense the discoveries are deemed to belong to England how many people aren’t reported what they have unearthed?

By two o’clock my mind was completely saturated with everything that I’d read and seen. It was time to go.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

A couple of us British Studies Program students made it over to Theatre Royal Haymarket to watch this production. What a great production! Loads of chuckles kept the endorphins high!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Barbican Library

Barbican Library is one of five city of London libraries. It was opened in 1964 as a full lending service library. Currently, it serves 11,000 residents at Barbican Center and has an overall population of 350,000 people being served. It is busiest at lunch and is opened every day except Sunday. They maintain a 24 hour, seven days a week online presence for the at home users. The majority of users are from twelve to forty-five years old and mostly males. Nearby there is a girls’ school, and a music school.

Outside of the library’s entrance there is an automated check-in kiosk. All library materials have RFID (Radio frequency-identification) stickers so that they can be checked out or checked in by the users. Also, there is an automated check out system used for DVDs and CDs as well. Inside the library near the “Enquiries” desk is another automated self-serve check-out table. It’s quite interesting in how it works. The user places a stack of books on a designated area, and a list of those books appears on the screen directly above. After pressing a series of buttons, the user walks out of the library with his or her bounty in tow.

Next to the self-service desk is a printer platform. A user can send pages to be printed to the printer and pay for the copies from a pre-loaded library card. Nearby it a shelf containing requested books, RFID labeled and ready for pick up. To the left is the DVD collection that includes movies, T.V. shows, and recently added Blue Ray. There is a flat rate rental fee of 2.75 pounds per week. The items can be renewed and paid for again.

Audio-books and MP3 players can be rented free of charge. There are also e-audio in downloadable form for users at home. So far there are no Kindle services.

The “Libraries Online” service provides Internet access to users with the limit of two-hour blocks. The computers are loaded with Microsoft Office software and a webcam. In the same space is you’ll find the “London Collection” older books that have been RFID tagged and can be checked out. The oldest one in the collection is from 1742. Outrageous, can you imagine this being an option at a library in the states?

Most surprising to me was the music section of the library. This might be due to the fact that London has a large population of musicians and many more music enthusiasts. The music library began in 1983 and is financially supported by the outside community. The other large music library is at Westminster Library. Entering this section of the library you’ll find an exhibition area. The theme changes but this time it is of pop record covers e.g. Missing Persons from the 1980s.

There are two keyboards that users could use to learn to play or try out sheet music before checking it out, earphones provided of course. Available for check out is Newsletters/Journals, sheet music, music periodicals, and musician biographies/autobiographies. Reference books are available such as the Dictionary of music by notes, British Hit Singles & Albums, and the Rare Record Price Guide 2010. The book collection covers 9,000 books. Vendors provide binding for sheet music books to promote their longevity.

There is an extensive CD collection. It does cost 3 pounds to rent CDs however it is not based on the amount of items checked out. The library loans out boxed sets e.g. the Grateful Dead Trilogy. Located here is also a self-service desk as every items has RFID. Another intriguing project is the “unsigned London” project. This is where unsigned, or bands without a contract, donate a couple copies of their CDs to the library to be checked out by users. What great publicity!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Saint Paul's Cathedral Library

Monday, July 4th

Saint Paul's Cathedral's librarian is Joe Wisdom. Today he led us on a tour up into the triforum level of the cathedral where the library is housed. In 1666, London was struck by the Great Fire and the cathedral sustained a bit of damage. Again during WWII, the cathedral was under attack by Hitler's blitzkrieg and survived that assault thanks to the many volunteers that ensured the roof wouldn't catch on fire. During that time the library had been moved to a safer location, a cave in northern Wales. Then the collection was returned after the war.

By 1706 the library's collection was mostly completed. A former bishop had donated his personal library of nearly 2,000 books. In mid-nineteenth century, the librarian by the name of Simpson created a more universal library therefore the library ceased to be an entirely theological library. Now the ascension policy is to have books about religion to be a priority, followed by books about St. Paul's cathedral.

Today's users come to use the library for a variety of reasons. Lately there has been a novelist who is writing a book that spans the time from the mid-seventeenth century to the Blitzkrieg of WWII. Another visitor was a researcher of early music. There has also been a researcher of Donne's sermons. Last but not least, there are those researchers of genealogy who stop by from time to time.