Tower of London

Tower of London

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.

Monday, July 13, 2009

ACADEMIC-St. Paul's Cathedral Library

(Okay, so I just got called out by one of my professors back home about all play and no work!!! I am here now to assure everyone that I am earning my student keep in London and making URI proud! After all, if it were not for them, I would not be here now. So, Dr. McCarthy-this one is for you...)

Today, we went to the library at St. Paul’s Cathedral. I am almost ashamed to say this, but it was more moving than the church itself. The librarian is a wonderful British man named Joe Wisdom. And believe me, it is no misnomer. He knew not only the church’s library collection, but the history of the church itself and all of the politics involved since the church’s beginning in the 7th century.

While it was quite powerful to view the collection of ancient theological texts, it was also very interesting to hear about the development of the church with the country’s backing. We pride separation of church and state so much in our country that most Americans would be appalled if they heard what I heard today. In all fairness, I had to wonder if the pride I discussed earlier that Britons show for their history and the values they portray in regards to business don’t stem from the values that allowed the church to flourish.

So, what is it that we can take from this library? This is a library that was destroyed by fire and rebuilt again. It is a library that has seen some good times and some bad, including a Deacon that did not believe the library was even necessary and almost ruined it by his lack of care. The library has tried to expand, even considering becoming a Library of Congress repository, and it has been forced to cut its collection. It catalogs a collection that existed long before the cataloging system-not an easy task. Funding is often an issue and as I write this the library is in severe need of a benefactor.

Just because it is a special library, we must not take away from it the truth that it must face the same challenges that all libraries face. And because it is a special library, it often has to be much more creative to overcome the hurdles that we face everyday. For Joseph Wisdom, he is a one-man team that is keeping the history alive in his hallowed halls for not just the believers, but for anyone who believes in maintaining a social record of our beliefs and actions, and the monuments to which we devote our time and so much emotion.

For more information about the St. Paul's Cathedral, click here.

The Food

On behalf of the world, I would like to apologize to England for its reputation as a bad eating detination.

The food here is AMAZING. It is the freshest food I have ever eaten-and it does not matter if it comes from a roadside stand, a pub, a church, or any other place for that matter.

I have been eating like a queen since I got here. My first English food was a chesse sandwich on a white multigrain bread with tomato, cucumber, rooster (salad greens),and a sharp cheddar cheese along with yogurt mixed with local berries. Not fancy, I know, but that only made it better.

Dinner was even better-pizza with caramalized onions, goat cheese, and roasted vegetables! Now, I promise I am not going to track all of my meals for you-but the food is so good that you cannot believe it. Simple, fresh, and quick.

In my short time here, I have firmly come to believe that Americans have forgotten what food tastes like. Even our natural food like fruits, vegetables, and meat have so many chemicals in them they are far from fresh- and that is even before they are processed. Whole Foods is a good option, but it still does not compare to the food here. I am not sure if it is because the ground is oversaturated with the pesticides and other chemicals we use every day, but there is just something happening here that is not happening in our food supply. Maybe this is the good fortune that their green campaign has had for the country.

And here's the best part-THE FOOD IS RIDICULOUSLY INEXPENSIVE (even after the conversion from pounds to dollars). I can get a meal that will keep me fed for a week for less than a stop at a local drive thru. We need to get to work on this back home. Immediately. Want to stop childhood obesity and yo-yo dieting, let's start eating real food again!

Random Observations So Far...

Here are a few observations about London thus far:

*** The people of London are gifted with super speed. I have been in big cities before and I have never seen anything like this. It is as though they are moving in fast forward all of the time and this is their natural pace. Impressive!

*** London has a great sense of pride in its history. The composition of the city is very telling about the character of this nation. It is hard to get your bearings in the city because you are looking at two cities at once. From Westminster Abbey, you can see the new mammoth IMAX building which is made of glass. You are on London Bridge and the Tower of London is on one side and there are skyscrapers on another. They feel no need to tear down the Tower of London to make room for corporate entities just because it is not an active site anymore. They love this city and its rich history and while they are happy to embrace modern architecture and all of the benefits of the digital age, they are not going to sacrifice their land to do it.

*** London is ultra green!!!! I am happy to report that London is a green city. If you drive in a low-emissions zone, then you must pay a fine. Green appears to be the force behind every major marketing campaign I have seen. We could learn a lot in the States from their efforts-going green does not mean sacrifice or low quality. (I will talk more about this when I blog about the food here.)

*** I never thought I would be a subway girl, but I am rocking the tube! This is the most dangerous place in the city if you are not from London. You will get run down. They don't mean anything by it, they just don't understand that with great superpowers comes great responsibility.

*** Coolest thing I have ever seen happened on the tube. There are escalators 2 people wide all over the place. If you want to ride down the escalator, you stand on the right side. If you want to run down the escalator, you take anything in your way out on the left side. Try and imagine it. It is like the running of the bulls on the left side. You can get at least 12x as many people down the escalator in this manner than if you take the slowpoke ride on the right side. Trust me, you only stand on the left side once before you get the point.

*** Londoners not only drive on the opposite side of the road, they walk on the opposite side too!

*** London loves its literature! This is not surprising given its rich literary history, but to see adverts for books on the tube walls and on signs in the city just tickles me pink! You see this very occasionally in big cities in the States, but in general, publishers do not pay to advertise to the average Joe like this because they do not get the bang for their advertising buck. Again, their is much we can learn here.

*** Shopping in the heart of the city is very much like shopping on Federal Hill back home. You have one store for your meats, one for your pastries and breads, one for your paper products, ... you get my point. It's fun, but it can be a little tiring too-especially when you have a packed schedule. I never thought I would appreciate the convenience of the chain stores soooooooooooooo much. Makes me feel a little bad because I love supporting the local store.

*** Sunday is still sacred in London. The markets and major stores are open, but don't plan on going out to get that early cup of coffee and a paper because you will be in for a shock and a hungry belly.

*** It is just as diverse in London as it is anywhere in the States. I have spoken to local people of all nationalities since my arrival. It looks like we are not the only melting pot in the world anymore.

*** London is surprisingly animal and child free. I have seen one cat and 3 dogs in the entire city since I arrived-and trust me, I have spent the majority of my time outdoors. And everyone knows I can spot a gato from a mile away. We are learning that most people commute into the city because it is just too expensive to live here, so city dwellers consist of young singles for the most part.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The First Weekend

This first weekend has been incredible. I don't think I have ever accomplished this much in such a short period of time. Ever.

So here is a quick recap of where we have been so far:

Westminster Abbey: Okay, so we only drove by it on the way to our flats, but already it was awe-inspiring. It is HUGE. I cannot wait to get a closer look at it. We are going to take a walking tour on a free afternoon. I am also hoping to attend a service. (The building next store is a public library and bath house, I so cannot wait to see if that is still in operation!)

The London Eye: Gargantuan ferris wheel that allows you to see almost all of London. Great photo opp. (Also saw that there is a Beatles exhibit happening and will be sure to check that out too!)

We only took a few minutes to move into our flats-not as cute as they were online, but they are cozy. It is great for reading areas especially (figures I would make it my own personal reading room right off!) We bought our oyster cards (the subway pass you buy per visit or week) and then we were off to travel the city-by foot!

It was worth it, because I was surprised to see Big Ben in my camera as I was taking a long distance shot of the Eye. Then it was off to see the Thames River. I am sorry to report that it is a color oft referred to as yuck brown. However, it is a beautiful river otherwise and there is always something happening there. The National Theatre is next door and holds outdoor concerts, plays, and other events all summer long.

Saturday proved to be even more eventful. Orientation in the morning and then
it was off to Notting Hill and Piccadilly Square. Think massive flea market, but everything is in eclectic little shops and boutiques. Absolutely adorable and a great look at the London lifestyle.

After dinner, it was off to The Tower of London and London Bridge. They were breathtaking. We are going on the walking tour for this site, so I will be writing more about this later.

After that, we spent a little time getting lost in the area where Jack the Ripper ran wild and finished up the evening with a visit to the Tate Museum of Modern Art.

Not bad for my first 36 hours. The days are packed and it still feels like we will not see everything, so stay tuned for more. Some entries will be about the site visits while others will be about my experiences here in London. I am using this blog for class as well, so feel free to pass up on what you find boring and enjoy the adventure! Comment lots-looking forward to hearing your take! What do you want to hear more of?


P.S. I have been taking lots of pictures, but am having a technical glitch with getting them off of the camera. Will figure this out asap and then you can see what I am seeing!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

London is AMAZING!!!!

I am here and I am safe!

More later, I just wanted to say that I am here and London is amazing! I have already seen the London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben (from afar), Notting Hill and Portobello Road, ridden the tube (subway), and much, much more. All in less than 24 hours!

More later!!!!


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Crunch Time

It's crunch time! I am still packing and I only have 27 hours before I leave for Boston. I am not too worried because I am mostly done. The clothes are all there, now it is just a matter of making sure I have all of the electronics and other misc. items in place (not to mention the paperwork! I will be an unhappy girl in Boston if I realize I forgot my passport or letter of entry!)

I had the meltdown last week. A complete panic attack and a fit of "What was I thinking?" Now, I am good, just wishing I was more relaxed. The to-do list is still over a page long, but I am officially done with work stuff, so that is something.

Any good book recommendations for the plane? I want something light and fun. I am not opposed to some chick lit as I embark on my solo journey!

More when I finally arrive in London!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Countdown Begins!

London, here I come! In exactly one week at this time I will be boarding the plane to cross the pond to my summer home.

It is hard to believe it is finally here! It seems a little surreal that in a week's time I will be living a completely different life, even if only temporarily. Up until now, this trip has been exciting in theory. Now that I am actually packing and setting up departure schedules, the realization that I will not be home for an entire month is settling in.

No crybabies here! A tiny scaredy-cat, maybe. But one of those cute ones that just needs a few extra minutes to be coaxed out of the carrier and then proceeds to take over the place.

So, what are the going odds? I hear the categories are Mis gets to London and freaks out or Mis gets to London and does not want to come home. It's all cool, just be prepared to hand over the winnings when I get back happily full of new British habits and slang!

That's all for now, stay tuned for the last minute updates, meltdowns, and antics!


P.S. Family and friends-if you want something special from the U.K., put your orders in now! Email me or leave comments here. We have a couple of days dedicated to exploring the local markets and shopping centers the first weekend we are there before the exploring gets .