Sunday, August 28, 2011

National Records of Scotland

Edinburgh! What a fantastic city! Our first visit was to the National Archives of Scotland
 (now, National Records of Scotland,) which is an agency of the Scottish Government. This is due to the merger between the National Archives and the General Registrar Office of Scotland. This merger allowed for the National Records of Scotland (NRS) to span six buildings in Edinburgh with over 450 staff. They hold over 72 kms of historical records dating from as far back as the 12th century.
 They hold the Scottish registers of births, marriages, and deaths, as well as Scottish census records from 1841 onward.
The NRS building in Edinburgh has six public search rooms and nine different websites. These websites work in connection to provide accurate records of the Scottish people, their clans, and their tartans. The NRS offers their search room for free for two hours most days so that people may come in and research their ancestors using the catalogs and digital archives. Other search rooms are available for booking at other times of the day. During our visit, we were able to see some records that related to Scottish people and America, specifically Mississippi, North Carolina, and Alabama. The records we saw were just a hint of all that the NRS holds. They keep state and parliamentary papers, church records, wills and testaments, family and estate papers, census data, photographs, maps and plans, railway records, court and legal documents, deaths, marriages, and births, and registers of deeds.
One of the most exciting things that I learned about was GLOW, a national program coordinating workshops and conferences between the NRS and other National organizations to connect with classrooms and schools in order to teach more about Scotland and its history. After seeing the program and learning more about it, I was wishing for something similar to come to America. As a teacher, seeing technology connect the NRS in Edinburgh with small schools far away was exciting and the learning opportunities endless. I can only hope that the U.S. decides to implement something similar in our schools.
As someone who is part Scottish, I was thrilled to get my hands on some records and learn more about the great efforts put forth by the government of Scotland and placing importance on the historical documents and records of the Scottish people.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Photo Album

I wanted to post a web album that I have of some of my pictures from this fantastic experience! The link is below. Enjoy! :)


British Library Conservation Studio

Our final visit was to the British Library Conservation Studio. Having already visited the British Library before, I was curious to learn more about what goes on in the Conservation Studio. Our guides were extremely knowledgeable and helpful as we learned about the environmental control and caring for items that come in, as well as learning about general wear and tear of books and precautions and prevention that can take place to save an item from severe damage. The Conservation Studio has an isolation room for items that need to be in “quarantine.” This means that any item that is a potential problem to other items is kept away in the isolation room until the item can be returned to its proper place.  The studio works on conserving, rather than restoring to minimize intervention on the item. In the studio, different teams work on different items; stamps, photos, books, maps, and parchment are a few of the items that are conserved. On our visit, a team was working on palm leaves that on which contained writings from India from the 13-14th centuries. The conservator makes detailed conservation records of before and after of items and uses retreat able processes on the item. After we saw some of the conservation work in action, we learned about placing gold leafing on a book spine. I personally, found this process fascinating, and seeing and touching the gold leaf was very interesting.
Overall, I enjoyed my time at the Conservation Studio. Although my interests do not lie in archives or conservation, I learned a great deal that would carry over into work at a public library in the care and keeping of items.

Middle Temple Library

Middle Temple Library is one of the “Inns of Court,” that is, a place for lawyers to join and work, eat, and congregate. Lawyers in London must join one of the four Inns, with each Inn specializing in specific types of law. Middle Temple has a large American material collection and with 6 of the Middle Temple members signing the Declaration of Independence, Middle Temple has strong ties to America. The library has American text books, law books, a collection on capital punishment, ecclesiastical law, etc. The library deals with American and EU law, primarily. The collections are used by British researchers and lawyers. There are advocacy rooms and suites available for teaching and seminars and journals, legislations and trials are all available for use on the second floor. There is no classification system for the collections, other than alphabetical subject. There are also no classification markings on the books, as the patrons do not like their book covers neat and free of classification marks. Some of the most interesting artifacts in the library is the pair of the earliest celestial and terrestrial globes made by Molyneux, an English globemaker. Only six of his globes are still in existence today. Shakespeare was inspired by those globes and famous maps of the time; he even wrote about them in some of his plays.
Also, Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night was performed in the Great Hall at Middle Temple in 1602, with Shakespeare rumored to have been performing as part of the cast.
The library also is home to the Robert Ashley’s personal collection of books. The founder of Middle Temple Library, Ashley gave his books on science, medicine, geology, exploration, and religion to the growing library at his death. The library also acquired 80 books from John Donne’s personal collection.
The Hall was built in 1570 and was a place for qualifying sessions, dinners, performances and a general gathering place.  Some of the famous members that have become a part of Middle Temple include, Charles Dickens,  Sir Walter Raleigh, David Cameron( current Prime Minister), and Prince William.
Middle Temple is steeped in history and the library is no exception; the library contains much more than law books, the special collections and donations and acquired books make the library appeal to more than those interested in law; anyone interested in gaining knowledge would benefit from Middle Temple Library.

Maughan Library at King's College

Back in London, we ventured a bit closer to home with a visit to Maughan Library at King’s College. On our tour, we learned a bit about the history of the college; that is, it was founded in 1829 as a godly intuition with theology and chapel important aspects of the college. The building in which the library is housed is a former public record office and actually contains 4 libraries in one—all libraries of King’s college finally housed together. There are around 1,000 reader places, 300 computer places and around 750,000 items. The library’s goal is on aiding students in whatever way possible, so the library is working towards making more group study space available, providing wireless access throughout the building, and roving reference librarians. The library also provides special collections, including material on travel and discovery, historical medical literature, charts and diagrams from Florence Nightingale, WWII photographs, and  Allen Ginsberg poetry, just to name a few. The special collection is open access, students can ask for an item and view it in the special collections room. The library has a cafĂ© area downstairs for students and proposed areas for eating/drinking/cell phone use are currently being devised throughout the library. Like in all libraries we’ve visited, space goes quickly and the library is working to consolidate digital items, which makes room for other collections. The library also has a large audiovisual collection of DVDs, CDs, and other items available. There is also a round reading room (much like the British Museum!) though not as large as that other reading room.
Overall, I was impressed with all that Maughan Library had to offer the students of King’s College. The resources and services available are immense for those looking for a place to study, find resources, computer access, or even a movie to watch—it’s all here for King’s College students.

Trinity College and The Old Library

During the mini-break, I headed to Dublin, Ireland to soak up a bit of the luck of the Irish! During my trip, I visited Trinity College (part of University of Dublin) on my first day in rainy Dublin. My friend, Patience and I decided to take a tour of the campus and the Trinity College Old Library which features The Book of Kells, a world-famous 9th century gospel manuscript.  Our tour guide, a student at Trinity College gave us a brief history of the college and the some of the traditions and myths. For instance, if a virgin student walks through the archway on campus, the bell will ring out! We learned about what the students do: where they live, eat, and study. After seeing the quad and some of the well-known buildings, we headed to the library and The Book of Kells exhibit.
The exhibit was very informative and the manuscript itself was so intricate and detailed; it is hard to imagine someone hand painting each detail onto the page!
We then got to walk through The Long Room, which houses 200,000 of the oldest books in the Library. The Long Room is the main chamber of the Old Library and it was built between 1712 and 1732, by 1830, the library had to be expanded upwards to make room for more books ( there’s always a space issue in libraries!)
The Long Room was my favorite part of my visit to Trinity College, the architecture of the room was stunning and the amount of books in that one room was incredible.
I wish I could have spent more time at Trinity College and in Dublin, but the next day, we were off on a whirlwind tour of Southern Ireland!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dunfermline Carnegie Library

Dunfermline Library was our last library visit in Scotland, and we were able to take the train out from Edinburgh to this beautiful town. Dunfermline Carnegie Library is the first Carnegie Library and it’s no wonder: Andrew Carnegie was born and grew up in Dunfermline! The Library itself was opened in 1883 after Andrew Carnegie gave 8,000 pounds to open the Dunfermline Library. The library is a lending library and provides the services prominent in public lending libraries: public access computers, summer reading programs, exhibition rooms, children’s services and events, and of course, 59,000 items in the library’s collection for use by the public.
We heard a great deal from our knowledgeable guide about the history of the library and of the most interesting stories were about the first day the library opened; by the end of the day, not a single book was left in the building. That just goes to show that Carnegie knew what he was doing in funding a much-needed library in his hometown.
Not only did we see the services of the library, we also were allowed to see the special collections. The library has a large Robert Burns collection donated to the library back in the 1930s, featuring paintings, sketches, busts, engravings, etc. The library also hold valuable editions of famous works, including Shakespeare’s second folio from 1632, Milton’s Paradise Lost ( 4th edition), works by Chaucer, and a Latin Bible from 1491.
The Dunfermline Carnegie Library also has a local history collection that provides plenty of books, photographs, newspapers, journals, and maps specific to Dunfermline This collection is perfect for those doing family history research. One of the issues faced at the library is lack of space for growing collections. The local council at Dunfermline is working to get the library funding to connect with the museum and archives of Dunfermlime, thus relieving the library of the space currently holding boxes of archives, maps, and photographs.
It was exciting for me to visit the very first Carnegie library, in his hometown, no less. The Dunfermline library is doing the most to enhance upon Carnegie’s vision of providing the town with a quality lending library.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Central Public Library- Edinburgh

The libraries in Edinburgh treat us so very well! After a fantastic visit at the NRS, we headed to the Central Public Library in Edinburgh. I’ve found that I enjoy visiting the public libraries most of all because I find that I would love to work most in a public library or school library setting. After all the visits to the archives, I found it so refreshing to visit a public library! We first learned about the different sections of the library: digital information services, reader development,  computer literacy, and library promotion. With digital information we learned about the Edinburgh Library Online service, YourLibrary, the outreach using social media platforms like facebook and twitter, support and help plasma screens in the lobby and around the building, and mobile apps for iPhone and Android. The library also offers services to encourage library use, such as prep for driver’s tests, free genealogy searches, and Library2Go, which promotes audio book mp3 downloads and ebooks for users. The library has the goal of providing 24/7 online library service to users in addition to the physical library, or instead of the library, for some users.
The library also works for reader development; the library hosts author events, book groups, displays and collaborations with stores and companies, and City of Literature events, which promote literature in Edinburgh. They also partner with literary organizations such as, the Scottish Book Trust, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and the Edinburgh Book Festival, to name a few. The goal is to get people to read more and more variably. Next, we heard about what the library does in terms of Computer Literacy and literacy and numeracy for adults. Central Public Library offers LearnIT which offers informational seminars on the basics of using computers. ITBuddies is another service offered that allows volunteers to help master basic computer skills in one-on-one situations.  The library also aids those adults that are non-native English speakers or those who never really learned how to read by offering book challenges to encourage reluctant readers and Adult Education classes(coming in September).
The Central Public Library greatly encouraged me with the passion they have in staying up to date and working to meet the needs of their users. I was so impressed with their services offered and the staff that were so willing to assist us as we toured and learned more about the workings of the library.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Oxford: Bodleian Library and Christ Church Library

One of my favorite places we visited was Oxford. I had been ready to go to Oxford since we first arrived in London. I am obsessed with the literary history of Oxford: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Lewis Carroll, so needless to say, visiting Oxford University was a highlight of my entire experience! Our first visit of the day was to Bodleian Library. We learned from our lovely and knowledgeable tour guide about the early history of the university. Oxford was originally a monastery that was made a home for education in the early 700s. The original building for teaching, testing, commencement, etc., all took place in the church. Eventually, the university grew into its own campus, complete with 38 individual colleges. Each college is self-sufficient and is home to students and fellows (professors).  The first library at Oxford was opened in 1320, but was superseded by a library built in 1488( known as Duke Humfreys Library). During this time, the reformation spread, and books relating to Roman Catholicism were being taken out and burnt under orders by King Edward VI in 1550. As the library was depleted of books, the university was left in a dire situation. In 1602, a fellow by the name of Thomas Bodley rescued the library by providing his extensive collection of books and the library re-opened to the university.

The Bodleian Library is the first copyright library in England and has been collecting published books since 1610. The library has 11 million books in the collection; but is not a lending library. Each college at Oxford has a lending library, yet the Bodleian serves a research and copyright library for the university.
The Library has  multiple reading rooms for students and faculty at Oxford. The books are chained in library and librarians are to help you locate a shelf number and book number. The librarian is the only person allowed to handle books at the Bodleian.
The library was a phenomenal library; so full of history and one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen.  Plus, scenes in Harry Potter were filmed in the library! So cool!
The second visit in Oxford was the Christ Church Library. As someone who is obsessed with Alice in Wonderland, I was so excited to be in the place where Charles Dodgson first saw young Alice Liddell and wrote her a story about her adventures in Underland.
 We learned from our tour of the library that the library holds a great deal of Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) manuscripts and early editions of his work. There is even a special collection with focus on Christ Church’s favorite author and mathematics fellow. The library is organized by collection rather than subject or call number. The different sections of the collection are named after the donors who provided the books to the library. Some of the major projects of the library included cataloging early printed books; cataloging at Christ Church has taken thirteen years (on and off).  The collection is large and rather diverse; a large music collection and science collection are the strengths of the collection. The music catalogue was recently digitized and is now available online. One of the most interesting things I learned about the library was that Charles Dodgson served as sub-librarian for a few years at the Christ Church Library (we even got to see where his office might have been!).  I was impressed with the amount of items on exhibition about Lewis Carroll and his life at Oxford as Charles Dodgson.  His manuscripts, sketches, and photographs were on display in the library. As an Alice fan, I was tickled to see all of the items related to the man behind the book.

Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society was an fascinating surprise during our class outings. During the morning, we visited the National Art Library and in the afternoon, we all headed to the Royal Geographical Society in a small, but bright building on the corner of the North Pole( explorer) and South Pole(explorer… I’ll explain later…).   The RGS was founded in 1830 and the focus is on world exploration ( with an emphasis on Hot and Cold exploration.)RGS has a self-contained reading room that was renovated back in 2004. The library itself has 2 million items in the collection with one million maps, 250,000 books and periodicals, 500,000 pictures and 15,000 objects, all of which relate to exploration. All items are on-site, but are retrieved by a staff member, while users wait for the item in the reading room. The RGS used a card catalog from 1910-2000, but created an online catalog in 2004. The library is a lending and research library and the beauty of the online catalog is that members can order items ahead of time so that they are available when they arrive. Anyone is free to use the library; there is a ten pound charge for non educational users and non members, however. Students, teachers, and academics can use the collection for free. We were fortunate enough to see a variety of items during a visit: a can of meat from the ship Resolute from 1851, an early type of expedition sunglasses from the 1900s, a book of drawings and writings from Shackleton’s South Pole expedition, diagrams for the great Everest expedition, photos and sketches by Livingston on his expedition, and a pocket sexton owned by Charles Darwin.
Through these items, I learned so much more about the history of exploration of the North and South poles. And, perfectly enough, outside of the RGS, just down to the street corner, you can see two statues—One of Livingstone, and one of Shackleton, each representing their area of exploration
Overall, it was  a great day of learning about “hot and cold” exploration and the men that made it possible for us to know more about our world.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The National Art Library

The National Art Library is housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Our visit included a tour of the library itself and a view of the rare and special items of the collection. Some of the items that we were able to see (and touch!) included a facsimile of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, a fashion album from the 1900s, a handwritten manuscript of David Copperfield, and  a large book of Audubon prints. It was so exciting to really experience the treasures of the collection at the National Art Library! Anyways, the library has an online catalog to view what is available before you come. You tell those at the information desk about what book you need and you get a desk number and your item is delivered to you at your desk. This is a similar practice at many other reference libraries around the U.K. Some form of identification and proof of address can allow for you to request and look at 3 items at one time and 12 items per day in the special collection. Users are also able to order books online prior to coming into the library, thus making the experience more convenient. The library itself predates the V&A museum; the library joined in 1850 when the museum was founded. The library has the largest collection of artist books—nearly 3,000! Plus, the library gets 300,000 pounds a year to spend on books in order to enhance the collection. The most common users of the library are curators, auction houses, galleries, and post-graduate art students. There are also services available that allow for photocopying of items in the library for those that want something to take home.
The library’s cataloging system was mentioned as being pretty much illogical. Books are organized sometimes by subject, sometimes by size, and sometimes by newest arrivals. This makes it very difficult for staff to locate a book for users—they have to consult maps to find the book the need.
All in all, I was blown away by the special items that we were able to peruse and touch and such a helpful and friendly staff and eager to show us around.

London Library

The London Library (a labyrinthine library if there ever was one!) was founded in 1841, before the public library act. The focus is on lending, despite the age and rarity of items. The collection’s strengths lie in Arts and Humanities and Science and Miscellaneous (I love their labeling system!). The library grew rapidly and is now the largest independent library in the world. This means that member subscriptions and donations are what primarily fund the library. The library has some famous early members: George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, TS Eliot, and Winston Churchill, to name a few. Today, the library boasts around 7,000 members, including private members and corporate/ public companies. One of the best things about the library is the variety of the collection. With over 1 million books and 15 miles of shelving, the library is bound to have great variety.  With open-access browsing, 97 percent of the collection is available for loan. That means, the books in the collection that are in different languages, books from the 17th century to present day, and books covering arts, humanities, history, literature, biography, topography, science, and religion, are all available to browse and check out.
Membership is open to all, although rather expensive for the average public library-goer. However, the variety of the collection is phenomenal.
The London Library saw great changes since its creation, including a new subject arrangement system, installation of 7 levels of grilled metal floors, new buildings to house the growing collection, an issue hall, and a conservation studio. The buildings are large and even a detailed map could not fully convey the scale of the library, especially from the unassuming exterior entrance. The library has an issue hall with member services, reading rooms, art room, periodicals section, and level upon level of shelving for the collection. Also, the library has little to no security and each member is trusted to take care of the books that they check out and return to the library. The library does deal with rare books and has a conservation team, naturally, they repair books so that they are usable to the members, in only rare occasions are books taken from the shelves and kept locked away for safe keeping.
Overall, the London Library has the feel of a small library where you can wander the stacks for hours and never feel rushed or pressured to get the book and leave. The subject organization is fantastic and one of the easiest systems I’ve seen in a library ever. I wish all libraries could have the same feel as the London Library. Plus, Hugh Grant is a member! :)

Stephen Lawrence Gallery

During our visit to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, we visited the Stephen Lawrence Gallery which was established in 2000. The gallery was named in honor of a young black teen who was stabbed at a bus stop. The boy’s mother was a university student and six years after the murder, was working at the university. In light of the tragedy, the university named the gallery space in honor of Stephen. The gallery was created to allow the creativity that was so evident in Stephen to live on through art showcased. The current exhibition during our visit was about the group of art studios that were prevalent in Greenwich from 1974-1994. This period was during the time when artists were beginning to group together in studios and take residence in abandoned industrial areas. The pieces on display were all works of art from a particular art studio and well-known studio artists. There were a variety of pieces, one of the most interesting to me was a sculpture piece of a polar bear by Richard Lawrence.
We learned about the art and artists themselves, but also about placing exhibitions, and developing and promoting exhibitions to the public. This is a task that librarians often forget about when they think about working in a library, but exhibitions are a prime feature in any library space.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

British Library

The British Library is the national library of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The library acquires the national output of books within one month of publication date. The British Library is also a research library with at total of 180-185 million items, 35 million of which are held in the largest subterranean block in Europe. The books underground stretch from the Euston Road underground station all the way to the back of the building( near and around St. Pancras). The Piccadilly line even passes over the underground collection. The shelving grows nearly 8 miles a year; this is most likely due to the fact that British law states that the library must keep everything.
The current library building first opened in 1997 and became a separate entity from the British Museum back in 1951.  Sir Hans Sloane left his books to the nation and the Montague House( British Museum later on) made the books available to all. Sir Robert Cotton also bought books from closing monastic collections during the reign of Henry VII. The British Museum grew out of Sir Cotton's contribution, but of course, the library was first.

The British Library all houses one of the largest stamp collections in the world with not only the first stamps available, but with 8.5 million items in all and most available to view within the library.

In order to have access to the library, one must have specific items to be researched, a State Driver's license, passport or another method of identification. There is a form to complete as part of the application process and an interview is conducted in order to receive a reader card. The library has an automatic book retrieval system since readers cannot browse the shelves of the library. Readers request books through the catalog, then a staff member retrieves the book and leaves a slip where the book was held and a slip to be put in the book itself. Then, books are placed in a tray that is scanned and a departure point is scanned to show where the book is to be sent. The tray system delivers the items to and from the reading room.

One of the most prominent features in the library is that of the glass tower or the personal collection of King George III. The collection boasts 60,000 items on six floors. The books stretch a variety of disciplines, including a large foreign language collection.
Finally, my personal favorite thing about the British Library was the exhibits. Currently, the library has an in-depth exhibit on Science Fiction, the world of Mervyn Peake, and the wonderful collection of items spanning from a Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, early folios of Shakespeare and Jane Austen's writing desk.

I found myself in love with the British Library, especially the collection of artifacts and out-of this world exhibits on display! I would love to go back and get my reader's card someday soon! :)
Image found through Google

British Museum Archives

 On July 6, we were able to visit the British Museum Archives. Now, I've ALWAYS wanted to visit the British Museum and I was not disappointed in the vast amount of artifacts available to see! But the archives, the goal of our visit is much quieter, and hidden away in the depths of the museum. The archives hold the historical and administrative records of the museum; these records often go into great detail of the inner workings of the trustee's business.

The archives get around 20-30 email inquiries a week and often 5-6 people(academics, students, writers) a week who come in to research the archives in person.
The records vary from staff, finance, exhibitions, reading room records, indexes, meeting minutes, and even letter books that display correspondence between patrons and directors.

There are 5,000 photographs in the archive collection as well as building plans as early as 1725 in the building of Montague House, which was the original site of the British Museum, before it was the British Museum. :)
After Montague House was demolished, plans for the British Museum came about in 1851; therefore building plans are held in the archives as well as the records of exhibitions held ( this includes, photos, designs, technical specifications, and even paint swatches, fabric samples and labels of exhibits.)

My favorite part of the visit was seeing the records of the Round Reading room. To be a member was an honor and one needed to apply and be referred into the reading room. Many well-known authors were members of the Reading Room: Karl Marx, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, and Beatrix Potter (my favorite!). The archives hold the background letters and reference records of every visitor to the reading room.

Overall, I was greatly impressed with the archives; the vast number of records devoted to the British Library was incredible!