Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Kings College Maughan Library

The tuesday after our break, we had an optional visit to the Kings College academic library, the Maughan Library.  This library was magnificent. I wish all academic libraries could look and run the way the Maughan Library did.

Kings College's libraries are spread over many campuses across London. The Maughan Library is the most substantial of the branches and is also the headquarters of administration. The library houses 1.25 million books, 300,000 ebooks, and 600 databases.

The library seemed to be moving toward a digital set up, as many other libraries we visited have also done. They had self check out machines in the front entrance, near the information desk. I keep seeing these, and similar, machines at the lending libraries we visit and I think they are the most innovative things.

The one thing we were shown that I haven't seen yet at any library is their automated book sorter. The books that are returned are automatically sent through a sorter that checks them in and sends them to the appropriate bin for shelving.  The library's goal is to have everything back on the shelves within 4 hours after they are returned, which I found to be very impressive, considering the size and scope of this library!

 We were told that the library used to be the Public Records office, and because of that the building was built in such a way that if there was ever a fire or a flood, the rooms could be closed off from one another to save the majority of the records.  Now that the building is a library, it is very much like a maze.  There are many rooms that house offices, books, study areas, and lecture halls all throughout the building.

The library has created a map of sorts that breaks each of these areas into "zones" for silent study, quiet work, and discussion areas.  Each reading room and area has a sign to let visitors know which zone they are entering into.  In my opinion, this is an ingenious way to let patrons know when they can talk and when they need to be silent without treating them like children and constantly quieting them or removing them from the space.

The "zone" areas and rules of each zone
Like I said above, I really wish that all academic libraries could look and work as well as this library does. Not to sound cliche, but it definitely seemed like a well-oiled machine at work, and everyone working knew where they were to be and what they needed to do.  The modernization and technologies of the library were also very welcome. Just like I had mentioned in previous blogs, it is so nice to see how a library that has made its home in such an old building can still preserve that history while keeping with the changing face of libraries.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Palace Green Library, Durham, England

During Mini Break, one of my classmates and I visited Durham, England for a day. We had heard that one could book a dorm room in Durham Castle for a night, so we jumped on the chance to say we stayed in a castle! Like everything else on this trip, it was amazing. I think we were giddy about it the entire time we were there!

While in Durham, we had the privilege of taking a tour of Durham University's Palace Green Library, which is the home of the university's special collections library.  The university's librarian, Jon Purcell, gave us a tour of the collections housed in the Palace Green Library, as well as a short history on the library and the castle.

The library was founded in the 17th century by Bishop John Cosin.  One of the collections we visited was Bishop Cosin's library.  Cosin founded his library as a public library for clergy and other scholarly visitors.  The room we visited on our tour was the original place where Cosin built his library. Mr. Purcell told us that there have been modifications to the room to ensure preservation of the materials, but as a whole, the room remains very much like it was when Cosin built it.

Cosin created his own classification system. He had pictures of theologians surrounding the room, and the books by, or about, each theologian were placed underneath each respective picture.  The library has kept this system the same over the years.  Most of the collection is in french, and very rare, and everything has been cataloged for public access.  The room itself is open to the public from 2pm-4pm three days a week.

The collections as a whole were outstanding, and the fact that this library has so many magnificent collections in its possession was just amazing.  Mr. Purcell kept stressing to us that he and his colleagues strive for the libraries and collections to be living. He wants to keep the collections useful and alive.  The library regularly brings local schools and groups in to use and view the collections, and they have recently built a learning center within the Palace Green library for school visits and interactive tours of the library.  Mr. Purcell and his colleagues were very passionate about their work and it was exciting to see a group of workers that involved and that thrilled about the work that they do and the impact it makes on their community.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

J.M. Barrie and Kirriemuir

Statue of Peter Pan in
the Kirriemuir town square

Courtesy of the BBC
So most of you lovely readers know my particular love (see: obsession) with Peter Pan, right?  Well the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, was born in Scotland, in a little town named Kirriemuir which is in the Dundee & Angus region.  During our research day in Scotland, I decided to take a journey to Kirriemuir to see the town as well as the J.M. Barrie Birthplace Museum. I had originally been planning on writing my research paper on J.M. Barrie, but as things go, this did not work out. However, I was still set on visiting the museum.

It was a little more convoluted to get to Kirriemuir than I had originally thought. I had to take a train to Dundee, then walk completely across the town to the bus station to catch a bus to Kirriemuir.  The day I decided to go was very rainy and dreary, which doesn't make for pleasant travel when you know where you are going, let alone when you don't.  Needless to say, by the time I made it to Kirriemuir, I was almost fed up with the whole experience.

But I wasn't going to give up that easily. Who knows when I will have the chance to visit Scotland again?  I got off the bus in the middle of Kirriemuir and began wandering.  Even though the town does not seem like the biggest tourist destination, there were thankfully some signs pointing me toward the house.

For some reason, I was expecting the museum to be bigger and more elaborate than it actually was, but upon more thought, I realized that it was just right; it was supposed to be a recreation of Barrie's childhood home, and it utilized the space very nicely.

The museum shared the space between Barrie's house (number 9) and the adjoining house (number 11). Most of the museum was presented in the upper rooms of Barrie's house, recreated to look as it would have when Barrie lived there as a child.  I was not able to take pictures myself of the inside, as many of the documents and photographs were still under copyright, but I was able to find some online.

The National Trust of Scotland manages the museum, and has created a wonderful museum with the the little they had.  The lady working at the museum informed me that Barrie was one of Scotland's first celebrities, and he was very well known and very popular while still alive. People would take pilgrimages to Kirriemuir to see his house and the gardens where he would perform his first plays as a child.  Barrie loved his hometown and the people that lived there so much that he would give away his possessions to friends and family in Kirriemuir. Much of what was in the museum were items donated to the National Trust from ancestors of these friends and family.

Here are a few images from the inside of the museum, borrowed from the BBC and from National Trust Scotland:

The second picture shows what could very well have been Barrie's office when he got older. From what I was told, the furniture in the room was original to the house, and the desk in the center was Barrie's writing desk.  One really interesting piece of information I learned from this room was that Barrie wrote with both his left and right hand, so there were scuff marks on the desk on both sides from where his arm would rest as he wrote.  Under the glass of the desk was the original screenplay manuscript for Peter Pan. The museum supplied visitors with a copy of the manuscript to flip through and see Barrie's notes written in the margins.

After I visited the museum, I went in search for the Camera Obscura that Barrie donated to the town. Unfortunately, after walking for a good half hour and not finding anything, I had to give up and make my trek back to Edinburgh. I did look at a map later, after I got home and realized that I was most likely very close to making it to the Camera before I turned around, which was extremely disheartening.  Hopefully I will make it back to the town and the museum one day.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Edinburgh Central Library

Courtesy of Brian McNeil via Wikipedia
I have never had any desire to work in a public library system, but I think I could definitely change my outlook on that if I were able to work at the Edinburgh Central Library. I feel like it might be extremely cheesy to say so, but this library just felt so alive. You could tell just by walking inside that it was well used and well loved by its staff and its patrons.

The building itself was one of the oldest on the street. It was funded by Andrew Carnegie, and opened in 1890 as the first public library building in Edinburgh.  When first opened, men and women who used the library were separated while inside.

Our guide first took us to the reference library, which was such a beautiful room. We were told that it has not changed much since the library was first opened, and they still have their original card catalog index, which I know most librarians (including myself) would love to get their hands on for a personal library!

The next space our guide took us to was the Central Children's Library, which I had seen in passing its window at least once a day since we arrived in Edinburgh. It looked like such a neat children's library that I so wanted to find a way inside! And thankfully we got our peek!  The children's library was a new edition to the Central Library, and it was wonderful! I feel like my adjectives are just not doing these places justice.  The children's library was currently hosting the Summer Reading Challenge, where the children had to read 6 books during the summer. They also regularly host teddybear sleepovers, and craft times.  Our guide showed us their craft room, where children and their parents could come at any time to play and create.  The library was split into a room for older children, and a room for babies and younger children. The architecture of the rooms was, again, wonderful. Here are some of the photos I took:
The little children's room

The older children's room

The craft room.  The brown paper object on the table is a paper Nessie!
The Central library is a public lending library like the Barbican, so it is natural that the children's libraries are not as similar to that of the elementary schools back at home.  I was, however, very impressed with the organization of the materials, as well as the vast amount of materials they had for all age groups.  I also loved how much effort they spent into getting the children to come to the library and learn to view the library as a place of learning and fun.  I definitely think with younger age groups it is becoming more and more of a struggle to get these children to enjoy spending time reading or visiting a library, and the Central library's Children's section definitely makes it a fun atmosphere for the kids!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Kew Gardens

I know I've said this same thing about many of the other places we have visited, but I think Kew Gardens might have been one of my favorite tours. It was absolutely amazing, and the materials pulled for us to see were just so beautiful.

Kew Gardens, also called the Royal Botanic Gardens, were founded in 1759, and were private gardens until 1840.  The library itself was established in 1850 and now has over 300,000 books and over 7 million sheets of paper.

Our Guide, Fiona, took us into a hallway outside of the library where she had set up tables filled with books and prints from their collection.  Among these items was their oldest in the collection, which dates from 1370. It is an herbal, or a book about using plants as remedies, and is written entirely in latin.

Every piece Fiona showed us was simply amazing. Here are some pictures I took of the items:

One of the facts Fiona told us that I found particularly interesting was that the best way to identify plants was by having a good illustration.  Many of these books are centuries old, but are still used by botanists today because they are still scientifically important.  The fact that these books aren't simply being saved for the historic value placed on them, but also for their scientific importance was really interesting to learn.

After our tour of the archives, we were free to explore the gardens.  Kew Gardens are the world's most famous gardens, and the world's largest collection of living plants.  We found one of the greenhouses on the grounds and toured each of the rooms, before we headed toward one of the coolest features, in my opinion, of the gardens: the treetop walkway.  Here are some of my pictures of the gardens!

Treetop Walkway 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

British Museum Central Archives

Thursday Morning, our tour started at the British Museum central archives.  I hadn't actually heard much about the British Museum prior to this trip, but just by the name itself, I imagined a very large and very impressive museum. I wasn't disappointed.  The museum was founded in 1753 as the first national public museum in the world. It was opened to the public in 1759. The archive houses many original documents, including trustees records and officer's reports, to name a few.  Our guide, Francesca Hillier, took us down to the archives, which are housed in tunnels underneath the museum.

While showing us the archives, Ms. Hillier gave us a few facts about the archive itself.  The archive is comprehensive, though while they do have a list of what is in the archive, they do not yet have a catalog that is available for the public to use.  All of the records used to be written by hand, and quite a bit of what is collected could very well have become stuffed in a room somewhere in a terrible state.

I can say that I am not completely familiar with the workings of archives, as I have not focused on archival work during my MLIS. However, I can say that I was saddened by the fact that this archive has pretty much been sitting down in these tunnels for years without the funding and time to make it known and available to the public.  There were so many neat artifacts stored in the archives. So many wonderful images and pieces of history that most people would never know existed.

Ms. Hillier had pulled a few specific pieces for us to view during our tour, and they were brilliant. One of the pieces that caught my attention was a fragment of an incendiary bomb that damaged the museum during World War 2.  Ms. Hillier explained to us that during WWII, the museum strived to stay open for the public, but had to ensure the safety of the treasures in the museum.  They would put on display items that they did not mind losing and moved some things into underground or offsite storage.  The tunnels that the archives were housed in now were used as bomb shelters during the war.  We were also shown pictures of many of the permanent artifacts being protected by sandbags during the air raids. I was impressed with the museum's dedication to the public and efforts to provide a safe haven for people to go during the war.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

My first London Musical!

After our tour of the National Maritime Museum, I had to rush across the city to pick up my ticket to see Les Miserables.  I had to figure out how to get clear across town in a fairly short amount of time. My friend Sarah and I took the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) under the river to meet up with the underground. The stairs down to the train felt as if they just ket going and going. We got lost figuring out where the underground station was in Canary Wharf because it turned out to be different than the DLR station.  Sarah got off a few stops before I had to change lines again, so I was left on my own to navigate this big city.

As I walked out of my train, the intercom started blaring about someone trying to go through the Emergency Exit door and that they were trapped until the police came. It was crazy, and I wish I could have seen the results of that mishap, but I had places to be!

I finally made it to Liecester Square and just had to wander a bit until I found Shaftsbury Avenue and the Queen's Theatre.  Thankfully my wandering only lasted for a few minutes, because the Les Miserables sign was big enough that I could have seen it from miles away. It was like a beacon guiding me home! Wow, that was cheesy.

After all of my hurrying, I ended up at the theatre an hour before the show, and they weren't letting people in yet. I decided to run across the street to a little cafe and get a bottle of water since I hadn't eaten anything for lunch.  By this time I was just so giddy about figuring out how to use the tube by myself and with confidence! I am only sad that I missed out on seeing more of Greenwich, because by that evening, everyone that stayed said it was a really neat place.

The musical was magnificent. I have seen it many times in the states, but there's just something about seeing a musical where the first English production was performed--granted, not in the same theatre...but in the same city at least!  The cast was amazing and, though I could only see the bottom half of the set, it also seemed just magnificent!  I was in tears at the end, mostly because I can never see Les Mis without crying. All in all, a wonderful performance, and I won't ever regret seeing it in LONDON! Eep :)

A Tall Ship and a Star...

This morning we took the Thames Clipper boat along the River Thames to Greenwich. I didn't get a picture of the boat or on the boat, because I have horrid motion sickness, but thankfully I made it without incident and all was well!  Here's a picture of the boat I found online:

We had a tour of the National Maritime Museum Archives and the Caird Library.  The guides split us into two groups, and while one went on a tour of the actual library and archive, the other stayed behind and got to view some of the treasures they pulled out of the archives to show us; then we switched places.

The library was a really neat space to see. They had technology available for researchers to view ship plans that had been digitized. Our guide pulled up a couple ship plans for us to see how it worked, and it was really neat to see how digitization and touch screen technology can be utilized in all types of libraries and archives. 

I took a picture of the library stats that they had displayed on the wall; firstly because I found it interesting to see what they highlight as important parts of their collection (and these parts definitely are important), and secondly because I found it fascinating and wonderful that they share this information with the public.  

The library's reading and ordering system is very similar to the British Library, in that you need a readers ticket so you can pre-order items to view when you visit.  The Caird Library offers a one day ticket and a three year ticket, depending on what users need to access.

One thing I have continually been amazed by when visiting libraries and archives in London is the fact that most of these libraries have been completely modernized and forward-thinking in their technology, while still holding on to the history of the building and the location they are in. The Maritime Museum library and archive was no different. I was very impressed by the technology they had in the way of security, digitization, and access for researchers.

Next, we switched places with the second group and sat down to look at some of the specific archival pieces they pulled.  Many of these were very interesting to look at, but I found myself most fascinated by the signal book of the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake from 1813. We were told that these signal books typically had a weighted spine so that if attacked, these books could be thrown overboard to protect the secrets.  This one was taken instead of destroyed, and the entire fleet had to change their signals.  Here is the catalog record of this book, if you want to see more information!

I almost forgot!  If you were curious about the title of this post, here's a picture of a quote on the wall in the National Maritime Museum. I thought it was just so moving! If you have time, you should definitely look up the whole poem.
"Sea Fever" by John Masefield, 1902

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

St Paul's Cathedral Library

The library at St. Paul's was one of the visits I was most looking forward to on this trip. I had read many of the blogs from last years' students and they all mentioned how amazing St. Paul's Cathedral library was.  This was our afternoon visit, after the Barbican. We met on the steps of St. Paul's for a group picture, then headed inside to meet with Joseph Wisdom, the librarian. Mr. Wisdom was a wonderful guide, and we could all tell how much he loved his job and how much he loved working in such a beautiful and historic place.  He took us up a long flight of stairs to the floor above the main part of the cathedral. It definitely felt as if we were in an attic of some sort, but the treasures that Mr. Wisdom had stored up there were just amazing.

We were told that the cathedral was meant to have had two libraries when it was first built, and before he took us to the actual library, Mr. Wisdom showed us the room where the other library was to have been built. In this room was a large model of what Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul's Cathedral, envisioned for the cathedral.
"Wren's Great Model, 1673-74, in the Trophy Room"
 After we saw the room that was supposed to have been another library, Mr. Wisdom took us to see the actual library.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  Here's another picture from the St. Paul's library, as we weren't allowed to take pictures inside:
St. Paul's Cathedral Library
According to the library's website, most of the original materials in the library were destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and in order to replenish the library, the commissioners for rebuilding the cathedral bought individual books, collections, and sometimes even entire libraries from widows of deceased clergy.  Most of the books that we saw in the library are original to the library's replenishing.

Mr Wisdom told us that the library has about 150 users a year, as it is technically the private library of the Dean of Chapter. However, as Mr. Wisdom told us, it is open to anyone who has a good reason to use it.  

Barbican Library

Our first visit on Tuesday was the Barbican Library, the City of London's "leading public lending library."  After our visit on Thursday to the British Library, it was a surprise to visit such a large public library, where the materials are freely available for patrons to browse.
Within the Barbican complex, the library has the main library, a music library, and a children's library.  During our tour, we were able to talk to the librarians for each of these sections.  Geraldine, the Adult Lending Librarian and our guide, took us first to visit the children's library.  I have never worked in a public library, but I have worked in an elementary school, so I was very interested in seeing how both public libraries and UK children's libraries organized their collections and provided activities and programs for the children who visited.   

Amanda, the children's services librarian, spoke with us about the services the library offers for children.  The children's library is a separate library for children aged 0-14 years. They can borrow up to 12 items free of charge.  They organize their fiction materials by age group: 5-9, 10-12, and Teen.  Their nonfiction is arranged by the Dewey system, and they also have graphic novel and audiobooks sections.

The children's library serves 6-7 schools within the City of London area, by setting up class visits, reading groups, and reading mentoring.  The library also works with the teachers in these schools by providing a lending arrangement, where the teachers can borrow a section of books on certain subjects for a semester for their students to use for projects and assignments.

The next area we visited was the Music Library.  According to Richard, the Music Librarian, "London is the most musical city in the world."  The music library was opened in 1983 and is one of 2 remaining music libraries in London, with the other being at Westminster.  In their collection, they have DVDs for visual musicals, operas, and concerts, two keyboards with headphones that patrons can book free of charge for 1 hour.

The music library has about 9000 books that cover all styles of music. They provide patrons with study carrels and listening booths. We weren't allowed to take pictures of patrons using the library, and there was one in the listening booths as we passed. He was practicing conducting while listening to a piece of music. It was really interesting to see that these services are being used as they are meant to be!

My favorite part of the music library was the huge collection of scores.  They had scores for every genre and almost every artist you could think of.  While we were listening to Richard, I noticed right next to me was the musical section! See if you can recognize some of these musicals! 

For any of my lovely readers who are a little confused about what I mean when I say "City of London" versus "London," please watch this video! It is explained easily and with funny drawings.

Monday, 7 July 2014

London Archaeological Archives and Research Center

Museum of London Archaeology

Monday was our next class period.  We visited the London Archaeological Archives and Research Center (LAARC) to see how they archive and process artifacts, and to see their archive rooms.  The LAARC is the third building of the Museum of London group, and is mainly a storage area for the artifacts that will eventually end up being displayed in the Museum.  There are 10 kilometers of shelving in the building, and millions of individual artifacts being stored. There is a total of over 200,000 boxes which each will have 50-100 individual bits of archaeology within them.

The LAARC does not organize its artifacts by a certain system, but rather stores it by the year of the archaeology project. We walked through the storage area and the shelves just keep going and going.

What I found most interesting about the archaeology projects was that every time a new building is going to be erected in London, archaeologists are called in to excavate the area for any finds. They have to sample the soil and look for any artifacts in the area. It can cause the building process to take quite a bit longer, but the results can be truly fascinating. 

Our guide showed us a few artifacts to give us a glimpse into what might be found on an excavation. Many of the objects he showed us were very old and our guide told us that most of the time the archaeologists and archivists don't actually know the use for much of the things they find.  They can guess and interpret by looking at the time period and the things found with each object, but most interpretations are just that.  Our guide also told us how they can determine diet, wealth, culture, and industry just by examining bones. 

After he showed us some specific artifacts, our guide took us into a few storage rooms to show just how many objects they have stored in the LAARC. We had a peek inside the ceramics and pottery store room, as well as the toys and household store room. We were able to take pictures inside the ceramics and pottery room, as you will see below, but not in the toy room. 

Our guide definitely saved the best for last. The toy and house room was just amazing. They had one of what seemed liked every game ever made. We were able to see games and toys that we had when we were kids, as well as some that were much much older than all of us.  They also had household objects from historic and non-historic houses in the room, including toilets, sinks, televisions, and almost any other object you could think of related to a house.  The best object in the room was the old switchboard from Buckingham Palace. Here's a picture I found online:
Buckingham Palace Switchboard - Flickr