Friday, 10 August 2007

Barbican Library

The Barbican Library was another great library we visited that stands within the City of London's square mile. The Barbican Library has a long historical context.

In 1423 the Barbican housed a reference collection for those who could read-- lawyers, doctors, professionals, etc. That libray was split up when a royal figure decided to keep part of the collection (See previous post- Duke of Somerset).

The Barbican is a Lending Library, one of 3 lending libraries within the City of London. The lending policy was established after the 1964 Public Library and Museum Act. Prior to that time it existed as reference-only. They circulate roughly 500K items per year and are open 6 days per week. They service about 1200 people per day, and many of these patrons are individuals who work within the City of London. (The City doesn't actually have many residents, mostly businesses/companies, etc.) Much of the business that comes into the library occurs through the lunch hour while people are on breaks from their jobs.

After the WWII bombings, a new site was designed in the 1960s and erected in the 1970s. It was designed to be a unique international Art Centre. There were always plans for a library to be attached to the Barbican Centre, in order to serve student, business, and residential patrons.

Music Library
The Barbican Music Library is one of the two largest collections of music in London. They have a very extensive arts collection and aim to cover all types of music. They cater to a wide range (diverse) patron population (including amateur and seasoned musicians). The CD collection is probably the largest in London that is housed in one area. They own 17,000 CDs that are all available for perusal by the public. Our guide mentioned that they have seen about a 10% drop in CD circulation in the last year due to downloading MP3s. I think this is a bigger deal in the UK because most libraries (if not all) charge patrons to borrow any items that are not books (DVDs, CDs, CD-roms, etc.). Currently the Barbican Music Library charges only 30p per week for CDs, which is a competitive (cheap!) rate compared to other libraries. New CDs are not available to loan until they've been on store shelves for 3 months. I couldn't believe this!!

**The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act does not cover CD's and DVD's in the verbage. The only items the act spells out as being freely available by public libraries are books, though the libraries don't charge for Audiobooks.**

CD Classification is split up into five sections: Classical, Anthology, Pop Groups, Pop Female and Pop Male. Most items have RFID tags, and all CDs have security cases as well.

The Music library also has a wide variety of Music Electronic Resources, which is also available at home. (This includes the Grover Dictionary of Music and International Index to Music Periodicals.)

One of the neatest things in the Music library is an upright piano that sits near the Enquiry Desk. It has headphones attached to it so patrons can "try-out" scores they are looking to lend before they take them home.

The books in the Music Library are classified by Dewey, the Scores are classified by Macolving and Reeves Scheme. Journals are bound each year so back issues are available in hard-copies within the library.

Listening Booths
There are 8 separate listening booths for patrons to listen to music on CD. There are no restrictions on time limits to use these booths. There are also 2 booths that house a special collection of Live Music called Music Preserved. This collection is not owned by the Barbican, but patrons do have access to listen to it if they wish- at the two special listening booths created for this purpose.

The Barbican Library strives to support financiers in the city. Their collection includes many different items, though they mentioned that they have a very male-oriented patron population due to their location.

They do have outreach services to homebound individuals, education area called "Basic Skills for Life", conversation ESL programs, 1-to-1 Internet Tutor Sessions, etc. This library was most like a library in the US.

The Barbican was one of the first libraries in the country to gain RFID technology, which they admittedly say has its advantages AND disadvantages.

There are 2 exhibition areas, and there is a stringent application/interview process to have artwork displayed in these areas.

The library also houses an Arts Reading Room which is often used for group meetings and writing workshops, as well as a Children's library.

The Children's Library at Barbican is one of the largest children's libraries in London. They have about 25K loan-able items in the collection, and cater to a patron population from newborn to age 14. Every fortnight Birmingham sends them CARTONS of books (100-300 books) and they must go through and decide what they want to buy. There is only one state school within the square mile of London, though the librarians have developed links and relationships with private schools in the area as well as neighboring boroughs. All computers in the children's area are equipped with internet filters, and they librarian also made some interesting comments about access. Apparently if a librarian believes the content or book a 12 year old is attempting to check-out, they will reserve the right to NOT lend it to that patron. I thought this was astounding- and so completely different from what our access policies are in the states.

The Children's library holds storytimes 3 times per week. They celebrate National Book Week in October and have schools come into the library to meet authors, illustrators, etc.

The National Book Trust has a program that provides families with bags of reading/literacy materials at birth, 18 months and at age three. They are given to every child by the Health Visitor who comes to the home of the child. The birth-bag of goodies includes board books, the older packages come with picture books.

I particularly enjoyed this visit because once again I felt that we were given the behind-the-scenes look at how a lending library operates and how library services differ between the UK and the US. I think taking a closer look at the access policies for minors in either country would be a really interesting study.

Guildhall Library visit

Guildhall library was the first lending-library that we were able to visit, and I wish we would've visited this library earlier on in the trip. This library seemed closest to the one (in service-models, services, layout, etc.) I work in back home. Plus, the atmosphere here made it incredibly inviting to study.

Guildhall Library is located within the City of London, which is London's smallest local authority (you may remember me mentioning the "square mile" the City of London exists in). It is also Britain's smallest local authority, and there are 5 libraries within this square mile. Guildhall is home to a great Art Gallery, and since its creation there were always plans to include a library within the building. Guildhall is the largest of the City's libraries (local and publicly funded). There are actually no membership requirements or restrictions, which also makes this a convenient place for people to visit while they're vacationing to search for information.

The building itself is the 4th building to house Guildhall. It was first established in the 1420's about 100 yards away from the current building, adjacent to Lord Hall Chapel. It housed mainly theological manuscripts/items.

In the 1600's the Duke of Somerset decided he would take over the collection, and he basically took off with all of the items. That was the end of Guildhall library as it was. (Incidentally the Duke was executed later for things unrelated to theft of the collection.) The library owns only 1 item that existed within the medieval Guildhall library, and the rest of the collection has quite literally disappeared.

In the 1820's influential people decided to create a library that concentrated on the City of London. It opened originally to corporation members and guests. Donations to create the library came from sheriffs, high-class citizens, etc. The library itself became incredibly popular. Because of this popularity, in the 1870's Horace Jones (city architect that built Tower Bridge) decided to re-build the another library. He designed with with ecclesiastical appearance based off the Knave of Taxton church. This version of the library opened to the general public in 1875, and was one of the first libraries in the UK to welcome the "general public" into their institution. As such, it too became incredibly popular. The library started creating/developing general collections of business information, commercial records, directories, etc.

In December of 1940 The Blitz hit London, and incendiary bombs hit the library. Most valuable materials were moved, but additional losses occurred regardless. The library has been able to replace or buy many of the items that were lost back for their current collection. The building as it stands now was erected in 1974.

The Collection
Guildhall houses the greatest collection devoted to London. It includes History, English local history, Parliamentary matters, early law reports, family history, etc. Many guilds (about 95 companies) gave their collections over to Guildhall Library, including Clock and Watchmaking guilds, Livery Guilds, Blacksmiths, etc.

The collection has international importance as well as a strong local historical importance. The London Stock Exchange gave all historic records and company annual reports between 1880-1964 to Guildhall, which occupies two and a half miles of shelf-space. They also acquired Lloyd's marine collection. Lloyd's was an insurance company specializing in maritime risks from 1740 and onward. Shipping movements, casualities and over 350,000 cards from 1927 to 1974 record every voyage that was taken by sea around the world.

Book Selecting

Guildhall continues to purchase and acquire items, both modern and antiquarian. With a staff of about 44 people (including security, shelvers, etc.) the librarians carefully select items that will benefit the collection and their patrons.

The Enquiry Desk is typically staffed with 2-4 staffers, and they provide reference services to the patron population. They receive about 10-15 letters/emails per day with reference questions. Because much of the research required to carry out these services is difficult and time consuming, the first 20 minutes of research by a librarian/staff member is free, but each additional hour for in-depth research charges 50 pounds! Because many of the patrons who utilize the collections are businesses and companies who can afford this type of charge, no one seems to complain much about the bill. Often the reference staff will bring in a retired employee from Guildhall who is a "freelancer" to work on incredibly time consuming work.

The catalogue is run by TALIS, and can be viewed here.

If you are a researcher and planning to carryout research at Guildhall, you may search the online catalogue and then fill out a Request Slip. Then the patron must take the Request Slip to the Enquiry Desk, where the librarians will place it in a tube-suction system (much like those at US Bank drive-throughs). The request then goes to the storage area in the basement. For rare items one must hand-over an ID as well as sit at the table closest to the Enquiry Desk for close observation.

Computers/Electronic Resources

Guildhall is one of the only libraries (it seemed to me) that has free internet access on their computers. Due to the building's architecture, Guildhall has problems with WiFi and wireless access.

Guildhall has a wealth of online resources, many of which are available to the public from home. COLLAGE is a digitisation project created at Guildhall, where over 40K images from the collection have been scanned in and are available for purchase online.


A Guildhall librarian created a special classification system for their collection of London-related works in the 1930s that is still used today. For non-London-related works, the library uses Dewey, but they aren't necessarily shelved that way. If someone donates a collection, the entire collection is kept together, not separated.

I really enjoyed the visit to Guildhall. As mentioned earlier, I felt this was the closest representation of what a public library is like in the states, and I would have loved to have had more time to utilize their resources while there.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

National Maritime Museum

So today we had to be in the courtyard (our group meeting place) at 7:30am. Seeing as I do not function without coffee, I woke up at 6:15, threw on clothes, went and got coffee, checked email, then met the group. We then trekked across the waterloo bridge over to the other side of the river and took a 23 minute long boat ride down the Thames to Greenwich.

Now, our official tour didn’t start until 10:30am. The museum (and most shops) didn’t open until 10:00. So we had a little bit of time to get some breakfast (THANK GOD) and I could settle down a bit before we went in.

The National Maritime Museum also has a library, which houses pretty much any and everything pertaining to ocean/sea related items.We walked up through the Museum into the E-Library area, which was a foyer with an Inquiry Desk (information desk) and about 12 computers. The computers have access to E-Journals, their catalogue, family history items, etc. The E-Library was created so people under the age of 16 could search for information, as the under-agers are not permitted in the library itself. Within the foyer “E-Library” area, they also place items on display, this time around they are displaying items from the Falklands Islands Dispute. Swords, paintings, documents, etc. Pretty neat.We then walked through the rotunda to the Caird Library within the Maritime Museum. The shelves within were all guarded with glass doors, and locked. (Patrons are able to unlock the glass doors, they need only ask for a key.) Above the door to the library is a plaque stating Caird’s (the main benefactor in creating the library) motto “Strive and Endure” which is pretty depressing if you ask me.

The shelving was based on Cambridge University’s shelving plan- and created in the 1930’s. There are about 25K books in the Reading Room, all Reference only. Of those books, about 8000 of them are Rare Books, pamphlets, charts, atlases, maps, etc. The Rare Books include anything that is from pre-1850. Many of these rare items are not on-site.The library utilizes the UDC cataloguing system- Universal Decimal Classification- which integrates punctuation into the call numbers to further divide sub-headings into sub-sub-headings. Most of the patrons to the library are either Family Historians or academics. The library is currently creating a new archive to accommodate all groups (allow for better quiet areas for academics) and will be switching over to temperature controlled areas for the entire collection. This library (which is different from most of the others we’ve visited) acquires things on a regular basis, so they WEED constantly. They’re short on space and work diligently to keep it all organized and efficient for patrons, just as any library would.

The library was opened in 1937 by King George the VI. The building itself was originally an orphanage called the Royal Hospital School, which housed children of sailors and seamen who’d been abandoned for whatever reason. The Museum building lays on the grounds of what used to be the Naval College which is a separate building and was closed in 1999 (now it houses the Greenwich University).

This whole experience reminded me of the summer reading program at my library right now, as a lot of Maritime’s items are pirate-related. Here are some of the things I got to see and HOLD IN MY HANDS! The museum library has about 4 and a half miles worth of manuscripts. Their oldest piece is from 1322.

Spy Book: 1582
This book was compiled before the Spanish Armada for Queen Elizabeth by a real spy who was in Portugal, watching the Spanish fleets bring in goods/people, etc. It is basically military intelligence from long long ago. Very cool.

Waggoner: 1682
Pirate-owned atlas. Neat! Basil Ringrose (a real pirate) wrote this around American and South America. On a map within it, California is drawn as an island. Basil would attack Spanish ships, so even though he was a pirate, because the English weren’t too happy with the Spanish at that time, they eventually let him off the hook after he was tried for pirating.

Pearl- Royal Naval Log Book: 1720
This log book has two lines in it that detail when the English Navy captured Blackbeard…the real thing, Blackbeard the Pirate. Very neat! Interestingly, it appears that he was caught off the coast of North Carolina.Merchant/Slave LogNot very interesting, because the slaves were listed as “goods” and not much is recorded about them other than where they were going, how many onboard, etc. However, this book was written by a man (Newton) who later became a reformed Christian and wrote the song: Amazing Grace. Neat!

Admiral Lord Nelson’s love letters- 1801
These were neat because we got to see the love letters to his mistress—and then also the letter to his wife that basically says, “Look lady, I can’t help you- I don’t love you, we’re married and whatever, but buzz off.” But the letter to his mistress is pretty hot and steamy. Apparently Nelson was a paranoid guy too, so a lot of what he wrote is scribbled out and re-written…just in case someone intercepted it. He burned all the letters he received. I bet he didn’t think hundreds of years later we’d be reading about his affair! The library has literally 100s of these letters, as the mistress never held up her end of the deal and burned them, as Nelson burnt his. (I wouldn’t burn them either.)

Titanic: Walter Lords’ collection of memorabilia
Walter Lords, who wrote A Night to Remember, collected a ton of stuff from the Titanic, and upon his death, the Maritime museum acquired these items. Some things I was able to look at: a promotional brochure for White Star Liner, with a cross-section of the ship; photographs taken on the Carpathia of the survivors, how they were saved, and even a real photograph of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic (amazing); a 2nd class dinner menu, which was also a postcard that a little girl had in her pocket when the boat went under.

I also was able to see a lot of information on the Confession and Execution of pirates…pretty bloody stuff. Also saw the HBMS Bounty book, which had a broken spine, so they tied it together with a piece of the sail from the boat. So all in all this was a neat little trip. I wasn’t expecting it to have so many interesting treasures.

After our visit to the museum, I trekked up the hill to the Observatory, which is the area where the prime meridian is located. I was able to place a foot in both hemispheres. Doubt that will ever happen again. Haha!

Monday: St. Paul's meeting with Librarian & Wimbledon

So on Monday I had an appointment at the St. Paul's Cathedral library to discuss their collection with the librarian. I was super-nervous about it. However, I calmed myself down with a trek out to Wimbledon to do some souvenir shopping for my parents (the tennis freaks). After a train ride, a long walk and two bloody blisters later...I found Wimbledon. Centre Court is being torn apart, and I didn't get to see much of it (it cost so much money to get a tour-- and I was pressed for time!!!) that I just snapped a few pictures of the Golf course across the street, and the outside of the tennis arenas. The buildings are green and the flowers everywhere are purple...gorgeous!! Then I proceeded to spend more money in that gift shop than I've spent anywhere in london to date. However, seeing as my parents helped me fund half of this trip, the least I could do is get them some neat stuff they'll love. :o)

Then I took a bus, then walked, then the tube (with three changes) back to waterloo. Dumped off my stuff in the dorms, band-aided my bloody blisters, and walked to St. Paul's for my meeting.

Climbed the 96 steps up to the library, and spoke with the librarian there about a multitude of things...mostly their collection. I only had an hour with him, but I did learn quite a bit about their collection, and even some pointers on how to get involved in the conservation field. He also was able to suggest a book that has more extensive information in it about the library in particular, so I'm going to try to get it on InterLibrary Loan when I get back. The book costs $95, so I don't think I'll be purchasing it, or convincing a librarian where I work to purchase it either...haha!

So the interview was worth it. I'm writing my short paper on that collection, so I'm not going to go into too much detail here. I'm also planning to focus my longer research paper on digitisation projects over I know I'll have enough content to get 25 pages out of it all.

Edinburgh: Details

Well, I'm currently on a bus headed back south to London. I have about an hour and a half of power left on my laptop, so I thought I'd use this time to catch everyone (including myself) up on all the things that have happened in the past few days.As I mentioned in an earlier post, on Sunday we went to Edinburgh Scotland, which is a lovely and beautiful town. It was a long 9 hour journey on a bus. The bus itself was great, but I really felt as though I lost an entire day of the trip just sitting on a coach. I thought we were taking a train, but I was mistaken. At any rate, they showed movies, and we could stretch out a bit, so that was nice. And the weather was lovely, so I was able to see some of the beautiful northern English countryside. I have never seen so many sheep in my entire life. Much of the land around England reminded me of back home in northeastern Ohio. I woke up after a nap on the trip at one point and didn't know where I was.

I've also seen three rainbows in the last three days, which I believe is a sign...of some sort. I'll figure it out later. But they're very pretty. :o)But the first night we arrived in Edinburgh (Sunday), Rachel and I went on a “terror tour” that started at 10pm and took us around to the scary parts of Edinburgh, and ended in the underground vaults. It was interesting (to learn of a parking lot that covers what used to be a “plague pit” of thousands of dead bodies) and the vaults were spine-chilling. There were several separate rooms that were previously hideouts for the homeless, back when being homeless was a crime punishable by death. There is a supposed poltergeist in one of the rooms and there were other rooms that I wanted to RUN OUT of immediately after I'd walked in. It was creepy and scary....and loads of fun.

Monday morning we headed off to the National Library of Scotland. There, two individuals who work at the library spoke to us for about 2 hours. One of the speakers, David- was the conservator and (from what I gathered) the main coordinator of the John Murray exhibit. John Murray was a publisher who published some of the most famous British literature starting in the 1700s going through 7 generations to 2002. Some of the works published by Murray include: Darwin, Jane Austen, numerous famous politicians, Lord Byron, and many many others. The collection was valued at 45 million pounds, and eventually was sold to the National Library for 32 million pounds. The National Library acquired the collection with funding assistance (17.7 million POUNDS) from the Heritage Lottery, which was the largest grant/donation ever given.The John Murray exhibit far exceeded my expectations. Again, we had the opportunity to speak with individuals who were charged with the responsibility of putting together the collection, working alongside designers to create an innovative and entertaining exhibit for visitors. They explained their marketing campaigns to us, what they had hoped to achieve with this exhibit, etc. After the description of how it was put together, we finally were able to visit the exhibit and see how it all worked out.What they did was remarkable. Because the collection is mainly books, letters and manuscripts of famed authors, politicians, etc., they wanted to create something that intrigued people and didn't require an enormous amount of reading. The script that was written on these documents is difficult to read, and then there is also the transcript that one would have to read in addition to the item on display. In order to give the PEOPLE who wrote these items a historical context for the visitor, the library created individual exhibits for each author like none other I've seen. Inside each glass case with the manuscript/book/letters, clothing that represents the individual is hanging to illustrate the stature and presence of the person. Interactive touch screen computers then work with the lighting in the exhibit booths to highlight the items and list why they are being displayed with this particular person's work. For example- Lord Byron was known as a somewhat narcissistic ladies' man- so, they placed a hand-held mirror and love letters in his exhibit. Each author on display had their own “booth” of sorts that had a virtual likeness portraying them. The lighting, layout and interactive touch screen technology allows visitors to listen to audio or read the items in the exhibit, whichever they prefer.

Truly, I was astonished with how well this worked. And it has since increased my expectations of museum exhibits and the way they are laid out and designed. Because the John Murray collection is so large (roughly 200K items), and the space where it is displayed is so small, they plan to rotate the exhibits. I was particularly interested in the digitization (or digitisation) efforts underway with this collection, as they hope to make much of the exhibit available online. I was lucky enough to get David's contact information to email him with additional questions regarding this project. The people at the National Library of Scotland were incredibly kind and informative, and generous...with tea and biscuits. I love tea and biscuits breaks, and believe we should make them required in the states.

From the National Library, we then trekked over to the National Archives, which are currently undergoing renovations, so we weren't able to go around the building much. However, a specialist did give us a nice talk on their collections, which I found enthralling. Though we weren't able to access the archives themselves, they did bring certain books/scrolls/letters out to us for us to read. We were actually able to handle these items (carefully of course). One of my favorites was the first written instance (that they knew of in Scotland) of the ingredients being purchased to make whisky. The scroll it was written on dated back to the 1400s! And again I was offered contact information regarding their digitization projects as well. And again we were given tea and biscuits. So I'm a fan of Scotland. They're incredibly kind and generous with tea and biscuits.Tuesday we had a research day, which meant I spent it trudging up to Edinburgh Castle and paying nearly 20 dollars (11 pounds) to walk around inside. I was a little disappointed by it, but I'm not quite sure what I expected really. The view from the top was amazing, and walking the Royal Mile was quite exhausting. My throat had been hurting and I assumed I was allergic to some of the very strange plants they had on campus. But as it turns out the next day (Wednesday) I woke up feeling sick so I guess it's the common cold.

I stuck pretty close to campus Wednesday, after first doing a little more souvenir shopping and visiting the writer's museum. That was interesting, mainly because I really enjoyed the house the museum was in. It was a part of the Old City before it was turned into a museum, so it had really interesting layouts and the staircases were neat. One of the staircases had one step within it that was a little higher than the rest of the steps, in order to deter strangers (I'm assuming home invaders) from being able to get up the steps unnoticed by the home owners.The Writers' Museum had information about three main writers from Scotland: Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. I wish I had recently read some of their work so I would've found it a little more interesting. Most of the exhibits had interesting notes, letters and objects that were owned by the authors during their lifetime. But after having been to the John Murray exhibit, and understanding the amount of effort the National Library of Scotland put into that display, well I wasn't that impressed with the writer's museum. I'm glad we went, but I think between my head-cold and the rain and not having read anything recently by the prominent writers in the exhibit, I was ready to take a bath and a nap.

And now I'm headed back to London. And I'm so glad I finally got to talk to Ann last night, a friend who's coming to visit me here. I was really worried we wouldn't get in touch. I'm also hoping the weather clears up a little bit, as it's been raining all day and pretty dreary. I still don't feel very good but I suppose if I have to spend all day on a bus, the day I am sick would be the best day to do it, right?Alright that's all for now. I'll try to get more in later. I have a mini-break until July 31st. Miss you all!