Tower of London

Tower of London

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Message For All Future BSP Students

There is a chance that if you are reading this blog, then you are heading on your own British Studies Program adventure. Congratulations!!!!! You are in for one of the most exciting, overwhelming, and memorable months of your life!

There are a few things I wish I had known before I left. There are a few I never even thought to ask. So I thought I would share them with you. Half of the fun is in finding out things for yourself in a new country, so I have tried not to "spoil" that experience for you. Here are a few must knows:

* Jet Lag: There is nothing like a long flight like this one to help you put your priorities in order. Or at least that is what I found to be true! Your schedule will be off for almost the first week when you get to London and the professors are going to push you hard to help you get acclimated as soon as possible. In fact, that first night you are already out and about learning the city and walking all over God's creation. Thank them for this. As much as it seems impossible to move those first few days, you will be eternally grateful to them later. By the fourth day it seems like you have lived in London forever and you can't remember a time when you did not know how to take the tube, order at a pub, or maneuver the London streets.

* Homesickness: No matter what they say, EVERYONE feels homesick. It is often the ones you least expect who are feeling it the worst. Whatever you do, do not leave for the first week. I know it may seem impossible that you will ever get used to it or that missing everyone back home will become bearable, but I promise you it is true. You owe it to yourself to stick it out. You were brave enough to commit to the trip in the first place, you definitely have what it takes to succeed in this program. As Dr. Mackaman says in orientation "I bet you know a lot of people who thought about coming on British studies, but I don't see any of them sitting here. I see you sitting here." This is a big deal-and you are the reason why! Besides, who wants to take another day long plane trip so close together?

* Laptops. The internet access you are given is in the lab across the street from the apartments (flats). It is open 24 hours and it is a very nice lab. However, most of the time you will really not want to drag yourself over there after a long day or be in the crowd while you are trying to get your thoughts together. You can buy an inexpensive air card at Carphone Warehouse and you can get access in your room. I would have loved this even if I only used it for non-internet projects like downloading my photos and writing blog entries which I could then put online at the lab. The rooms are safe and you won't have to carry it everywhere. If it is not obscenely heavy, it is definitely worth bringing.

* Laptop warning: If you have the type of personality where you will never leave your room if you have your laptop, leave it at home. This is a once in a lifetime experience, don't let the internet suck you in and don't let it be a security blanket. It is a great tool to keep up with the work, but it is not worth missing out on everything else for it.

* Alcohol: If you are anti-alcohol, do not hang out with people who drink. If you do, then keep your judgments about alcohol to yourself. Everyone is an adult on this trip and people need to experience London on their own terms. If this is a problem for you, then you need to do some serious thinking about this trip. And I am not speaking of binge drinking-although the same does apply. A glass of wine or a drink at dinner does not an alcoholic make. If this is a problem for you, avoid the situation. Everyone paid to be there and they left their parents at home. Be a friend, not a chaperon.

* Walking: They are not joking when they say you are going to be walking EVERYWHERE. Be up to at least 3 miles a day when you leave and walk the sidewalks. Tracks are nice, but they are a lot smoother than the London roads. You can still handle it even if you don't do this, but it will make life a lot easier.

* Sandwiches: Get used to them. London LOVES their sammies!

* Fruits and Vegetables: If you are a vegetarian, make Mark and Spencer's your best friend. The food is by far the freshest and best quality in the country. You will have a fridge in your room and the nearest M&S is right at the tube station. Not only will you save tons of money, but you will be able to eat a normal diet for most of the month rather than a constant stream of restaurant and takeout food.

* Speaking of food, the only thing open on Sunday morning are some of the places in Waterloo station. The local bakery on the side street next to King's is wonderful, but closed on Sunday morning.

* Bring towels!!!!!! I know you are told that King's College provides these for you, and it is kind of true, but unless you are cool with using the same one ortwo towels for a month bring a spare you can wash with your other laundry.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Things I Will Miss About London

There are so many things I will miss about London! This list only looks shorter because there is no explanation necessary. There's no dirt to give, so why not keep it short and sweet? My dear London, you were so good to me. The things I will miss will stay with me in my heart until next time...

* Being handed my newspaper on the street every day.

* Musicians playing on the tube and in the neighborhood streets.

* Seeing people randomly reading just for the share pleasure of it by the droves!!!!!!!!

* Marks and Spencer (the best grocer or superstore, grocery and department store, EVER!!!)

* Seeing major adverts for books wherever I went.

* A room of my own (but I am thrilled to be going home to my husband/best friend!)

* Cleaning service (admit it, if you could hire a cleaning service it would only take you about a half a second to do so!)

* Good friends!

* A constant version of the Biggest Loser workout (minus the vegetables, see previous post)

* Street performers (for the most part, he knows who I am talking about. don't take 60 minutes to get there and then only stand on the bike as the big finale-what's wrong with you!!!!!!!!!)

* London Walks (If you are ever in London-TAKE THESE WALKS!!!! It is the best way to see the city by far.)

* The green initiatives. Americans should be ashamed of themselves. If London can do it this well and make money, then we have no excuses.

* The Tube. Even for all of its quirks, it was one of my favorite things about the trip. So long public transportation, hopefully Rhode Island will catch on to your wonders soon.

* Making a photo!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Things I Won't Miss About London

I am getting ready to go home tomorrow. While I am going to miss London terribly, there are a few things I will be glad to leave when I get on the plane.

Before I start, a short note to London: I really do love you and no place is perfect. But, let's be honest here. I have a much longer love list than this. And besides, everyone back home wants to hear the dirt. So let's give them a little something before I leave!

* Being shouldered every time I am on the street. (Remember, we are being honest here London and the people here are just downright aggressive. I swear I have permanent bruises on my shoulders. There is no need for that. Play nice.)

* The lack of vegetables. (I used to adore cheese. And I was a fan of bread and meat. However, I now realize that vegetables are really the thing that keeps us going. So London, how is it possible you are not the nation with the most deaths from heart disease. Really. It is an honest question. I was only served vegetables with one meal the whole time I was here and that was not for a lack of me trying to order them. So what's the deal? Are the crops on strike?)

* Sandwiches. (Really, there are millions of other foods in the world. I know this is a commuter town and everyone is on the go, but please. If I see one more sandwich in the next million years I am seriously going to hurl. See the above as well. They go hand in hand. A nice big veggie salad never hurt anyone.)

* Unrefrigerated food and warm drinks. (Okay, I know I raved about the food my first few days in, but I may have been a bit hasty. I miss cold drinks like I miss my husband. I can't get back a minute too soon for a nice ice cold gallon of water.)

* Having to push buttons and slide cards to be let out of doors. (Remember that episode of Monk where he caught the criminal because he stopped before walking out the door and he knew that the guy had been in prison. It's just like that. I am going to have to keep low when I get home so I don't get fingered as an ex-con!)

* The worthless value of my dollar.

* The customer service in restaurants. (Don't even try and deny it-it was horrendous! It was so bad it was almost laughable except for that night at Giraffe. That service was so bad it was offensive. I miss our values of customer service back home. Get ready folks, give me good service when I get home and their is a HUGE tip in your future!)

* Having to run to a million stores to do what I can do in one store at home. (Okay, so everyone knows I love supporting small business owners, but this is really too much. Nothing is next to one another and there is no car to put it in when you are done. Target, here I come!!!)

* Public love sessions. (I get the whole in love in London thing, but really? Remember that dignity I spoke of earlier-it's running out the door hoping you will catch it.)

* Always being late to our appointments. (I know this is not London's fault and it is tough to get a group of people anywhere on time, but still.)

* Fire alarms. (I know they serve an important purpose here, but I can use a break from random fire alarms at least once a day!)

* No clean towels! (My only complain about my lodgings. I still want to take my room home!)

There they are. Nothing too major. London, I love you. But that doesn't mean I always have to like you. If you were being honest, you would agree I drive you crazy too! We always have next time to do it better!

A Space of One's Own

I love my room in London! Cozy is the way I would describe it. It is not as nice as the pictures on the website make it appear, but that is okay. Once I got here and made it my own, it was even better (and I think I had a better layout!) It has everything that I need-a bed, a reading chair, a desk and office chair, closet, refrigerator, and even a private bathroom! I share the kitchen area, but that only makes the room cleaner and cozier.

For years, I have wanted an area that felt like this in my home. To put things in perspective, my entire room here is only slightly larger than a prison cell (okay, it might be the size of two cells). But the fact that I have a desk and three comfy reading areas make this my ideal space.

My husband has been yelling at me for years now that our entire apartment is not an office. Yet, when I got my laptop, the idea of a desk for me was nixed because the theory was that with the laptop I should be able to work from anywhere in the house.

I realized in London that I really do love having my own desk as much as I thought I did. In our next home, I want my own little corner where I have a desk and maybe we could put a reading chair and a futon there as well and make that area a family corner. We can have a real cozy are to sit and talk and let our creative juices flow.

I would love for Tony to have his own work area, so maybe we can keep the studio a family area and find a place where he can have a dedicated "Tony Only" space. As long as I get my desk, I don't care what you do in your part of the house. How do you like that idea buddy?

It is amazing how much you can get done when you don't have a television. It is even better when you love the space because it feels like it was made just for you!

I will certainly miss my London home. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire staff of the Stamford Apartments at King's College. My stay was wonderful and you were such a pleasure to get to know. I will forever have amazing memories of my "Room of One's Own".

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Checking In...

Hi Everyone,

I just realzed it has been a little while since I posted to let you know where I was I arrived back in London after a wonderful time in Ireland on Monday. It was quite the adventure! We took a taxi to the boat to the bus to the train to the tube and then we used our feet to finish the journey. 12 hours later and we were back home to our Stamford Street Flats at King's College. I don't know about any of my travel buddies, but I for one was saying "Home, Sweet Home."

Speaking of home, it's only a few more days now!!!!!!! I have lots to do before I leave London, but I am excited to see everyone real soon. Stick with me on the blog once I get back because pictures will be going up daily as will further details about my adventures abroad. For example, did you know that there is a site in Ireland that is similar to Stonehenge, but it appeared more than 1000 years earlier than Stonehenge and 500 years earlier than the pyramids? Neither did I until last week.

Also, I must remember to tell you all about driver Tony and the guy we saw getting arrested, but those are stories for when I have time to regroup. School work must be done this week, as much as I hate to waste a minute of the time I have here, I do have responsibilities to my classes and I want to make sure that I am on the right track before I come home to Rhode Island and my professor returns to Mississippi.

I will leave you for now with this: One of my dear friends on this trip almost had an international incident at Parliament. Why, you ask? It had to do with her knickers and her necklace.

When she was about to go through the metal detector she asked if she should take her necklace off. Well, the two adorable elderly security guards thought that this beautiful American woman had asked if she should take off her knickers.

Security Guard #1: (blushing profusely) "Well, you don't have to but if you want to I suppose you can." Security Guard #2: (also blushing a little while laughing heartily) "What, she wants to take her knickers off? I told you it was going to be a great night!"

Needless to say, she kept her knickers where they belonged and we managed to somehow make it through security without being pulled into some small room for questioning about our intentions in Parliament! She made the guards night and watching the live action of Parliament was one of the highlights of our trip. (Believe it or not, the antics of the House members was even crazier than that of the guards!)

See, if you stay with me next week you will get more of this great juicy behind the scenes action! I'll be back soon.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Things I Won't Miss About Ireland

To be fair to Scotland and Ireland, I must post the few things I won't miss about Ireland. It was almost the perfect love affair. At least this way I can remember that not all was lush and green in my new favorite place (except for Wicklow Mountains).

* 2 am fire alarms. (Okay I know the hotel we stayed in was apparently the happening night club as well, but really? Every night?)

* Lack of street signs. (Okay, this was actually kind of funny, but a little stressful. I thought we were bad in Rhode Island about giving directions. My favorite part is that they purposely put the wrong street name on the signs! You have to admit it is funny!)

* Cork. (Cork is a 4 hour drive from Dublin and it had a lot of things happen that day were not its fault, but Cork be happy for your library because otherwise I might have thought it was a punishment instead of a privilege to be there. P.S. Your library rocks!!!!)

* Cork Cafe. (We found this little cafe to grab lunch and get out of the rain. The food was actually worse than that in London. Didn't think it was possible.)

* Newgrange. (Okay so the tombs and the towns were cool, but the last tomb was just cruel. Claustrophobic, birds attacking me and I slammed my head on a slab of rock thousands of years old. Is this because I didn't like Cork that much? Cause it really wasn't that bad.)

So, even the bad stuff wasn't that bad. Maybe it is love's eyes, but Ireland, I will take you with your faults any day!

Things I Will Miss About Ireland

EVERYTHING!!!!!!! Ireland, in you I found an unexpected soul mate. If there was ever a place I did not want to go, it was Ireland. Your fiction authors depressed me (and I certainly tried again and again), your history made it even worse. What did your country do for such bad karma? And I love nature as much as the next person, but really 40 shades of green just weren't doing it for me.

Thank you to my friend Allie for giving me my boat ride and forcing me to face my arch-country Ireland. I have learned that in life you need to do the things that you REALLY want to do and those you REALLY DON'T (so long as they are not physically or mentally harmful). I REALLY DID NOT want to go to Ireland, but I could not be happier that I did. Just to prove it, here are the things I will miss the most:

* Tour Guide Tony! (If you are ever in London, go on an Over the Top Tours adventure. If you are really lucky, Tony will be your tour guide to the Wicklow Mountains. He knows his Irish history and his personal history is fascinating including a 30 year career on the Irish Garda. He was the sweetest and funniest person I met on my entire trip. Check out the entry about the Wicklow mountains. for more information about the tour or Tony.)

* Wicklow Mountains. Right up there in the top two best days of my life along with my wedding day. Thank you again Tony!

* The wonderful Irish People. (For as much as Londoners dislike Americans, and they do. the Irish love us and can't wait to speak to us. They look at us as partners in freedom since we all seceded from the British. They think that itself is hilarious. How can you not love them?)

* The Bog and the Bog People. (See the Wicklow Mountains blog. Gotta love the bog!)

* Bobo's! (For the best hamburger and onion rings on the planet, you MUST go to Bobo's. It is a little whole in the wall place that will make your whole life worth living in just one meal!)

* Fruits and Vegetable!!! (For as much as London lacked them, they were abundant in Ireland. The land must have some of the most fertile soil in the world because I have never tasted anything as fresh, green, or tasty as the vegetables in Ireland.)

* Funny (or lack of) shop hours. (The Irish are great! They work when they feel like it and they don't if they don't. Shops that don't have hours listed on the window are totally on the whenever system (and some of these are even chain stores) and those that have hours listed are optional. You can never make a special trip to any store, but it is a hoot to see how the city runs.)

* A million shades of green. (It is Ireland after all. And they are right, there are a million shades of green in the world!)

* Ferry Rides. (I love boats. Taking them on the open ocean from one country to another is even better!)

* The Bathtub. (Best. Bathroom. Ever. Now only if I could have found some bubble bath in this country!)

* Cows and Sheep. (The Irish would be lost without their cows and sheep everywhere. I love it! I withheld the urge to go up and hug every single one, but that is only because of electric fences and a little better sense.)

Ireland, I haven't even gotten on the boat back to London yet and I already miss you! We'll always have Wicklow Mountains!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

ACADEMIC- Marsh Public Library

The Marsh Public Library is Ireland's first public library-ever. Established in 1701, it still stands today, although it is no longer a lending library. Their website describes their mission today best: "Marsh's Library is a treasury of what might be called the European mind; it is a rich source for studying the history of ideas, the birth of new ideas, the rise of science and attacks on Christianity."

The Marsh library no longer circulates books or adds to its collection, but it is intent on keeping the spirit of its existence alive. It was born out of the belief that all citizens should have access to the written works of the time. By keeping their doors open, it is a reminder to all subsequent generations that the idea of the right to read and an education is a long-held belief of the nation and something that should not be dismissed lightly.

It was incredible to walk into this library and feel how few differences there are between this 18th century library and the public libraries of today. The stacks were set up using the traditional ladder system, but otherwise, you could see how it was set up for user friendliness. The long tables for study areas and chairs for reading would make it a comfortable reading room today.

The library hosts exhibits to keep people coming through its doors; but for this librarian the real exhibit was the library itself. There is so much to see and learn in such a small space. It makes me feel more attached than ever to the librarians of our past, the keepers of the culture of their time. It turns out, that their time is much more like our own than we would ever like to admit.

For more information about the Marsh Public Library in Ireland, click here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

ACADEMIC-Cork City Library

(This image used courtesy of the Cork City Libraries website and can be found here.)

The Cork City Library in Ireland is the place to go if you need information, a cool music library, parenting information, or just something to do with the kids. It has internet access, reading areas, a great mix of old and new in the building, and just a general feeling of being welcome.

It is no surprise that everyone feels welcome, when I was speaking to the circulation librarian about membership, I was in for a big surprise. There are two forms of membership at the library. For the first one, you only need to have a name. No proof of address, no two forms of identification, no promise to donate your firstborn child to the library. Just a name that you tell them. It's on the honor system! You are allowed to take books out. The next level up is the traditional membership we are used to in the United States and it gives you access to the library's entire collection.

When I spoke about the basic membership to people back home, their first response always related to accountability for the books. How would they know where to charge them if they were lost or stolen? I think this speaks to the truths about public librarianship. While there will always be people who are late or often lose their books, the majority of library users are honest, rule-following patrons.

There is something else that should be noted for Americans in this policy. At least in Rhode Island, you do not need to be an American citizen in order to have a library card. I did not learn this until after months of working in a public library, so I think this policy is one that should be made much clearer to the general public. After all, what better way do we have to teach people the English language and to get them acclimated to a new culture than to welcome them as regular library patrons?

With the debate raging over illegal immigration in the United States these days, far fewer immigrants are making use of the public library for fear of deportation. Why can't we make libraries safe havens? I know this is a particularly tough thing to do since most public libraries are government organizations, but the benefits of doing so could outweigh the mixed messages. After all, if we have a way to make our public libraries work to help improve the system, shouldn't we at least give it a try? Cork's library patrons have taught us that it isn't always bad to put our trust in the public's hands.

For more information about Cork Public Libraries, click here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Clarification of Last Post

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick clarification fom my perfect day-I do know that Heidi did not take place in Ireland! It was supposed to be an anaolgy (one that I will have to go back and rewrite), but it came back to me that Heidi did not actually take place in Ireland so I wanted to clear up any confusion before everyone thought this literary adventure was all for naught!

More Soon,

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ireland-A Perfect Day

I am writing from a small internet shop in Ireland and I can honestly say that today was one of those perfect days in life! After starting off the day with a hot breakfast, my friends and I departed for a bus tour to Wicklow.

Our tour leader was an adorable older man named Tony (figures). He knows his Irish history and he knows how to entertain the crowd. I have never seen so much lush green grass and fields. The air is so fresh you can feel your whole body relax to be able to take in as much as possible.

I spent time in a bog (more on that later, only 15 minutes left here), went through a monastery, and stood on the fields and bridges were several movies were filmed including Braveheart, P.S. I Love You and others. I saw cows, sheep, and horses roaming in the fields-which made me giggle to no end.

The entire time, I was picturing the story of Heidi as she climbed the mountain to Grandfather's house that first day with Peter and his sheep herd. I pictured her running up barefoot and only in her slip and knickers. I pictured how she played everyday on that field and enjoyed the damp mud and grass in between her toes and how she could not picture being happier anywhere else in the world. I too felt like that today.

I wanted to go barefoot and run across the hills myself, but I must admit I am a bit of a sissy. For as much of a renowned polar bear I can be-it was freezing! It had to be about 48 degrees up there today. I was praying for gloves and earmuffs! As much as I wish every July would be chilly, it was a little much for me to gt my warm socks and sneakers off. We still have a visit to Cork to see the Blarney Stone tomorrow, so I will be better prepared and will find my feet in that beautiful green grass!

There's so much more to say, but time is almost up here. I will try and check in again before London, otherwise pictures and more on Tuesday!

Here's to an amazing day with great friends, a perfect setting, and even better memories!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Things I Won't Miss About Edinburgh

The entrance into Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh, I am so sorry. It's not you. It's me. I promise. You put on your best face for me. I really wished it didn't end this way. But, let's be honest. It would only be a matter of time before you resented my false sentiments and would feel like you had been used. It is better that we remember the good times and go our separate ways. We will always have the Highland Games.

What, you need to know what it was exactly? I don't think this is a good idea. Like I said, you put your best foot forward. It is my fault that I am disagreeable. Well, okay. If you must know:

* Train Rides. (It is no secret that I LOVE train rides. Love, love, love them. But not in Scotland. I was so sick I actually felt like the color green. No, not just a little nauseous green. And I am not talking Irish green. I mean putrid, stomach-turning, just looking at it makes you feel sick green. Not fun.)

* Never feeling safe, especially at night. (There is just something about the city that has you on your guard all of the time. Even if you are in a group, you never feel really certain that you will be safe. I'll take the pushing and shoving of Londoners over this unease any day.)

* Our lodgings. (Okay, so I know they were better than the castle everyone else stayed in, long story and so not as cool as you would think, but still. A little customer service never hurt anyone. AND, if the washer and dryer don't work, then tell the guests. It is far better than them having to travel from Scotland to Ireland with wet clothes. True story. Not cool. Cute room. Couldn't pay ME to stay there again. So. Not. Cool.)

* Castles. (I just don't care. And this goes for all three countries. Yes, I know I am a big jerk. And yes, I realize I am a hypocrite since I absolutely loved the Tower of London which was far more castle than battle field. But I do not care about how the uber powerful and rich live. I care about how they treat their peasants and whether they care for their sick, hungry, and poor. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but I am okay with that.) (BTW, do you know that Queen Elizabeth has a CASTLE that she stays in each summer when she summers in Edinburgh? See what I mean? When was the last time she rode the tube? Holly, I know I told you this was silly, but you are so right!)

* I had a sadness set in. Something about Edinburgh. I feel the same way when I go to Maine. I love New England, but there is just an overwhelming sadness that envelops me when I am there. Maybe I just need to spend more time there to understand.

Okay, Edinburgh, I think that is enough for now. I know they don't seem all that big, but it is the quality and not the quantity. See, now I didn't want to have to hurt feelings here.

So Edinburgh, I bid you adieu. I wish only the best for you. Someday you will realize it is all for the best. I promise.

Things I Will Miss About Scotland

The Elephant House, the cafe where J.K. Rowling
wrote the first Harry Potter Books!

Okay, I will admit, there is not much I will miss about Scotland. It was an adventure, but I just was not feeling it like London. However, even when things are not perfect, there are still some pretty cool amazing things €to appreciate!

* Highland Cows (You can see the picture a few entries down. Tell me they are not adorable!)

* Colm Linanne at Central Public Library. (Read the academic post about the library. Enough said!)

* The Highland Games. (We only got to see the last five minutes of them, but it was the coolest experience! I wish we had been there a little earlier to get in on the fun.)

* Scottish House of Commons. (This is apparently the most disdainful thing this country has ever done in some people's eyes, but I think the building is amazing! Pure fun! The picture here shows just one side. Each side is different-and there is even bamboo involved!!!! )

* The Elephant House (The birth place of Harry Potter. It is not exactly what I expected from all of her interviews, but I do think it is even cooler!)

* The Turkish Restaurant. (I am so sorry I do not remember the name of it, but it is on The Royal Mile. It is a family owned restaurant and they serve vegetables! The family is so sweet and the food is amazing. Note to Rhode Island restaurants-let's get more Turkish cuisine!)

Scottish House of Commons

Scotland just before dawn

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ACADEMIC- The National Archives of Scotland

This picture courtesy of the website of the National Archives of Scotland
and can be found here.)

A national archive does not sound like it would be on the cutting edge of digitization technology, but then again, why not. After all, as Education Director Margaret McBigole pointed out to us, digital records can be altered in ways that original records simply cannot.

It was a small, but brilliant observation. An observation that really should be guiding the whole of the digitization process as we move towards figuring out what the next stage of librarianship will look like. It was an observation that set the tone of our whole visit.

The archives serve the government, but their interaction and availability to the general populace make up the majority of their daily tasks. On the outside, it seems like it would be a dull and tedious task to be holed up in the obscure and mundane records of the past, but it is only once you are inside the belly of the beast that you realize the story these records tell. A necessity for the government is a treasure chest of information for any genealogist or historian.

So where does that leave digitization? In terms of access, digitization is an easy yes. But Ms. McBigole makes a great point. What good is that information if it can be altered? Does the value of a digital collection as a whole decrease because of the knowledge that records could possibly have been altered? And what does this mean for libraries that want or need to make space and are digitizing in order to get rid of less valuable paper versions of digital items?

As a new librarian, we are taught that digitization is the wave of the future. We do not question because we know that the digital age is here to stay. And of course, the benefits of access with digitization make it seem like a win-win option. But as I enter my Information Ethics class this Fall, I will keep this visit at the forefront of my mind. There is a lot that still needs to be figured out if we are putting all of our hopes and information into the digitization movement.

To learn more about the work and collections of the National Archives of Scotland, click here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

ACADEMIC-Edinburgh Central Public Library

(Pictures courtesy of Dr. Teresa Welsh's personal photo album.)

I think I found my twin in Scotland! There is so much I could say about the Central Public Library. It is spirited and a vivacious community center. It is a Carnegie Library, more impressive because Carnegie was a Scottish son before his parents moved to the United States. It is actually housed in two buildings! Of all of the public libraries I have ever visited I think this is a first.

Living in one of only two states that do not have a Carnegie library, I was excited to see one in person. It definitely lived up to my expectations, but little did I know, I would find something much more interesting than the building happening at the Central Public Library.

Colm Linnane is a Reading Champion at the library. While this sounds like an exciting title for children participating in the summer reading program, he is actually an Outreach Coordinator. An dedicated activist in the literacy community, he promotes the benefits of reading for pleasure for both the individual and the community at large. He has participated in programs that reach out to troubled teens, families, disenfranchised members of the community, and schools. His passion for his work is evident and his desire to reach out to other librarians to partner and learn from their work is inspiring.

Long story short, Mr. Linnane is a contact I would like to keep. With more than a dozen years of outreach and advocacy experience under my belt, he was speaking the same language I have loved for years. While it sounds like the same type of language you would hear from any librarian on the surface, outreach is a special creature that needs to be handled delicately. It is often hard to bond with your peers because so much of your work is done outside of the building. At the same time, it is hard to meet all of the needs of the partners and organizations that you work with because you only have so much time and money that can be given to each cause.

Luckily, the rewards of the job far outweigh any of the challenges. When done well, outreach strengthens your library's position as a community leader and it reminds the community that you are a resource readily at their disposal. Lives can be improved and empowered as we take our message of literacy out to the masses and show them that not all books are textbooks and there really is something for everyone. As cheesy as it may sound, we really can make a difference and outreach empowers us to multiply that difference exponentially. And when you have someone with as much enthusiasm and commitment as Colm Linanne, the possibilities are endless.

To learn more about Carnegie libraries, click here.

To learn more about Edinburgh's Central Public Library, click here.

ACADEMIC- National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland has taken a page out of the museum handbook and is reinvigorating the way libraries do business (or at least displays). While the majority of patrons come in to do research in one of the two main collections, Scottish authors and Scottish culture, there are also a large number of people who visit just to see the library’s featured exhibit.

“The Original Export” details the history of Scottish emigration and the strong desire of these emigrants to maintain their Scottish identity overseas. The exhibit beautifully portrays the history of the average citizen, not just of a few people deemed to be history worthy. These Scots are everyday people living through extraordinary circumstances.

Being a library, it would be easy to fall back on an exhibit of posters and books covered by glass; but the staff of the National Library of Scotland rightly prides themselves on finding new ways to make their exhibits interactive. They have gone above and beyond with “The Original Export”. Letters and pictures have been enlarged to encompass large areas of wall, there is a corner where people can share their own stories of emigration and travel or that of loved ones. Clothes, maps, models of ships and more keep the eyes moving at all times as you feel the overwhelming heaviness these emigrants must have felt as they left their homes for unknown worlds and opportunities.

Lest I forget the star of the show, there are the suitcases. Old-fashioned suitcases at each stop in the exhibit contain items that emigrants would have carried with them AND telephones that explain the items and other details of the trip being portrayed. It is so simple, yet it is novel in its creation and implementation. The exhibit was great, but this really set it apart from anything else I had seen in our many visits. In fact, the suitcases alone would bring me back in for a second visit and I would highly recommend it to anyone I met.

This part of the exhibit was one of my favorite things about the whole trip. Prior to visiting the National Library of Scotland, I thought it was wonderful that we were visiting so many museums as a group on this trip, but I was having a hard time really putting it into a useful perspective as a public librarian. Before now, I have always felt museums are in a completely different category then libraries with a separate set of professional guidelines and concerns. If there were any crossover, in my mind the connection was with academic libraries and not public libraries.

Needless to say, I have seen the light and am excited about what public librarians can take from our museum peers. Even though we may not have money set aside in the same way for exhibits and displays, we do have a lot of can-do motivation and great ideas. By moving outside the thinking of just putting like-minded books on a table or at the end of a bookcase, we can utilize exhibits in the same way to bring in new patrons and keep patrons coming back again and again.

When I walked into the National Library of Scotland that morning I was in no way prepared for the epiphany I would have. Now that I have made the connection between museums and public libraries, I cannot believe it took me so long in the first place. It just goes to show the beauty of libraries at their best. I went in looking for the Scottish heritage experience and left with so much more. Thank you National Library of Scotland!

For more information about the Library of Scotland, click here.


(This picture used courtesy of my classmate, Megan!)

Hello Everyone,

Scotland is beautiful!!! The people are so friendly too. The air is so fresh and clean, the mountains are beautiful, and the weather is cool and pleasant (I am convinced it is really October and not July).

It is hard to believe London is only a few hours away. It really is such a different atmosphere here. The buildings are still old, they still love their royals, and the pub is still the center of social gatherings, but Scotland definitely has an attitude and identity of it's own. They even have their own cow! (see above for a cute Highland Cow)

More about Scotland later, I am off to write some postcards. More soon!

Love Always,

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Couple of Notes


I just wanted to post a couple of notes:

*** I will be traveling with the group to Scotland until Wednesay and then I will be in Ireland until the following Monday with 3 friends, so internet access is going to be unreliable at best. I am okay and I will be calling home to my husband everyday and I will call you too Mom!

*** Speaking of my mom, she was a little sad that she had to find a picture of me on one of my friend's sites and I did not have one up here, so here is a picture of me at Paddington station with everyone's favorite lost bear.

*** I will be posting to the blog for a week or two when I get back. I want to make sure that I get my best pictures up. I also have some items to finish on it for my class. You do not have to read along, of course, but I would love it if you do. I want to get as much down about my trip as possible. This is going to make a wonderful keepsake for me of my travels and experiences.

*** I think that is all for now. Send me your suggestions for things to see and do in Ireland!

Love Always,

Summer Lovin, Had Me a Blast...

Hey Donna, this one is for you!

So, I am leaving the Victoria and Albert Museum on Thursday in an underground tunnel and all of a sudden, the Grease theme song starts blaring. Even better, a group of about 12 young teens (no more than 14 at most) starts rocking out!

I think we are under one of the many theatres in the area and this is either rehearsal or the afternoon show, but at the end of the song, we turn the corner to find it is aone of the many subway musicians rocking out. The teens were so enthusiastic and playful, that he started over again.

I think you will be happy to know Donna that the world still appreciates your beloved Grease and that a new generation is keeping Danny and Sandy alive and young!

As for me, I LOVE the subway musicians, and the street musicians, and the odd street performers. I have some pics I will post of the performers at Regent Park today when I get back from Ireland (maybe before then if I have internet access).

More Soon!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

ACADEMIC- Bodleian Library at Oxford University

Any serious academic knows the power of the name Oxford in the higher education community. Just the mere whisper of Oxford in association with a person or project elevates the research to a new level. It is no wonder then that the opportunity to tour the Bodleian Library at Oxford University is the ultimate reason some students decide to enter the British Studies program. To be able to study in the wake of some of the world’s greatest thinkers is not an opportunity that arises everyday.

The libraries did not disappoint. They look exactly as you hope they would. The tomes on the shelves date back centuries and are in languages as varied as the student body. The towers that store the books implement the best technology available in order to ensure that these precious manuscripts will be accessible to scholars for generations to come. Inside and out, the libraries appear as though they have not changed in centuries; but to the trained eye there is much going on behind the scenes in order to maintain the classic look of Oxford while doing the more important work of making sure that the information they house is ready when called upon.

The nature of our tour focused on the history of the area and the architecture of the buildings. Our tour guides were wonderful, and they certainly knew their history, but they were not librarians. As a library student, I felt I missed out on some of the wonderful fundamentals of academic librarianship that a world class university such as Oxford would be able to impart on an up-and-coming professional. After all, some of the most groundbreaking and important research in the world right now is happening within these very walls. And with that glory comes a very great responsibility. It is not enough to order something from another institution or to let a scholar know that something has gone out of print. I would have liked to know more about the process for obtaining information-especially when that information is not on the grounds. I also would have liked to know more about how the library staff supports their students and visiting scholars in their research. I imagine the everyday questions they receive are not like those of most librarians.

I left Oxford University with more questions than when I arrived. Then again, isn’t that the sign of a great university? A student should never leave feeling they have learned it all but with a greater thirst for knowledge than ever before.

For more information about the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

ACADEMIC-The National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Admittedly, my entire pitiful sense of fashion knowledge comes from Stacy and Clinton of TLC’s What Not to Wear. No, I am not proud of this. But I do admit it freely in print because the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum is an experience no one should miss when visiting London. Fashionista or no, the V&A and the National Art Library will knock your socks off.

The museum is a treat and the current Heaven and Hell featured exhibit will stay with you long after you leave the museum. Their use of size and the senses again reminded me that exhibits can be so much more than just the table or floor space they encompass. And if you have never had the chance to experience a Chihuly blown glass sculpture then do yourself a favor and visit Even better, if there is a gallery near you that has one on exhibit, run out to see it!

The National Art Library gave me one of the best schoolings in how to run a library I have ever received. They very much run with a public library mindset while still maintaining a special library collection. Even though there are only two public areas, customer service is their main priority and making the books accessible is next in line. Even their budget concerns mimicked those we face in U.S. public libraries.

Our tour guide, Robin Crawford, was amazing. He patiently answered all of our many questions and was refreshingly honest with us when we asked about the challenges the library faces. He did not hold any punches and even though some of the harsh realities of what is happening in libraries today is hard to hear, it is even better to know that there are still librarians fighting for our existence and the good of our collections.

It was not all doom and gloom though. One thing I find hilarious about London’s specialized libraries is that they all use a system of their own when it comes to cataloging because “They would all have the same number if we used Dewey”. Granted, this would only be funny to a librarian, but this just tickles me pink! And then there were the surprises in the collection.

This library owns most of Charles Dickens’ original manuscripts-YAY! We were even able to see one with editorial notes in his own handwriting! As a Dickens fan, this was the highlight of my day and maybe even my trip. Other unexpected literary treasures included a poem in Keats’ own handwriting. And yeah, we were able to see another one of Shakespeare’s first folios. So how’s that for the trip of a lifetime? I saw so many of Shakespeare’s first folios that it was not even a big deal anymore! Did you see that I saw the Dickens’ manuscripts too?!

So, my fashion sense did not improve because of my visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Art Library, but my perspective on fashion and textiles certainly did. I don’t think that will earn me any points with Stacy and Clinton, but I am a better librarian for it. Oh well, I guess you can take a girl out, but that doesn’t mean you can dress her up!

For more information on the National Art Library, click here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Checking In...

Hi Everyone,

Sorry it has been so long since the post. We have been extremely busy here. Here is what the last week has looked like:

*** Friday: Day trip to Stratford Upon Avon where I Visited the birth home of Shakespeare, the Shakespeare Museum (very cool), the local public library, and was able to see an amazing production of As You Like It at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

*** Saturday: Day trip to Dover and Canterbury. We explored the Dover Castle (amazingly beautiful, the London you dream of with the sprawling green hills and big stone castles). We drove by the Cliffs on the way home. Unfortunately, I do not think my pictures came out that great (something about bus glass does not make for Nikon moments!), but they were beautiful as well. Apparently, the cliffs are white because they are chalk-not limestone as many people think.

Canterbury was fun too. We went to the Canterbury Cathedral. We were really limited on time, so we did not get to explore as much as I would have liked, but the town is adorable. It definitely is reminiscent of the Canterbury you would expect of Chaucer's time.

*** Sunday: Day trip to Stonehenge and Winchester. Stonehenge. Nuff said. Very cool. The cue for the site was a little surprising-it was fun because you walk around in a big circle with a million other people and everyone is taking pictures. It was dark and gloomy too, how perfect!!!!

Favorite moment: When you get to the end of the circle there is a big jam and everyone is trying to exit (through the gift shop of course) and a little French child of about 8 who knows just enough English to yell at you to hurry it up (which he emphatically tells you in English and French several times) and physically displays how to push through the people in front of you. I don't believe in spankings, but someone certainly needed one.

I must apologize to all of the people who should have received a cool "Stonehenge Rocks" tshirt (get it?!). The gift shop was a million times worse then the end of the line, (which was obviously no picnic) so I bolted back to the bus in hopes of avoiding any more of Stonehenge's evil influences.

Then it was on to Winchester and back to the cobblestone roads and quaint shops. We took a quiet afternoon to just stroll around the town and enjoy England.

*** Monday: Riverboat Ride on the Thames to the Greenwich Maritime Museum and Observatory in the morning and after a boat ride back in the afternoon, Parliament, Big Ben, and a walking tour.

So, I was loving the boat ride and could have stayed there all day, but the Maritime Museum and Library was really cool too. I have to do a thorough blog about that later for my class, but let's just say for now that pirate history is awesome! Of course, I also went up to the Observatory and stood on the prime meridian.

A group of us decided to take another London Walks tour (if you are ever in London, they are really the best way to see the city) in order to see Parliament. We were treated to Big Ben and other several other pieces of local history, but the best part was that we were able to go and sit in as Parliament was in session! It was a happy coincidence that this worked out because this tour is only offered on Mondays and this was our only free Monday to do it and this was the last day they were in session until November. Score!

The House of Lords was good (and the chamber was brilliant), but the House of Commons is the place to be. If you ever have a chance to see it on CSPAN, do not miss out. Yes, this is really how the government runs! They heckle each other, go out for a pint in the middle of session, take a nap during gruelling all day sessions and are generally what would be a classroom teacher's worst nightmare! I have not watched enough of CSPAN myself to see how this compares to the U.S. Senate and Congress, but I bet they would all be a lot more friendly towards one another if they took a few minutes for a friendly time-out once and again. In all seriousness, this was one of the highlights of my trip. Our London Walks tour guide, Angela, was fantastic and everyone at Parliament was a pleasure to speak to. (Another funny story will be up about our encounters in a later blog!)

If you want to check out more about the London Walks and see what all the fuss is about, go to

*** Tuesday (today): Dickens' Home, Class Photo at Platform 9 3/4, The British Museum and the Sherlock Holmes Pub

I am not going to say much about the British Museum because I have to do a blog entry for class about it, but I have a confession. I had a little episode today. The Museum is all you could hope for and more in a museum. I saw the Rosetta Stone and a wonderful exhibit about Japan from pre-history through today. But it is overcrowded (thousands of visitors is so not an understatement), tourists here have no problems pushing you out of the way (literally, I have been shouldered so many times since I have been here it is amazing I don't have a bruise), and the museum is so inclusive and overwhelming in its scope that I had just had enough. In the city, there is so much coming at you from every angle that your senses are completely overloaded. I have not had a chance to really process that I am even in London, never mind all of the amazing stuff I have been seeing and doing while here.

So, instead of a panic attack, I made a quick exit, called my travelling buddies and told them I would meet them back at the flats (a little too cheerily I was later told for them not to notice I was freaking out since I had been so quiet at lunch). It worked out for the best. It was the first time I have been able to maneuver the tube by myself and it felt good. I had a little alone time and a nap and now I am back to feeling like my self. I did buy a new journal while I was at the museum, so I can now begin to process this whole trip and make sure I don't miss anything. Yes, I am sorry, but there is a story or two not fit to print (mostly because they are boring or are not my stories to tell)!

And yes, the Sherlock Holmes Pub was as cool as it sounds! It is not 221 Baker Street, but it was a wonderful prelude to that adventure.

Well, I hope I have made up for lost time. I am putting pictures up and I will be making a slide show when I get home for the few brave people who want to see the whole shebang! Tomorrow, I must spend time in the computer lab doing my school posts. I am so far behind with them that I am spending more time feeling guilty about it than doing anything else. I just don't want to miss anything during my limited time in London.

So, you will see some more posts tomorrow (or please email me privately to yell at me if you do not!) Keep reading, the best is yet to come!

Love Always,

ACADEMIC-The British Museum

Oh, the British Museum. How you foiled me. Seriously. It wasn't cool. I came to sit at the foot of the Rosetta Stone and have my mind blown at the Japanese collection you have amassed. I have heard you have an amazing children's collection, but alas, I was unable to see it with my own eyes. Why? Because your might was far too powerful for my will.

This was the toughest day of the trip. I think my mind was just mentally worn from all of the travel, the lack of sleep, and the constant over-stimulation of all that I was taking in. Add the fact that I am not generally one to throw myself into the middle of a mass crowd of people and we have "the meltdown".

The British Museum may very well be the busiest place on earth. I have a hard time believing that Disney World (any of them) has this many people in one area- and the British Museum is huge! I tried to hold out and I even managed to see the Rosetta Stone, but the lack of any type of line control, elevators to nowhere, incorrect directions, and the pushing and shoving of the herd, it was much more than I could take.

The museum is beautiful and I do recommend seeing it if you are in London. However, just be prepared. Check out the website before you go and figure out what is important to you to see. They will give you a list of exhibits when you arrive, but by then it is too late. Once you are in the swarm, you need to know what you want to see or you will drown.

There were some benefits to "the meltdown". I was able to walk around the city and ride the tube for the first time by myself. My friends are wonderful, but at that point I really needed some alone time in my head. I will always remember the British Museum, some of it even fondly. After all, the Rosetta Stone was pretty amazing. Watch out British Museum, next time I will be prepared for you and I will conquer seeing the best parts of your collection!

For more information about this museum, click here.

ACADEMIC- A Bookstore Experience

(Image courtesy of Foyle's website)

On my first two public library visits in London I was interested to learn that teens do not stand out as a patron group the way they do in U.S. libraries. I had been thinking about this when I decided to go to another kind of expert-booksellers.

My bookstore experience has taught me that booksellers are often privy to trends in reading and selection long before they make themselves known in other areas such as libraries and schools. Given this fact, I wanted to see what booksellers thought of the recent influx of literature published for teens and what the teens themselves were buying and asking for-and if they were asking at all.

Foyle's has the feeling of the chain bookstore, but it has the charm and the personality of a local bookstore. Foyle's has been in business for over 100 years and has only 4 branches plus their website. For more information about this bookstore or to check out their great selection of titles and gift items click here.

The site I visited is located at the Royal Festival Hall near Gabriel's Wharf and part of a row of other attractions such as London's film museum, the Movieum, the National Theatre, the London Eye and more. As with their libraries, Britons locate their bookstores in central entertainment and shopping areas where they are easily accessible and there is constant foot traffic.

The booksellers were pleased to answer all of my questions and I think they enjoyed speaking from a professional point of view. While the recent changes in teen publishing have been exciting for them, they have not noticed a huge influx of readers like we have in the United States.

I think this is because there is no stigma placed on children and teens who read in England. In fact, the stigma generally lies with those who don't. Reading is an accepted and expected part of the culture here. It is common to see people walking around town with their current read and reading is the most popular pastime on the city's many public transit systems. Publishers put huge marketing efforts into new releases for adults including posters throughout the underground system, so it is no surprise that children are picking up on their parents' reading habits.

As for what the teens are reading, they like the books in the teen section and for the random reluctant readers out there it has definitely helped to peak their interest in leisure reading, but their interests are as varied by topic and genre as their parents. Except for vampires. After all, is there anyone out their today who does not love vampires? And do you know a teen who can resist them? Leave it to dark creatures of the night to be the glue that binds this generation together.

Monday, July 20, 2009

ACADEMIC-The Caird Library at the Greenwich Maritime Museum

A trip to The Greenwich National Maritime Museum is so much more than just exhibits and tours; it is an interactive journey though time and the deep blue sea. And of course, you can stand on the prime meridian. The opportunity to be in both the eastern and western hemispheres at one time is an experience that should not be missed.

A joint library and archive, this collection is one of the biggest maritime museums in the world. The collection encompasses navigation, astronomy, cartography, emigration, the lives and exploits of voyagers and explorers, naval architecture and strategy, genealogical resources, and my favorite, piracy.

If you are interested in pirates beyond that of the Jack Sparrow lore, than find this library online immediately. We were lucky enough to have a guided tour of the Caird Library by Mike Beran and Renee Orr. They regaled us with true life stories of pirates and navies the history of maps and the importance of longitude. My favorite fact of the day was that it was a very thin line between piracy and state sponsored raids. The only difference between a pirate and a member of the naval regime was a signed document by a government official.

We learned a great deal about the science behind running a maritime library, or any special library for that matter, but this visit stands out in my mind as one that encompasses what all libraries aim for-memorable visits for patrons that not only gain them as loyal patrons, but that will cause them to go out and spread the word about all that the library offers.

The Caird Library offers information, a glimpse into a seemingly glamorous part of history, and so much more. Thanks for the adventure!

For more information about this library or to view its online collection, click here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

ACADEMIC- Stratford Public Library

Stratford-upon-Avon is everything you hope it will be and so much more. It is a quaint little town that is seeped in its Shakespearean roots. It almost feels like time has stopped along the way. Yes, they have cars and all of the modern amenities, but life seems simpler somehow. It was actually surprising to happen by the public library in my travels. After all, when you have Shakespeare, what else do you need?

I was curious at first who this library would cater to. Stratford-upon-Avon is a tourist town. Would the library serve mainly tourists planning their trips and checking in back home or would it be a small respite for local residents and employees from the hoards of crowds that amass upon the town daily?

As a public librarian, you naturally lean towards taking care of your patrons who live and work in the town, but you do not want to alienate the people who are only traveling through. This library had a great mix of services for the locals while making sure that tourists felt welcome and had access to what they needed-in several languages. It was a Friday afternoon, but the library's computers were just about full and there were lots of people milling through the library. It was quiet, but welcoming. A wonderful place to spend the afternoon or just take a moment to relax and regroup for a busy evening.

I liked how there was such continuity between the libraries in London and the library in Stratford. Everyone participates in a national summer reading program, so all of the graphics and promotion were the same, but the libraries use much of the same lettering, posters, and classification system throughout the entire library layout.

I spoke with a couple of the actors who work in the yard outside of the Shakespeare Museum. They said they knew of the library (they stare at its front door all day), but that they really did not use it. When I asked why since they had to pass it everyday to get to their cars, they really were not sure. They look at it as the Stratford town library. They said they do use the one in their hometown, but this one just never seemed convenient. We talked for a little while and I think they may change their minds yet about the little library in the middle of Shakespeare's world. After all, they have dedicated their careers to his honor, why not utilize the resources his town has to offer?

What does it say about the library that the local workers are not regular patrons? I am not sure. But it is definitely something to think about when running a library in the middle of a tourist haven. Who is it exactly that you are there for? And does it matter if there are patrons knocking down the doors?

For more information about this library, click here.

ACADEMIC-Shakespeare Library

It is no surprise that there is a Shakespeare library in Stratford-upon-Avon. After all, it is the birthplace and early home of the world's most famous playwright. What is surprising is the struggle that this library faces in order to stay relevant. The Shakespeare Library reminds me of the little library that could. It is small, underfunded, and understaffed, but the people who work there love it and are determined to keep the doors open.

In the middle of town, it is surrounded by a museum, public library, and five Shakespeare sites including the home where he was raised. The town has built itself into a modern day shrine. However, it has not been enough to get the library the power and funding it needs to amass the foremost Shakespeare collection. Larger libraries all over the world with seemingly endless amounts of money have managed to take the bulk of the treasures that this library would covet.

One treasure that they have managed to obtain is one of the three complete copies of Shakespeare's first folio (see picture above). While definitely the star of the collection, they also own the world's only known letter to or from the Bard himself. The other showcase collection is a collection of images from every known Shakespeare production of the last century-much of which can be found on their website.

The library also acts as a town repository and houses all of the town records. If you are looking for anything to do with Stratford-upon-Avon or a resident who once lived there, then this is where you need to be. The library has around 3,000 visitors annually, but their reach goes far beyond that. This little library that could takes over 10,000 email requests and questions per year. The Bard would be happy to know that his spirit lives on in his hometown. In order to make sure that this continues to be the case, please visit their website and learn what you can do to help this library meet its mission.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Academic-The British Library Preservation Department

The British National Library boasts the world's third largest collection, so it makes sense that there is a conservation center on the premises. In fact, the British Library is one of the first libraries that was designed with the preservation of its collection in mind. With over 170 million items to care for, no one wants to let pieces of their collection go to outside vendors for any period of time unless it is an absolute necessity.

Many of the preservation techniques are in place long before the books ever need to be sent to the repair room. The library is kept at 16-17 degrees Celsius and 50% humidity including the tower which stores the books 74 feet below sea level.

Unfortunately, age and wear and tear are unavoidable, so each year department heads will make a list of their top items that need to be repaired. The preservation center looks at the scope and cost of each project and sets their calendar based on their operating budget and time restrictions. Not all requests can be approved, but the department does its best to ensure the quality and availability of the entire collection at all times.

One thing that surprised me on this tour was that the preservation center's mission was to make the books accessible only, not to replicate the original book exactly. So, once a book has been repaired, it may not look the same as the original item. The repairs are done in this manner so that the life of the book can have the greatest possible extension. It is mandatory that all repairs be made with completely reversible materials and adhesives must be able to be removed with water.

This strategy made a lot of sense to me. Because funding is limited- even British libraries are facing a crunch- it is important to preserve the most books possible with the budget they have. Since a good portion of this library's collection is irreplaceable, it is more important to maintain the quality of these items rather than making sure they are perfect replicas of the originals-which could put the book in danger because it may not be able to withstand the techniques that would be necessary to make it exact.

The conservators are free to choose the method which they are most comfortable with for repair so long as they are within the allotted budget and they follow the rules of all actions being reversible. I was very impressed with the team spirit and can-do attitude of the preservation team. They truly seemed to enjoy one another's company and are always willing to teach one another a new technique or coach someone on a task that has alluded them. It is this type of teamwork that allows them to be so successful at what they do-and with such a small team in comparison to the large collection, there is no room for egos and petty disagreements. Luckily for the British Library, the preservation staff encompasses the vision and personalities that are needed in order to ensure a strong future for the library.

For more information about the British Library, click here.

ACADEMIC- The British Library

The work of a national library is literally never done. Charged with collecting all items published in or about their country of origin, it is amazing there is ever enough of time and space to offer the collection to the public.

The British National Library has met and exceeded this task beautifuly. In fact, they have even managed to throw in a few new innovations here and there in the process. No big deal, that is just what you would expect of a library that has placed a giant Kindle-like computer in the front lobby of the library so that visitors can explore their digitized collections filled with items from ancient history to the present. If that sounds cool, you actually turn the "pages" on the touch screen! The staff at the British National Library certainly knows how to bring history to life.

Our tour guide, Mr. Kevin Mehmet, offered us an inside look at how they are able to do so much and still meet the obligations of an ever-growing collection. Besides a top-notch staff, they are using technology to aid them in meeting the needs of their patrons. An amazing conveyor belt system brings books through the library and underground vault. Digitization has made many documents, including some that were unavailable or rarely available, ready to access for the masses. The library is currently digitizing more than 75,000 pages a day. And of course, the cataloging team is essential. With a collection this vast, catalogers must be nearly flawless in order to ensure that items are not lost in the mix.

Patrons must also be willing to work with the library in order to serve them. Due to the vastness of the collection, researchers must know what they are looking for before they are able to access the collection in person, but the online portal more than makes up for any inconvenience this may cause. The online database, collections, and even an online image collection are just part of the fun whether you are accessing the collection for scholarly needs or personal ones.

For bibliophiles, Anglophiles, and scholars alike, the British National Library offers a wonderful setting, great service, and resources beyond the imagination. For more information about this library and to check out the online collections and catalog, click here.

More Random Thoughts…

*** People either have to be a professional driver or have nerves of steel to drive in this city. I have never seen anything like it. The only thing scarier in this city than the motor vehicles are the people who ride bikes. While I love that they are leading the green revolution, my heart cannot take it. Please, I do not want to be smooshed on the street. Pretty please.

*** A note to young women: If you are going to ride on escalators, please wear panties. Or at least have the sense to wear a skirt down to your knees. While the men might appreciate the peepshow, this is exactly what your mom meant when she told you to have some dignity.

*** Note to Self: London hands out newspapers on the corners for free, there are ads for new books posted all over the subway and prominent ad space is often dedicated to an upcoming or new release (awesome!). What are these wonderful literature loving Brits doing that Americans are not? Is it the way reading is promoted in the school systems, is it the libraries, is it just such a part of their culture that no one thinks much of it? Ponder about this for awhile while reconsidering paper topic.

*** I have heard that London is for men’s suits what France is for women’s fashion. Let me assure you, this is the truth. The suits here are unbelievable. They can make any man and turn him into a 12 just by looking at his suit. My husband loves suits, so maybe this is why the obsession- but seriously the cut and material are fantastic. I never thought I could like a man in a suit so much! Honey, send me your measurements. Flipper’s going shopping. By the way, the big trend in men’s suits this year is pinstripes.

*** Public make out sessions are a huge thing here. I get the whole in love in Europe thing, I just thought it was more likely to happen on the mainland. Maybe it is a big city thing. Anything that puts more love out there is cool with me, but even I have to wonder when room keys need to start being distributed for public safety.

*** All fears of being smooshed aside, London’s public transit system rocks! I wish Rhode Island would call them up and ask them how to implement an effective system that covers the entire state. No one here drives unless they absolutely have to. Luckily for us pedestrians, they don't have to.

More Soon!


Catching Up

Hi Everyone,

I just want to let everyone know I am alive and doing well! The last couple of days have been crazy busy with class library visits and some serious sightseeing. Let's see, there was the Barbican Public library, the Tower of London, the Museum of London, the London Eye, Oxford Circus, the British Library......

Oh yeah, and a little sleep too! I am going to be writing up more blogs about what we have been doing and mini-reports for my class. I am also trying to figure out a way to download and post my pics directly from my Nikon Coolpix. I even brought the book-I have just not had time to look at it. Unfortunately, I did not take the CD which would have made this a million times easier. Just know i am trying to get them up there!

The blog is going to have a new look soon. I just don't want you to think that you lost the blog! We are going on 4 day trips starting tomorrow, so the blogging may be light until Tuesday. I will catch everyone up, promise.

I am off for now to write off the details of my days in the big city!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ACADEMIC- The Museum of London

Image courtesy of History Today and can be found here. This is also one of the posters on exhibit in Forward to Freedom: The Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Liberation of Southern Africa at the Museum of London.

The Museum of London defies the stereotype of a stuffy and stodgy old museum. With a focus on interactive exhibits, marketing campaigns, value-added services, and school curriculum services, the museum is taking an aggressive approach in bringing its collection to the people. And their methods have succeeded; the Museum of London hosts over 400,000 visitors annually-more than half of which are Londoners.

The current featured exhibit explores the history of ancient London and Neolithic man. Immediately, you feel like you are walking through time. Following the effects of the Thames River on the development of London with the sounds of the land and the river under your feet and the air and birds over your head, you are firmly placed in the moment as you view the tools, habitats, and animals of the time period.

While the featured exhibit, it is by far not the only one. My two favorite exhibits were from more modern times-the Great Fire of 1666 and an exhibit of London's role in the 20th century battle against apartheid in South Africa.

As far as the latter exhibit goes I was very pleased, yet admittedly surprised, to see how brutally honest it was in terms of England's role in South African apartheid. No rose-colored glasses here. Advertisements, petitions, and more are on display to show the anger of the English people at the business community and government's lack of action and sometimes encouragement of apartheid for their own agenda.

It was reassuring to see a community be so willing to accept the faults of a recent generation, especially one with so many surviving members, in the hope that history's mistakes will not be repeated. And with 400,000 visitors annually, one can be sure that the message has not been put in some back corner of a marginalized museum where it would be unable to impact the community at large. In fact, this exhibit is face forward as you walk into the main exhibit. The Museum of London obviously wants people to take notice.

The other exhibit to really ignite my interest in the connection between libraries and museums was on the Great Fire of 1666. The ramifications of this event are still seen and felt in London today. While we had already heard a great deal about this event since our arrival in the city, I still did not have a clear picture of how it started or how it spread. The exhibit answered these questions and many more.

It still cannot be confirmed, but it is believed that the fire started in a bakery after closing time on a Sunday evening. There is a place in the exhibit for other possible explanations and culprits, but the bakery is the most commonly accepted theory. Even though the ancient city of Londinia was destroyed, there was a remarkably small loss of life and some people were even able to save a good portion of their possessions if not their homes. It took three days to finally squelch the fire and then the real work of rebuilding began.

The most moving part of this exhibit was the letters from survivors of the fire. They spoke of everything from losing their homes and the destruction of the town to how they were keeping their family together and managing to eat all while soothing the worries of their relatives.

Looking at the firefighting equipment of the time, it is impossible to understand the vastness of the battle these men faced. At parts of the exhibit I found myself in utter despair over the enormity of not only fighting the fire, but the unity that the people of the city needed to show in order to rebuild. As we saw in the United States after Hurricane Katrina, the desire and need of the people to rebuild can only take a community so far. Government officials and businesses must be willing to do the right thing regardless of political positions and profit in order to make sure its citizens are cared for in their moment of need and are not exposed to the same horrors again.

London is a very different city today because of the fire. The bulk of the city's buildings are made of either brick or stone. Fire doors are everywhere so that should a fire break out, it would not be able to spread through the building, never mind the city. Also, fire alarms tests are huge here. Every building I have spent any significant time in has a regular weekly test schedule. Not unlike apartheid, London has learned from its mistakes and is determined not to repeat them.

The Museum of London is a wonderful example of the forward thinking of the information professional community. With their unique perspective into the past, they are utilizing their collection in not only an effective way, but in a mind changing way as well. This is not your grandparents' museum. There is something for everyone here and they expect you to touch (some of) it. Don't miss out on this opportunity to see history unfold in front of your eyes with the added bonus of being able to see the consequences of past actions without the wait. The Museum of London is a credit to London and the information professional community.

For more information about this library or its current exhibits, click here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ACADEMIC-The Barbican Public Library

You notice something is different about the Barbican Public Library as soon as you walk onto the grounds of the building. It is housed in a complex that also contains a popular movie theatre, art gallery, as well as a music and theatre stage. The Barbican is not hidden within a non-descript building obvious only to true die-hard patrons, it is big and beautiful, and crying out to be used.

This is a great reflection of how England views its public libraries. People value reading here in a way that I have never seen in the United States. There is no stigma attached to reading or in using the services that public libraries offer. In fact, it is a bad reflection on the individual who DOESN'T read rather than a stigma for the person for whom reading is a pleasure. This difference may be due to the rich literary history of this country. Maybe it has to do with the education system. Personally, I think it is a combination of both.

At the moment, the Barbican is running an audiobook promotion. While the current promotion is directly addressed to their sight impaired patrons, the library also realizes that audiobooks have become a popular choice for many of their patrons, especially commuters. With as much time as one spends on public transportation in London, audiobooks are a great distraction from the crowds and noise of the buses and tube.

The Barbican also offers a brilliant service to those patrons for whom public transportation is not an issue-the severely disabled and elderly. These patrons are eligible for free home delivery.

I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on an interview with Ms. Pote, the enquiries librarian on staff on the day of our visit, and my colleague Allison. Ms. Pote explained that while the service may be novel to us, it was something that the library felt was necessary in order to fulfill their mission. "We owe people a service. If they can't come to us, we must go to them." I was impressed at the commitment of the library to reach out to all patrons, even if that meant librarians sometimes had to go out of their way or make a personal delivery for it to happen.

Ms. Pote also made another interesting differentiation in our discussion. She would not call herself a reference librarian (as she would be considered in the United States), but an enquiries librarian. Only the librarians who work at Guildhall Library (the main public research library) can call themselves reference librarians. I did not understand this to mean that they had more education. The differentiation was made upon the intensity of the questions being asked. Ready reference questions can be answered at all London public libraries, but patrons who require any type of research question or have more complicated questions are referred to Guildhall.

Our conversation also covered current topics and trends in public libraries. The libraries of England are seeing many of the same trends as libraries in the United States. Reference desks are being removed in favor of roaming librarians, talking is not being hushed, libraries are reorganizing space for a more aesthetically pleasing and productive environment, and they have begun using a 24/7 internet librarian system that allows patrons access to a reference librarian at any time.

For all of our similarities, there is one major difference that I am having a hard time wrapping my head around. English libraries charge for most rentals. Adults are allowed up to 12 books and children 8 at no charge, and educational materials (as deemed by the library) are unlimited and free of charge. However, all other items in the collection have an associated fee. As a U.S. librarian, I cringe at this because I feel free access is essential to our mission. It is the great equalizer. Anyone has the right to access anything they can find in our collection and as long as you return it on time, there is no fee. This benefit is even greater in city or statewide networks because your sources for information and materials multiplies.

I understand that libraries have overhead and that this is one way to ensure that your collection will be able to continue to grow despite times of budget hardships, as both American and British libraries now face. Also, there are cultural differences in library philosophy. However, this difference makes me appreciate the U.S. system that much more because of our unique focus on the freedom to access information for all. Of course, I also hope that we can someday boast the same type of pride and exercise the pleasure of reading for reading's sake as do the British. Once we have mastered that, our libraries will never again be endangered for lack of appreciation to the benefits they offer the community.

The Barbican was a great introduction to British public libraries. We have much to learn from them if we wish to cement our place as community centers, research aides, and entertainment specialists. I have taken many things from my visit that will make me a better librarian. I hope that my continued research into the philosophies and organization of British public libraries will only serve to strengthen the connections between patron and library that will allow us to formulate best practices that will help us move into a new generation of library services.

For more information about the Barbican Public Library, click here.