James' Jaunts
British Library
Conservation Studio
London, England
Allison & Mark

This was a particularly exciting visit for me because this is the area I ultimately hope to work in. Our group was met by Allison and Mark. Allison is the education coordinator, I think, and Mark heads one of the conservation teams. There are six teams—one team handles paper items, another stamps, photographs, etc., and the rest take care of the books.

The conservation studio has an isolation room where they quarantine incoming collections. They have freezers ready for storage to contain mold outbreaks. They treat general deterioration, as their purpose is to conserve rather than restore. All corrections made are reversible or re-treatable to preserve the integrity of the item. They keep detailed records of all work done, including before and after photographs and detailed record logs. The conservationists work closely with the curators to determine items needing work, and they often have an extensive list of items waiting.

While visiting, we observed two areas of conservation. Yvonna, a conservationist on Mark's team, was working on palm leaves which contained a 14th century text of the doctrines of Krishna. The palm leaves themselves date from 17th century Southern Indian. Yvonna began with an explanation of how palm leaves are chosen, cured, and inscribed to create these texts. That in itself was remarkable. I honestly thought I'd heard wrong when they said they were restoring palm leaves! She then went on to explain her conservation method, and how she came to this method. She was primarily repairing the leaves by hand until she discovered an article from another conservationist, which detailed the use of a leaf setter to repair damaged areas. I cannot guarantee that is the correct name of the machinery, as it was difficult to take notes at this point, and my memory is shot, but it is the same machine used to create or restore paper. Yvonna discovered this method had been used various times and, once she incorporated it, her production rate drastically increased. She still does the more delicate work by hand, and sometimes has to correct the leaf setter, but has found it very useful. She then demonstrated hand repairs and showed us a group of leaves restored by machine.

We then moved to Mark's work area where he demonstrated how they restore or replace the gold-foil lettering on books. He said there are two types of materials used, a gold tape that usually requires restoration within a few hundred years, and actual gold, which lasts forever unless destroyed by damage. He then demonstrated the process, using a method he said has been passed down from master to apprentice for the last 500 years. He said this job depends as much on instinct as on technical skills. Most of those who succeed in this area have a 'feel' for the work. Most of the materials used in this method are common items—egg whites and water for the glazing, body oils for the adhesive (he dotted a cotton ball on his face to make the gold foil stick), and petroleum jelly to polish. It was absolutely fascinating!

After visiting the conservation studios, we then moved into the education center. The center has video demonstrations and pamphlets explaining conservation methods for books, sound recordings, and photographs. I played around with sound recordings and actually hit pretty close to the British Library's conservation stats.

This was actually our final visit. It was definitely a high note to go out on!
Middle Temple Library
London, England

The Middle Temple Library is a small library housed within the Middle Temple Inns of Court. It has very strong ties to the United States. Five of the original signatories of the Declaration of Independence and seven of the Constitution were Middle Templars. They have the first authorized printing of the Declaration framed and prominently displayed outside the American collection on the third floor.

There are four inns of court: Inner, Middle, Lincoln, and Grays. Each court and library has a jurisdiction. United States law is under the jurisdiction of the Middle Temple Library. Hence the American collection, which include U.S. law journals and volumes of case law. It also contains a small collection of American textbooks.

The library also owns a small collection of international law reports. They provide access to electronic resources. The second floor holds the Dictionary of National Biography, ecclesiastical law, and trail records from the 19th and 20th centuries. The lower floor contains Scottish and Irish collection, the European collection, and a small exhibition area. The loft has archives and rare items, but is not currently accessible. The basement storehouse has old English texts.

This visit was particularly exciting for our class because we were the first to visit. The librarian, an American, heard of our class and extended an invitation for us to visit. It was really cool to learn of the connections the Middle Temple and the Library have with the United States. It was also interesting to visit a collection that was unique from those we previously visited.

Our guides also brought us to see the Hall, where members of the Middle Temple dine together. It is unique because it has a double-hammer beam ceiling.
Maughan Library
King's College
London, England

King's College was established in 1829 and originally had four libraries. In 2001, the Queen opened in the Maughan Library in the former Public Records, combining all four libraries into one. The building itself was the first fireproof building in the country; it is thus a registered building, which means limited changes, so the library had to cope with that when making the building more accessible for public use.

The library has 1000 reader spaces, 300+ computer spaces, and a collection of over 3 million items. They have self-service circulation. They serve approximately 11,000 King's College students, as well as students from other universities. They are open seven days a week, from 10am to 9pm. The library is open 24/7 during exam week. They offer wireless throughout. They have roving librarians who move throughout the building to aid patrons.

The Maughan Library houses the Foyle Special Collection. Since King's was a large medical school, one strength of this collection is medical manuscripts. They own an early 17th century manuscript that is a doctor's notebook with illustrations and a homemade binding. One of the earliest items they own is a copy of the Nuremburg Chronicles produced in 1493. They also have a lot of travel and expedition materials. They also showed us a copy of the charters of Pennsylvania that was owned and signed by Benjamin Franklin, and a copy of Ginsberg's poems, signed and annotated, that was given to a King's professor in the 1980s.

After visiting the special collection, we were taken on a tour of the facility. Our guide took us around the service areas and explained the purpose of each. We visited Inquiry Services, i.e. the reference desk, the short term loan area (reserves), and the multimedia library. Like the Barbican, they also have practice keyboards available for patrons. We stopped by the Round Room, a reading room that replicates the Round Reading Room at the British Museum. They also have a self-service cafeteria with vending machines.
I flew out of Edinburgh on the morning of the 20th. I had to leave the dorm by 5AM. My alarm went off at 4 something...I'm sure my roommates wanted to kill me! I landed in Dublin around 9AM and it was beautiful! I had to take a bus from the airport to City Centre and attempt to find my hotel from there. I couldn't tell where I needed to get off from any of the maps I had with me. Thankfully, there was a really nice gentleman on the bus who saw my panic and confusion and nicely offered to tell me where to get off. He also pointed a few sites as we traveled past. All of this after I managed to ram my suitcase handle into his shin!

I trundled down Grafton Street and by St. Stephen's Green to my hotel, the Harcourt Hotel. I was a bit shocked when I got there, as it was pretty fancy hotel and I had paid the same amount I would for a hostel. I couldn't believe my luck! A room to myself, with a huge bed and a TV. Woohoo! I dropped my luggage off and wandered back up to St. Stephen's Green to get a ticket for a hop-on/hop-off tour bus. The gentleman selling the tickets was so sweet. He said I had pretty eyes when he checked out my student I.D. and went looking for me when the bus stopped for pick-up. :-)

Some of the sites I saw from the bus include: Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol, Phoenix Park, and O'Connell Street. The tour was narrated. I snapped as many photos as I could as we drove by. The only stop I made on Wednesday was at the National Museum of Decorative Arts & History. They had an extensive exhibition of Celtic silver. The best part of the museum was the exhibition of Celtic high crosses. These were not the actual crosses but plaster casts that were made of them back in the late nineteenth century. They were huge! I felt like a child standing in the midst of them. Each cross was placed on a platform that provided the history of the original and the cast, as well as a descriptive summary of the carvings and their significance. I wish we were allowed to take photos.

After browsing the museum, I hopped the bus back to St. Stephen's Green. I picked up some MacDonald's (I know!) and ate in the park. It was absolutely beautiful. So peaceful. I wandered through the paths a bit. I then returned to my hotel room and had an early night. I know everyone is thinking “Your in Dublin!,” but I was so exhausted...the previous three weeks caught up with me. Edinburgh in particular was exhausting (more on that later). The best part about this night...I didn't have to set an alarm.

I woke up about 10AM on Thursday morning and slowly wandered up Grafton Street. I was attempting to meet up with a couple of BSP participants for a tour of Trinity College, but we somehow missed each other. I did go on a tour of Trinity College and I saw the Book of Kells and toured the Long Room (Trinity College Library). And I did actually see the Book of Kells, not just the case, since I shoved my way to the front and basked in its magnificence. Corny, I know!

After Trinity I wandered my way to O'Connell Street to the Dublin Writer's Museum. This housed a wonderful and eclectic collection of works. It came with an guided audio tour. There was a first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula, a gallery of portraits, and an intact nineteenth century library.

I then wandered back up O'Connell Street and stopped at the Savoy Cinema to see Harry Potter in 3D. I did this mainly because it was raining and I wanted somewhere to dry off! I have to say the Harry Potter 3D experience was a bit disappointing. I saw the 2D version in Edinburgh and I have to say there isn't much difference. Certainly not enough to make it worth the extra charge. I then wandered up Nassau Street (a favorite tourist shopping street). I was supposed to join my BSP classmates on a musical pub crawl, but the rain had started up again and my shoes were literally puddles. I hoofed it back to the hotel to change shoes, but by the time I got there it was too late to travel back to meet up. Or so I thought. But I enjoyed another lazy night because the next day was the start of the Shamrocker Southern Rocker Tour!
Dumfernline Carnegie Library
Dumfernline, Scotland
Ross, Customer Service Librarian

The Dumfernline Library opened to the public in August 1883. It is the first library established by Andrew Carnegie. The library has been extended twice, the first occurring after World War I, and the second time after 1992.

The library collection is a fairly typical collection for public libraries. They feature a fiction and non-fiction collection for adults, a teen section, and a learning center. The children's library also features fiction and non-fiction and reference. They also offer craft sessions, rhyme times and book challenges, and toddler reading times. The whole of the library's collection totals approximately 59,000 books.

They have a Reference Library, not just a reference section. This area is demarcated for private study and is separate from the main collection and rooms. A room is dedicated to their special collections in the Reference Library, but their special collection consists of times like a second folio Shakespeare and a fourth edition Paradise Lost by John Milton. Not items normally found in a public library!

The exhibition room features temporary exhibitions, and the library makes an effort to notify area schools. The current exhibition is “Pharaohs in Fife,” featuring Egyptian sarcophagi and other artifacts.

The Local History Center is fairly self-explanatory. One interesting item is an exhibition case that is used by locals. The library allows them to set up exhibitions involving local history and local heroes. The collection includes regional records, photographs, maps, and newspapers.

The Dumfernline Library will be partnering with a new museum and gallery that is to open next door in 2015; the buildings will be integrated so they can work more closely together.

The librarians who greeted us and provided the tour were wonderful. They offered us a tea and biscuit break, which was very welcome, and gave us a care package to take home. It even included a free book-an unpublished proof of Blood and Ice by Robert Masello.  I just LOVE free books!
Central Library
Edinburgh, Scotland
Digital Information Team
Reader Development Team
Information Technology Team

The Central Library is A-MAZ-ING! The library opened in 1890, and is a Carnegie library. Much of the building still features original architecture from the era.

Our visit was conducted by members of three departments, the Digital Information Team, the Reader Development Team, and the Information Technology Team. They discussed the functions and services of each team, then we had a break for tea and biscuits, and a tour of the facility. It is easiest to break this down by team. On the whole, however, the services this library offers its community are extensive and really demonstrates how they care for their community and its needs.

Digital Information Team

The primary purpose of this team is to offer a 24/7 virtual library. They host the online services for YourLibrary. YourLibrary is the collection of online services offered by the Central Library. It includes information resources—reference databases, test tutorials, genealogy, and a database of funding opportunities. They support the plasma screens located throughout the facility, updating announcements, etc. They work to develop mobile apps. They maintain the touch screen kiosks located in the lobby, which offer navigation information, departments and services, and exhibition information. They have a blog and accounts with Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. This team publishes the quarterly newsletter.

Reader Development

The primary purpose of this team is to develop literacy and increase readership within the community. To this end, they frequently host author events. They support monthly events like book bashes and book group quizzes. They host or support community literature events; they work with City of Literature Foundation, which hosts 26 themed events around the city every February. The team conducts online staff development training through Frontlline to help them promote reader development and get them circulating among patrons. There are currently 46 book groups in the Edinburgh and this team helps facilitate them. They offer a Read Aloud service, which provides mobile library services to the home-bound and public readings in group homes. They partner with literary organizations in Scotland and England.

Information Technology

This team works to increase adult literacy and computer literacy. They offer beginning computer classes for adults. Most of those who attend are 50+, but there are some younger. The team reports a number of proud moments for their students each session. They have started to offer a “Beyond Basics” course for those who would like to learn more. They use Survey Monkey to conduct course evaluations to continue to meet the patrons' needs. They offer IT buddies, volunteers who offer private tutorials. This is part of their LearnIT initiative. Soon, the initiative will feature a Family History workshop, to instruct on genealogy research, and help with social media networks and job searches.

This team, along with Reader Development, also supports adult literacy and numeracy through partnerships with community learning and development initiatives. They offer a 6 book challenge, which requires participants to keep a diary. They even extend this service to area prisons. This team also provides books to area book groups. They partner with Dyslexia Scotland to promote online services and chatter book groups.

A new initiative will launch in the fall—Adult Education Matters—to raise community awareness of adult literacy needs. They were also moving into self-service.

This blog only offers a brief description of the services offered by Central Library, but it in no way touches on the level of enthusiasm and commitment these ladies exhibited for their efforts. The teams are quite obviously proud of the services the library offers, as well as the community's response to them. And proud they should be!
National Archives of Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland
Margaret McBryde, Education Director

Institutional motto: “Preserving the past, Recording the past, Informing the future”

The archives recently merged with the General Registrar Office of Scotland and is now called the National Records of Scotland, and are an agency of the Scottish government.

Records date from the 12th century. Records include, but are not limited to: Scottish registers of births, marriages, and deaths, census records from 1841, parliament papers, deeds and sasines, church records, legal and tax documents, parish registers, government documents, and geographical and topographical surveys and documents.

Patrons include members of private industry, local government, and families. There are six public search rooms and nine websites. One room is a “short stay” room, where researchers can begin work and book a longer visit in another room if necessary. There is a legal room, where Scottish barristers and solicitors can search legal and government documents. There is also a room primarily used for genealogy research.

Some of the online services offered to patrons include an online catalog, websites, digital collections, and a catalog of private archives. The archive offers virtual volumes to on-site researchers, which are digitized collections of entire volumes available for print. The websites offer self-help guides to reading the documents. The staff also offer paleography skills workshops to teach researchers how to teach the Scots dialect. They also promote the use of primary documents in Scottish schools and offer webinars at schools through a system called GLOW.

Ms. McBryde allowed us to examine records from the archive, and even went to the effort of pulling records that related to our regions in the United States. One document was a letter from a Robert Bailie, who moved to the Bagbie Plantation in Georgia; the letter discusses the adverse trading conditions in Jamaica circa 1753. We also examined a South Carolina currency bill valued at £5, circa 1748. There was also a boat order for troops to use to travel up the Mississippi River, circa 1768. Perhaps the most interesting item, however, was a letter known as the criss-cross letter. This letter was written by William Knox to his uncle, and the text is written horizontally, and then vertically. It is a challenge to decipher and read!

The tour of the building was great. There are a lot of twists and turns, but the way they occupy the building and separate the research interests makes it work really well. The most interesting part of the tour was the digitization area. Ms. McBryde showed us the huge cameras they use to digitize maps and briefly explained how they digitize documents and books—the process and the rate of production.
Bodleian Library
University of Oxford
Oxford, England

The first library opened at Oxford University in 1320, in a room added to the church. In the 15th century, the university constructed a purpose-built building for lectures and exams, and an upper floor was added for a library. The first collection housed within this library came from Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. The library and its collection was destroyed during the Reformation, however. Only a dozen or so book survived, three of which are now in the current library. Thomas Bodley, a fellow of Merton College, and an avid collector of books. He donated his collection, about 3000-4000 books, to re-establish a central library. He also made arrangements with a company in London to receive a copy of every book published, making it the oldest copyright library. And so it is named the Bodleian Library.

The Bodleian Library collection currently contains 11 million books. It is not a lending library; readers request items and use the provided reading rooms. Lending services are provided by the college and department libraries.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs in the library itself, to protect the integrity of the collection. And I say unfortunately, because it was a beautiful site to behold. It is shelf upon shelf of ancient tomes. Some of the books are still shelved with spines inward; books were often chained to the shelf and some still have the chains on them. The spines were also more impervious to pests. There is electrical lighting, but it is kept fairly dim, so most of the lighting is natural lighting from the large windows situated between shelves. Until electrical lighting was put in, this was actually the only source of lighting available in the library. Readers had to take an oath in Latin and in English before accessing the collection not to use open flames around the books; new readers are still required take this oath.

Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of Oxford University and the library. She gave a great tour that was both informative and entertaining. The only disappointing part was that we were unable to tour the underground, where the majority of the collection is housed. Other groups have had that opportunity, I think. Overall, it was an incredible experience though!

On a side note: the Bodleian Library is featured in the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Library.
National Art Library
V & A Museum

We were split into two groups for our tour of the National Art Library. One group viewed the 'treasures' while the other toured the building. The group I was with viewed the library treasures first. Here is a list of some of the items:

    *14th century French illuminated manuscript
    *Manuscript of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield
*Facsimile of Leonardo da Vinci's I codici Forster
*James Audobon's sketches of North American birds (artist's book)

The library collects letters, books, periodicals, trade magazines, artists' books, and fashion magazine and portfolios. Most of their collection came from the materials collected for the 1851 Great Exhibition, which was also the start of the museum. They have a closed collection, the John Foster collection, which contains 18,000 books. The library has acquired around 400 of James Audobon's prints. They have online databases, microfilm materials, and around 8000 periodicals, 2000 of which are current.

They are a non-lending library, but all items in the collection are accessible to patrons. Items kept in safes require appointments and academic justification; facsimiles of valuable items are provided to patrons instead of the original, but the facsimiles are rendered as close to the original as possible. Access to materials are limited to twelve items a day, three at a time; it is therefore better to request materials in advance. The library does lend items out to other institutions for exhibitions, but they require the other institutions to pay for it to be made ready to travel.

The amazing thing about this opportunity was not just seeing these items but actually being able to handle them. The archivist invited all of us to turn the pages, inspect the binding, etc. Items like these are usually locked away under glass. You can tell that they are not careless with the items, however, as some might accuse. They preserve and display the materials as other special collection libraries do; they ensure the materials are handled carefully. But they also ensure their materials are accessible, and, more importantly, used.

After viewing some of the collection, our group then toured the library. The library was opened in 1837, and actually predates the museum. It was originally part of the School of Design, but outgrew space and was moved twice, until moving into its current premises in 1884. The two public rooms are the reading room and the main lobby, which holds the general collection. They have open-access reference, but the remainder of the collection is closed access and the staff retrieve requested items. The library also photographs books, free of charge, and patrons can either upload to a USB drive or the staff email the files as a PDF.

The National Art Library is open to everyone, and readers can join online. The majority of the readers are curators, post-graduate and graduate students, auction houses, and galleries.
Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures to share, as I forgot my camera! But it was as beautiful as my first visit four years ago. Some classmates are supposed to send me some pictures to share. I'll post those as soon as possible.

We were unable to visit the Shakespeare Library and Archives this year because of the size of our group. Although a few class members stopped by on their own and were admitted, but I was unaware this was an option, so I did not go by. A few of us did go by the Stratford public library, which is located right next door to the Shakespeare Birthplace. The exterior is the original 17th century building, but the inside has been remodeled. It is a small library, but does offer self-service kiosks and had a number of computer terminals for public use. The children's library was utterly adorable! They had the walls painted bright colors with eye-catching posters and décor, and even had kid-friendly computer terminals available.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent on the hop-on, hop-off tour bus. I was able to go into Trinity Church and get a picture of Shakespeare's grave. I didn't get that opportunity last time. We then just wandered around outside the other stops since we didn't want to pay the extra entrance fees. At Anne Hathaway's cottage we saw some tiny baby ducks just learning to walk. It was so adorable!

That evening we went to see Cardenio at the Swan Theatre. Cardenio is one of Shakespeare's “lost plays” and was pieced together and interpreted by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The theatre was shaped much like the Globe and we were seated on the second gallery. Unlike the Globe, however, the floor seats were the better seats. But it was a wonderful experience to lean over the railing and see the action taking place center stage below. Besides, there were a couple of hairy moments when the actors looked as if they were going to lunge into the middle of the audience! Their sense of timing was impeccable. The actors were incredible...and pretty sexy too! Haha. It was a fantastic performance that played out much like a tragedy, with love betrayed and madness, but actually had a happy ending. It was pleasant surprise. It was definitely the highlight of the day!

Needless to say, I spent entirely too much money in the theatre gift shop. I bought two shirts...one a clever plotting of Shakespeare's characters in the shape of the London Underground map, a couple of funny erasers, a book of Shakespearian insults, and a copy of the play's script. I also bought a tea towel replicating Shakespeare's first folio and the official guide book of Stratford-upon-Avon at the Shakespeare Trust gift shop.

Darn those clever Shakespeare souvenirs!

    London Away:
    British Studies
    Summer 2011


    I am a professional student.  I have a formal education--both a Bachelor and Master's degree in English, and I am working on a Master's in Library and Information Sciences.  But I believe that life experience is the greatest teacher anyone can have.  So I am hitting the road to have fun and to learn--and no, that's not mutally exclusive!--and live life to the fullest.



    July 2011
    June 2011
    May 2011
    April 2011



    RSS Feed