12 August 2014

This blog is now complete, so the only thing that will be changing from now on is the CILIP RSS feed directly above this post. If you would like to read more about my trip to England, Scotland, and Wales please visit my travel blog called Wide-Eyed Wanderer. The entries from here have been copied over to WEW, and the rest of my trip will (slowly) be added soon.


22 July 2014

Maughan Library, King's College

Maughan Library
This morning, our class had the option to visit Maughan Library at King's College London. Because this was one of the few academic libraries on our agenda, I jumped at the chance to go. The building was formerly a public records office, so the building is a bit like a maze. The old iron fire doors have been removed and retained by mounting them on the walls next to the doorways. They also have a round reading room that looks really impressive from the outside. Unfortunately we couldn't go in because the room was in use during our tour.

Laptop rental machine
I was most impressed with the technology and services the library provided. The library has an automatic book sorting machine that separates books into piles based on where in the library they need to be shelved. It was fun to see it in action, and I bet it saves their employees lots of time throughout the day. Another really cool service is a laptop rental system the library has in place. The laptops are stored in lockers that keep them charged, and students can check them out without the assistance of a member of staff. This is in addition to the self-checkout and self-return machines in the main lobby. Staff members are on hand at the Enquiries desk to answer questions, and machines like these allow them to devote their time to helping students.

Weston Room
Another gorgeous space in the library is the Weston Room, which was housing a World War I exhibit during our visit. The room is an old chapel space with stained glass windows depicting the coats of arms of previous Masters of the Rolls. The exhibit is one of several in London this summer commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the war.

After our tour through the library, we visited an area with several items from the library's collections on display for us to see and touch. King's mainly collects items related to theology, health, history, and foreign policy. They are also especially interested in where the items they collect have come from -- who they used to belong to and where the document has been during its life. There were many really cool items including a book called The Charters of the Province of Pensilvania and City of Philadelphia that had Benjamin Franklin's signature on the cover page. They also have a book on sanitary history with the first published colored graphs and an inscription by Florence Nightingale. My favorite item from the collection was a scrapbook of photographs and memorabilia from Queen Elizabeth II's coronation celebrations across the globe.

18 July 2014

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House grounds

Today Lindsay and I traveled by bus from Sheffield (where we are staying) to Chatsworth House, which is a leisurely hour-long ride through the gorgeous English countryside and an adorable town called Bakewell. Bakewell looks like what you would picture in your head as an "English town" for a movie. True to its name, Bakewell had an old-timey shop selling artisan bread loaves that made me want to stop and taste. Carbs are my weakness! But I stuck to the plan and we continued on to Chatsworth House.

The staircase featured in the P&P movie

Chatsworth is a huge house with even bigger gardens. I believe the term "house" is a little bit of an understatement for a building like this. This house is rumored to be the inspiration for Jane Austen's Pemberley, and it was used as Pemberley in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film starring Keira Knightley.

Mural above the grand staircase

Wood-paneled wall carvings
We started exploring the inside of the house, where each room seemed to be more beautiful than the one before it. Almost every ceiling was an exquisite mural with a Roman theme, usually gods or angels surrounded by more gods and cherubs. The rooms were all impressive, starting with the grand staircase in the main room and continuing through to the elaborately carved wood-paneled room with busts made into the walls. This room also contained a letter composed by Elizabeth I, which was an unexpected surprise. The hallways are lined with statues, paintings, and artifacts of all types including large rocks, urns, and Egyptian carvings.

Veiled Vestal Virgin
In one of the long galleries, there are several marble statues that are so life-like you almost believe that they will move if you stare at them long enough. The most impressive statue was a woman wearing a veil over her face that manages to look sheer because you can see her features "through" it. The craftsmanship was so amazing that I didn't believe at first that this wasn't just a statue with a cloth draped over it. The statue is formally called the Veiled Vestal Virgin and was carved by Raphaelle Monti in the mid 1800s. This statue, the ceilings, the house's front staircase, and the gallery were all briefly featured in the P&P movie.

The formal dining room

Part of the library

The library that the statue is housed in would make any reader insanely jealous. It was converted from a long gallery originally used to showcase paintings, then spills into the next room and the next smaller room connecting it to the formal dining room. And all of the splendor inside is magnified by the view on the outside. The house overlooks rolling hills and fields with a river running through for the many sheep roaming around to drink from. There are several ponds and fountains on the property with the most impressive ones being located near the house. There is one behind the house called the Cascade, which is located on a hillside and made up of a series of waterfalls to follow the hill's descent. The other impressive one is a huge, geyser-style fountain on the side of the house with a large reflecting pool. This is so lovely that I would have had the roads redone so that this side of the house would become the front. It's what I would want people to see when they drove up.

The Cascade

15 July 2014

Central Library

Central Library entrance
Reading Room
After lunch today, the class did a tour of the Edinburgh Central Library, which is one of over twenty public libraries in Edinburgh. The Central Library is a modern space inside a Victorian building. I thought that was an interesting contrast, but was glad to see some of the older elements still peeking through around doorways and in stairwells.

One of the most impressive rooms is their reading room, which houses the reference library. I was excited to learn that this library is another that still uses its card catalog! The cards are still used for items from 1918-1980 that have yet to be digitally cataloged. I like the card catalog at my library, so I was glad to see another still in use.

Children's Library
Central Library has several smaller specialist libraries that were introduced in the 1930s including a children's library, local history library (the Edinburgh & Scotland Library), an art library, and a music library. This is another library that has a newly-created young adult section, which is exciting because the need for these areas means more teenagers are becoming involved with their libraries and are reading. This space is near the music library to promote the link between teenagers and music. It has a couple of couches that form group seating, a study table, and computer for teens to use.

Although the reading room might be the most impressive space, my favorite would still be the children's library. This area is filled with modern shelving where kids can sit inside areas on the wall, a tree-shaped shelf with painted animals clinging to the branches, and a separate craft room that is kid-friendly. Having a craft area for kids in a children's library makes so much sense, and I wish more libraries in the US would do this. Crafting encourages creativity just like reading does, so both benefit a child's learning and development.

The art library was another cool stop on our journey through the library. The books are about half and half lending and reference materials, and there are some really cool items in the collection including a copy of The Corpuscle Story by James Clegg that is completely covered in fur on the outside. It looked like something straight out of Harry Potter! The art books were probably some of the most beautiful in the library, and they are also a valuable resource for artists in the area.

New College Library, University of Edinburgh

New College Library

We started the day today at New College Library, which is a part of the University of Edinburgh. The library holds over 250,000 items (50,000 of which are special collections) and is one of the United Kingdom's biggest theological libraries. The library is used primarily by the students of the Divinity School, but can also be accessed by other University of Edinburgh students and the public.

The space is absolutely stunning and was used until the 1930s as a church. The original pews were used as much as possible in the redesign, so the desks and shelving have a very unique look. The stained glass windows have an especially interesting story because they were funded by the church members but were finished after the space had become a library.

New College had an intriguing set of special collections items on display including a massive eighteenth-century Torah scroll. The scroll was left open to a place where we could see the details of the hand stitching holding the pieces together. They also had several editions of the Bible from the fourteenth century, including one made by the "printer to the Queenes most excellent Maiestie" in 1585, also known as Queen Elizabeth I's printer. It was interesting to see that the edition was printed with extensive notes in the margins because this edition was used by the church members, not the general public. There were also a couple of works by John Knox on display, which is especially relevant because his statue is in the courtyard outside of the building. There was also a first edition of John Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion.

Hymnal collection
We were able to journey into the stacks outside of the main reading room where the journals, pamphlets, overflow books, some special collections, and oversize books are housed. Here lives one of my favorite parts of our time at New College -- a donated collection of old hymn books. My fingers itched to go through them, and I secretly hope one of the 1928 Oxford Book of Carols is among them. If not, many of the hymns from that amazing anthology are probably contained in these old hymnals from around the United Kingdom. Because some of my all-time favorite Christmas carols are old British ones no one in America has heard of (e.g., "Poverty," "Gloucestershire Wassail," "Children's Song of the Nativity," "Coventry Carol"), I would have loved to spend more time perusing the shelves.

14 July 2014

National Library of Scotland

National Library of Scotland
(photo courtesy of the Gazetteer for Scotland)

This morning the LIS class visited an impressive organization -- the National Library of Scotland. Anyone can obtain a reader's ticket here and all items in the facility can be ordered for examination including manuscripts worth £1,000,000. They also offer remote inquiry services (where users can request copies of documents) and have several digitization projects going to make items more accessible to users all over the world. The building is located on the George IV Bridge and spans 15 floors because the back of the building actually descends beneath the bridge and onto the ground below. The books in the stacks are shelved by height, not subject or author. This allows as many shelves as possible to be used within the 6 floors of book space they have.

One large collection the library holds is the John Murray Archives, which is a collection of publishing company John Murray's records and published works spanning 234 years. One of the new exhibitions in the library features a recreation of the London John Murray reading room, complete with some of the books published by John Murray on the shelves. It is surprising that many of these are sitting out where visitors can remove them and flip through them!

The rest of the exhibition is a collection of "living figures" depicting famous authors, poets, and explorers whose works were published by John Murray. Some of the people included were Sir Walter Scott, David Livingstone, and Charles Darwin. The living figures are made up of a costume related to the person surrounded by original books and manuscripts related to their work or life. The cases also feature mood lighting that reflects different colors for each person and interactive touchscreens that visitors can use to explore the items in the cases. The custom designed lighting only highlights the items being viewed so that each item is only exposed to light while being examined. Once the user selects another item, the lights will go off and a new item will be lit. Music plays for certain items and animations are shown on the screens for others. Users even have the option to have letters and shirt manuscripts read to them. The readers are actors who have been told to use the specific accent or way of speaking that the author would have used to give the performance authenticity. I was truly amazed at the thought and planning behind each individual element, and can safely say that this is the most engaging exhibit I have ever seen. No photographs were allowed inside, so I unfortunately cannot show you how amazing this exhibit was.

09 July 2014

Caird Library and the National Maritime Museum

View from the boat

As a special treat today, our class got to ride one of the Thames Clipper boats to Greenwich. Traveling by boat has been my favorite way to see the city so far because it's more scenic than the bus and a lot less stressful than the Tube. Plus, being from the coast I feel like anything on the water is the same as being at home. The scenery definitely changed from old world to new world as you moved eastwards down the Thames.

Lord Nelson's letter
Our class visit in Greenwich was to the Caird Library and archives at the National Maritime Museum. The museum is an interesting mixture of classic and contemporary because the exterior is straight out of the 18th century while the interior is sleek, modern, and boasts state-of-the-art technology. Our guide for the morning was archivist Mike Bevan, who was wonderfully accommodating and showed us some of their world class collections of rare books and correspondence. One of the highlights was one of Lord Nelson's letters that was extremely well-preserved and still had the wax seal affixed to the page. It was suspended in a cardstock frame so we could lift it and examine the "GR" and crown watermark on the paper.

Another fascinating set of items were the travel journals of various sailors and explorers. One had such beautiful watercolor paintings of what the person had seen that it's a shame they could not be framed and put on exhibit. I particularly enjoyed flipping through these visual representations of the journey, and really wished I had time to read all of the stories behind the pictures.

One of the stunning watercolors

The most innovative part of the library itself was an interactive display that allowed the user to look up ships' plans and view or manipulate the images on screen. This would be an invaluable tool for researchers, and also is a fun way to view documents without placing stress on the originals. Another amazing aspect of the library's services is their phenomenal digitization and its presentation on their web site. Many of the letters and handwritten documents we viewed on our tour are available in almost better-than-life quality on the collections web site. This is another way to give access to thousands of people without harming the priceless original documents.

Elizabeth's song
My favorite part of our time in the museum was after our official visit was over. Mike took a few of the students through a "secret" door in the wall of the museum, which gave our whole side trip a decidedly Narnian feel. From there, we went into a part of the archives where they keep the story boxes, or ready-made collections of smaller items that are used for events. Although the box sitting on the shelf for "Lord Nelson's Women" looked intriguing, we were on a mission to see the contents of the "Spanish Armada" and "Pirates" collections. In the Armada box there was a celebration song written by Queen Elizabeth I to commemorate the Armada's defeat. I was so excited to see and touch (through the coverings, of course) something personally written by one of my idols! There was also correspondence to the queen in the Pirates box signed by her chief adviser William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and her secretary/spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. Being able to see and touch these documents was absolutely amazing, and I also was able to cultivate a topic for my paper from this last-minute excursion.