Thursday, 29 July 2010

Maughan Library at Kings College

The Maughan Library serves students and staff of Kings College, although visitors with valid research needs can apply for a fee.  Items must be requested  from any special collection, but are usually available within minutes.  Circulation period is based on student/staff status.  Items are loaned for a period of four weeks, one week, daily/short loan or for use in library only. The collection includes humanities, law and physical sciences and engineering collections. The Maughan Library also houses the Foyle Special Collections Library and the Tony Arnold Library in the Institute of Taxation.  This last collection joined the Kings College London law collection in 2001.

The Foyle Special Collection Library offers over 130,000 items ranging from human anatomy to theology and dating as far back as the fifteenth century.  Archives are held at the King's College London Archives at the Strand Campus.  Seminars and classes are held in this section, among others, to promote the services of the library and proper handling of materials.  This also encourages a connection between librarians and faculty to utilize the collection to the max.   There are also thematic seminars that explore specific areas of the collections. 

Last year the BBC filmed a short program on an interesting item in the Rare Books Collection by William Henry Ireland; Miscellaneous papers and legal instruments under the hand and seal of William Shakespeare (London, 1796).  This would have been an interesting item to witness.  Ireland was able to fool a large number of people in that these were rare letters and even extra scenes to Hamlet and King Lear, but was caught when the papers were published since scholars now had the chance to examine them! 

This room is required to maintain its original appearance.  The bookshelves are made from slate.  

There was an interesting exhibit "Explore 500 Years of World History" offering a close look at the collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  According to the Exhibition Guide, this is "one of the most important acquisitions in the long history of the College's library" and is "the most heavily used".  What I particularly liked about the items is that they were hand selected not only by the curators, but by visitors such as historians, diplomats, film-makers, and graduates.     

Take a virtual tour of the library at

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh

This area is known as The Netherbow, which is the halfway point on the Royal Mile from Edinburgh's medieval gateway.  The John Knox house dates from 1470.  

According to their Web Site, "As the headquarters of the Network, the Centre strives to reinforce Scotland's vigorous contribution to a worldwide revival of interest in storytelling and storytelling traditions".

The Storytelling Centre collaborates with schools, libraries, local authorities, businesses, environmental agencies, and community groups.  The Centre has a partnership with the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Storytelling Forum.  It is funded by the Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund, the City of Edinburgh Council, Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, as well as donations.

The Scottish Storytelling Forum would be useful for librarians and educators to get an international perspective on the value and use of storytelling in education.  The Center features the John Knox House, Edinburgh's oldest  house, Scotland's Stories; a permanent exhibition about "rich story heritage from folktale and traditional to modern bestsellers" and the Netherbow Theatre, a 99-seat multi-media theatre.  The Center also houses the George Mackay Brown Education Suite and Resource Centre.  Professional development workshops, a library of storytelling resources and publications as well as exhibits include some services offered.  The library is in a small space, seating up to 35 with other rooms holding up to 155 people, depending upon function.   Materials feature hand-written resources by storytellers and information on stories, the John Knox House and storytelling in Scotland.  Groups can book different size rooms for readings, school visits or conferences.  The rooms are fully equipped and very modern.  Visit for more information.    I took an incredible storytelling class at Queen's College, with award winning storyteller, author and educator Bill Gordh-about interactive learning and the art of storytelling. Best library class ever, maybe I should be a children's librarian after all...This center had me recalling the stories I learned and performed and wanting to get on stage! 

Event's range from a Children's Theatre like a Teddy Bears' Picnic for children 6 month- 3 years to hosting 'Summer Nights Guid Crack' a storytelling event at a local bar.  Live music, a pint, and storytelling, if you'd like to join in.  They are of course very active during the Fringe Festival, which I just missed.  It is a huge arts festival that supposedly transforms Edinburgh for three weeks.  The storytelling Centre also hosts a Tour by bike, films, Mobile shows, Music and song, Puppet Theatre, Historical Theatre and competitions. 

The John Knox House was very interesting with stone spiral staircase, lots of original oak paneling and floor boards, tiled fireplaces and a painted ceiling on the top floor. I picture this as a great field trip to incorporate primary resources and allow students to visualize Scottish history. 

There is an interactive module that allows disabled patrons to experience the second and third floors.  At the time of my visit, this was not functioning.  The interactive exhibit pictured below allows patrons to handle original artifacts.

There were a lot of interesting aspects to the house, such as this lock below.  It seems like everything was designed to keep out intruders.  This lock is intended to trick people from getting in by hiding the real lock behind this hinge.  If there was no sign, it is something I would completely missed.  I guess they did a good job! Also, there is one step that is higher, and it is said this is to trip strangers that were not invited!!

Visit them at

Dunfermline Carnegie Library

This is the first Carnegie library in the world!  It is the largest, busiest library in Fife.

 The library opened on August 29, 1883 and ran out of books that same day!  The library was expanded in 1922 and again in 1993.  Many features such as the shelves, panels, fireplace and Gargoyles is considered 'grade B' and requires special attention from craftsmen.

Collections include foreign languages such as Chinese, Urdu and Polish.  Anywhere between 20,000-27,000 items are issued per month out of a collection of 64,000 items.

The Special Collections Room was by far the most interesting.  Originally housing the Erskine Beveridge books and the George Reid collection of medieval manuscripts and books upon opening in 1922, the collection has grown.  Additions include the Murrison Burns and also Robert Henryson Collection.  The librarian was very invested and eager to share her wealth of knowledge.

Rightfully so, the librarians and locals alike are very proud of their heritage and community.  There are many projects to preserve local history and little exhibits throughout the library.  Collections include Scottish Parliament information, local and national maps, newspapers-bound and on microfiche, parish registers, census returns, slides, photographs, Mining Memorial book, and Family and Local History Research. 

The Abbey Room was once the music room.  According to the tour guide, all music tapes and CDs are now discontinued.  The room serves as a venue for exhibits, however it is not open to the public at this time.  There are currently museum quality items inside, however there are no plaques to explain items.
The library hopes to one day have a Dunfermline Museum next door either as part of the library or in conjunction with the library services. Plans are in the works for the combination Library and Museum to open in 2013 to create a Dunfermline Heritage and Cultural Centre. 

Visit them at

Monday, 19 July 2010

Central Library, Edinburgh

After the National Library our class visited the Central Library just across the street.  The difference here is that the Central Library is a public lending library, not a depository library.  The Web Site presents the library as more modern than others we have visited in the U.K in terms of online resources and availability.  On the tour, however, we were shown the living card catalog.  Online they offer "some things you can't find on google" especially in terms of business resources (  I thought this was interesting because at home I frequent a business resource center through a local public library, and it has been very valuable.  According to one librarian, the government is trying to get the general public to use the internet for an array of services, and is accomplishing the task of teaching "web 2" through local libraries. 

The tour was very thorough and offered a behind-the-scenes view of a busy library.  There are over 38 different book groups that are active at this location.  Librarians participate in continuing education called Front Line- a three year online training program.  Volunteers make personal house calls to patrons that are home-bound.  The library collaborates with many organizations like the Storytelling Center and the Scottish Book Trust to expand the library environment and connect with the public. 

Special Collections material is held in the Edinburgh Room, Fine Art, Music, Reference and Scottish Departments of the Central Library building.  The history of Scotland is represented through rare or unique books, manuscripts, illustrations and photos.  On our tour we were shown some rare children's books, however it was a very quick glimpse and they were behind closed doors again. 

Most preservation work is out sourced.  There is no conservation studio in the library, which is generally the case in a public library of this type.  To conserve items, they are placed in acid free boxes or envelopes to prevent wear and tear.  Certain items can not circulate although most special collections can be utilized in the library reading rooms.  Special collections does not always mean ancient items, but can include materials right up until today that are rare or unique.

It doesn't seem like much has changed since last year, but then again where improvements are taking place- it is behind the scenes in terms of professional training and online with collection development and cataloging.  In the music library I saw a sign for LGBT Glee; which I have never seen anything like it before.  Sounds like a very interesting program and a good way to draw in more diverse members of the public.  

Visit to find out more information on their services.

National Library of Scotland

 Dark photo from inside the John Murray Archive exhibit

Although we did not have a formal tour of the library, there was a new exhibit on the John Murray collection. John Murray I developed a publishing firm on Fleet Street in 1786.  Over 1,000 titles were published and that was only the beginning.  His son, John Murray II took over the business when he was only 15.  He launched the firm into a more prosperous and renowned business.  Murray held literary meetings that Sir Walter Scott coined "Murray's 4 o'clock friends". This was grounds for the start of the 1824 literary group The Athenaeum Club.  Murray II's wife inherited the archival collection.

The John Murray Archive collection displays over 200 years of manuscripts, letters, and history.  Display cases exhibit noteworthy items from Charles Darwin, Jane Austen, Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Lord Byron, David Livingstone and more.  Interactive computer monitors highlight and then describe items as you select each one. They were mostly academic, although I was amused by the comparison of Lord Byron to modern day Prince.

There is a great interactive timeline of the archives on their Web Site,

There was also an exhibit on the history of golf that I found very interesting.  The floor space was set up complete with putting greens and flags.  At the entrance, patrons can pick up a golf score card that will guide them through the exhibit.

The library has a General Reading Room, Music and Rare Books Reading Room, Manuscripts Reading Room and a Multimedia Room.  The collection started in 1680s although the library did not open until 1689. Over 490 languages are represented although the main focus is the study of Scotland and Scots.  Every subject is covered and the collection spans 110 miles of shelving.  Their preservation department has a division called The Reprographic Unit that maintains the collection at all phases from storage, exhibition, transportation and patron use.  This would be a very interesting department for the class to visit.   You can place orders for images at

Visit their site at

Friday, 16 July 2010

John Harvard Library, Southwark

Public Library
Burough High Street (London Bridge tube station)

This library is a popular public library with many innovative features.  There is a local exhibit and Local Record Office, cafe area with a flat screen TV, large reading room and social area and over 25 public computers.  Items are divided by topic and arranged for browsing.  It is very easy to navigate the library, and staff is very accommodating.  In general this seems very similar to public libraries in NY, maybe more multi-cultural because of the city environment.  There is a huge section of Bollywood DVDs, which I am now a new fan of!  

In order to meet current demands, every Southwark library offers the top 20 fiction and non-fiction books in addition to PS3 games.  I have noticed that libraries in the UK do not offer Wii games and/or events like in the states.  The library charges £2 per inter library loan and for scores.  

The Local History Library Collection includes books, photographs, maps, newspapers, videos, tapes and archives. A selection of photographs can be viewed at The site is a work in progress, for example the exhibits page is not yet available.  The entire collection is not online yet, however it claims to be updated daily.  The e-museum is pretty interesting and combines the highlights from three different collections.

This is in between the social area and the children's section.  I've noticed parents give their children more independence in the UK, and this is one example.  Parents have tea in the cafe, read or watch TV while the kids do their own thing.  This is a great introduction to the library environment for children.  They can develop a love for books on their own accord, and use their independence to gain confidence in themselves and in learning.  I love this reading area, I wanted to curl up in there with a book!  Reminds me of this big boat that I had in my school library growing up.  I really appreciate anything funky that can encourage reading in children. 

An array of services are available electronically.  Reserve a computer, pick up and pay for printed items, and check out books at self-service kiosks like this one.  Either type in the library card number or simply place your card inside the machine, and it will scan your entire account.  The library is equipped with RFID (radio frequency identification) allowing patrons to check out their items just by placing them on the counter, one on top of the other.  I have found that more libraries in the U.K. are adopting this method rather than those I use in NY.  This frees up staff to be able to rove and be more active with patrons on the floor. Plus I have to believe patrons enjoy scanning their own books, or is that just the librarian in me?!

This is the book drop outside of the library.  It caught my attention and I think it's a great way to attract patrons.  This is the only book drop I have seen that doubles as a small exhibit space.  It also advertises the library coffee mugs for sale!!  Great usage of space and a fun way to draw some attention.   In general, the library aims to provide a high level of information services while maintaining an innovative, modern edge. 

 John Harvard Library reopened in November 2009 after being closed for renovations for 13 months.  The Lottery-funded award of £1.4 allowed the library to completely revamp and offer the most modern resources.  According to an article from February 6, 2010 on a local Web Site for London SE1, "figures released last week show that 11,276 items (books, DVDs etc) were issued to borrowers in December 2009 compared to 7,115 in December 2007.  The comparative data shows that item issues have increased 58 per cent; visitors to the library have increased by 11 per cent and new borrowers are up by a tremendous 223 per cent".  (  The article was really about a break in, where over 300 DVDs and games were stolen. 

Visit their site at

People's Library, Kew Palace

Rear of palace...

Impressive collection of letters and documents to and from King George III

This is a short video (working on uploading!) to show the People's Library at Kew Palace, family home of King George III, Queen Charlotte and some of their 15 children! Dating from 1631, this site is truly impressive, not to mention pretty eerie. I think it's haunted! The library itself is very small, and not as much of a library as one would think of a current library.  What is so interesting is that the current famous collection at the British Library began in this palace.  The most prized books, however, are currently located at the Hampton Court Palace about 4 miles away.  Hope on the tube to the Hampton Court Station to visit this site (which I plan on doing, so stayed tuned!).  There are two display cabinets in the King's Private Drawing Room with the oldest book being the Historie by Guicciardin dating from 1579.

There are two interactive computers (one was out of order) and laminated placemat maps, as well as various books on the desks. There is a small collection of books in the library but only a few had dewey classification numbers on them. The remaining just had stickers indicating they were part of the People's Library. All of the books pertained to King George III, the Kew Palace and local history.  This library would be ideal for a class trip to teach children about the history of libraries and basic conservation.  It is very interesting to explore the Palace and then upstairs find this small library. 

I took a few photos of the "Hands On" boxes, and they were interesting to explore.  There was one I did not explore, it was geared towards attacking bugs. I learned some conservation tips that I was not aware of before...such as how to preserve items at home, how to handle old books and clean them. Most important: do not open a book if it is at all dusty. Gently clean it with a brush or if it is really dusty- a vacuum. Do not pull the book off the shelves from the top of the spine (like I always do, and I'm sure you do too).  Instead, gently push back the books on either side then firmly grasp the side of the book you want.  This will minimize wear and tear on the binding. 

Some conservation tools...
Four times a  year, conservators shine a torch light into the bookshelves to inspect the items and search for bugs or any other issues.  If anything is infested it is wrapped in polyethylene and frozen.  I never would have thought of freezing books, but this was also discussed at the British Library in terms of a solution for wet books. 

To join as a patron visit the Historic Royal Palaces' Web Site at