Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Scottish Poetry Library

According to their website, this library has been "the place" for poetry in Scotland since 1984. The focus is on contemporary poetry from Scotland, however there are historic poems and poems from across the globe. It is a lending library where books, audio, videos, magazines and more can be checked out or even mailed to a patron. There are about 11 staff members who coordinate performances, special events and children's events. They also are very active with school programs, running workshops, competitions, lesson plans and more.

My favorite part of their website is the "Lost for Words" section. If you have a poem that you can only remember a few lines-post it and the library will help find the poem! There is an archive of 'lost and found' poems they have been able to help patrons find.

I enjoyed the Children's Section, pictured above, where kids can read, relax and learn. On the wall there is a large poem about the Loch Ness monster's song. It is very funny and creative. I probably would not have noticed it if someone didn't point it out to me. It is pictured below so you can share in on the silliness! It was interesting to see how much material there is for children about poetry. It is great that there is a main focus like this to get children motivated about poetry. I used to write when I was younger, and this really sparked some memories. It is my hope that this library continues to flourish so children can make their own memories from what they encounter here. There are toys, books, puzzles, a table and chairs as well as cushions that look like they are for story time.

The Poetry Library is funded by donations, the Scottish Arts Council and the National Lottery. The librarian on duty was very busy and didn't have much time to answer our questions-but it was great to explore this gem of a library. I like the idea of what they promote, and they seem very modern and organized. There is almost nothing better than bringing people and poetry together; their mission-in progress.

Visit them online at http://www.spl.org.uk/index.html

Friday, 7 August 2009

British Library Centre for Conservation

*photo courtesy of http://www.bl.uk/conservation

The conservation team at the British Library is what keeps all of the items in top form. Their goal is to preserve while maintaining an authentic look. The term they used to describe what they aim for was "like for like"- meaning to match the material and appearance to the original item. Looking at their work, it seems so interesting to me to be able to repair these priceless artifacts and restore them to life. According to some of the team; it is interesting but a job is still a job- I wonder if something like this actually loses its excitement...
One item that was shown to us was a newspaper that was in dire need of repair. The conservation team spent 165 hours on this newspaper alone! Of that, 51 hours were spent washing, sewing and de-acidifying the paper-not to mention putting it back together again. This seems like a field that will always be in demand due to the amount of items, not just here but world-wide, and the need to preserve them.

The work they do here is truly incredible. The team of six receive a specific project and sometimes pool resources and knowledge to get the job done. It was very interesting to see the methods and tools used to revive the priceless items the library holds. The center also runs workshops, exhibits, tours, and professional training courses. Donors are the main source of funding for the center.
The tour was very informative but quick. The work space seemed adequate and very modern-built for the benefit of the staff and the work at hand. There was enough natural light to pass the day and it was laid out and designed in such a way that it would not harm the paper or items being worked on. We had the wonderful opportunity to speak to some of the team members and they showed us samples of their work. I hold these items in such high regard. I was fascinated with the history of each item we examined. It is amazing to think of the history these items hold, tell the story of, and have been through. It is the team of conservationists that keeps this alive and allows the story to continue.

To find more information about what they do, visit http://www.bl.uk/conservation

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Imperial War Museum, London

The idea for this museum began in 1917 while the first World War was still being fought. In 1920 the Imperial War Museum was officially established by Act of Parliament. It was closed to the public from 1940-1946 because of the way and much of the collection was housed elsewhere for protection. The collection was expanded in 1953 to include "all military operations in which Britain or the Commonwealth have been involved since August 1914" (http://london.iwm.org.uk/server/show/nav.194).

The Imperial War Museum displays many items ranging from vehicles, weapons, gear, uniforms, letters, books, art galleries, and more. Throughout the museum there are computers that allow a more thorough viewing of items and exhibits. The interactive displays encourage people to delve further into whichever topic is being covered. In almost every room there were videos or audio recordings being played to enhance the items on display. Their collection was extensive and very impressive. One collection that I was touched by is the Children's War. It shows the war through their perspective in a very interesting way. It touched on life before the war, the evacuation, air raids, daily living, school, work, play and after the victory. There was a replica home on display that portrayed how people lived during these times, especially interesting with the rationing.

photo from http://london.iwm.org.uk/upload/package/50/children/Exhibition/homes.htm

The most heart wrenching exhibit was The Holocaust Exhibition. Although I have studied this topic extensively in the past and have visited many a museum dedicated to this tragedy-it never gets easier. The videos of Hitler speaking were so powerful it was almost sickening to hear. Many common items were left behind-for example; broken eye glasses, a pocket watch, a rusty key ring. It was eerie to see these everyday items knowing they once belonged to a human being, and painful to think of what happened to that person. There was a large glass case almost full of old shoes. To think of the people behind these artifacts...well let's just say I walked around with tears in my eyes all day. Behind the glass case was a large table with an intricate model of a concentration camp. It's incredible that so much effort went into the murdering of humans.

*photo courtesy of http://www.iwm.org.uk/

The museum works with schools and teachers to enhance their curriculum by working on current exhibits. Online resources are available for schools from nine museums, including the Imperial War Museum. Visit http://www.theirpast-yourfuture.org.uk/ for more detailed information on this. Alongside many of the larger exhibits there were plaques highlighting how local students completed a project based on that particular display, and what they learned. It was very interesting to see how involved the local schools are, and the children looked so happy and accomplished in their pictures on display. The entire time I was thinking that I wanted to bring the children in my life there to see everything! The photo below explains how a group of students pieced together their own history research and used that to make an inference on the effects of war in modern time. There were many plaques like this demonstrating student's projects ranging from various subjects.

There was one display that I did not have time for, which I regret. It is based on a children's series titled "Horrible Histories" by Terry Deary. Apparently you can experience life in the trenches, climb through a mining tunnel, try on soldiers gear and see into no man's land. I heard from fellow classmates that this was the best exhibit of all time! There is an interactive gallery where you can test your survival skills. It is meant to show people how soldiers worked and lived (miserably) in the trenches during the war. Do you think you would have survived?!

Something I found interesting about this exhibit: it is free to UK school groups. What lucky kids! Each section of the website has a link for teachers with suggestions for age group, information on concepts each exhibit corresponds to, and further links for learning.

Check them out online at http://www.iwm.org.uk/

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

National Archives of Scotland

*photo courtesy of http://www.nas.gov.uk/

The National Archives strives to preserve, protect, promote and provide access to their collection. It is housed in three buildings with 160 staff members and eight websites. There are two divisions; Record Services and Corporate Services. Record Services deals with collection development, cataloging and sorting, while the corporate division is more for administration, reader services and conservation. Similar to most libraries or archives, there is an issue with space and receiving incoming items.

According to their website, "each year the NAS staff deal with about 12,000 visits to its search rooms and provides visitors with access to around 250,000 records. It makes around 750,000 copies from legal and historical records, provides customers with around 5,000 extracts from legal registers, and answers around 9,000 postal and e-mail enquiries".

We had the amazing opportunity to view some very interesting records. What was so special about this visit was that we were able to put on the white gloves and actually flip through the pages of some records. Most of the items we have seen have been either behind glass or in plastic, so this was very exciting! Some of the things that stood out for me were extensive records from a suffragette who refused to eat while in jail and the court minutes for Burke and Hare- convicted resurectionists.

The tour and presentation was very informative and professional. I was a bit surprised to see how many patrons were utilizing the libraries services, but I guess I shouldn't be if the the statistics above are correct! This is a popular place for locals and tourists alike!

Visit them online at http://www.nas.gov.uk/ don't forget about all of their other sites, too!

Central Library, Edinburgh

The staff of about 60 members handles a collection of over 850,000 items. There is a separate
building for the Children's Library, as well as the Music Library. The Music Library has proven to be very popular for patrons in this area. It is one of the largest collections of music and dance material in the UK. l I loved the vibe in this section-there was music playing and people seemed very at ease here. It was a great example of libraries becoming more modern, more of a social center-and moving away from the boring stereotype. One disadvantage of the space is that it is only accessible by stairway, however the material can be sent to the main library or go out for inter-library loan. Services offered include resources for music teachers, tours, sales, concerts, exhibits, using DVDs and Walkmans and more.

The Children's Library was small but inviting. Space has become an issue for this branch-isn't that generally the case! They are participating in the national summer reading program, Quest Seekers. The students get prizes and participate in events while checking off a list of good summer reads. Some services offered are story time for children under 5, homework information books, comics, toys and games, computers, gaming and more. They started Bookstart Edinburgh in February 2000, which gives free book packages to babies at 4 months, and 12-15 month immunizations. It also includes an invitation to join the library and hundreds of families have joined a library in their area. In 2007 the Bookstart program expanded and they offered another set of free books, called Treasure Chest, for three year olds.

*photo courtesy of http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/internet/leisure/libraries/your_nearest_library/Central%20Library

We had a chance to meet with some members of the Reading and Learning Team. They spearhead campaigns to help children in group homes and help them learn to love the library. Children in these situations tend to view reading as a chore and want to rebel against it as a whole. The librarians have to show them that reading can be fun (I know, I sound like a librarian!) and hope it leads to a love of learning in general. The best advice they gave was know your local community and have confidence in what you do. Kids can sense if you believe in what you teach and being truly confident gives them the chance to develop their own confidence. Reading opens doors and the I could feel how much the librarians here wanted to help these children by giving them a positive introduction to the library. It must be very difficult but rewarding work to watch the progression; because how could a person not love the library?!

This visit proved to be informative and the librarians were wonderful. It was very valuable to sit and discuss issues faced in the library profession and compare ways to overcome them. They gave us very cute bags with a "free library books...priceless" quote and the City of Edinburgh Council logo. Everyone was so welcoming and very interested in speaking with us. Anyone else notice a trend here in Scotland...?

Photo courtesy of http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/internet, where there is a lot of useful information about the area.

Check out their site at

National Library of Scotland

*photo from http://www.nls.uk/info/readingrooms/index.html

What I love about a library is that at any time, and anywhere, a library can exceed its own expectations. This is what happened when I visited this particular library. One would expect a library: stacks of books, librarians, media, maybe special collections, local treasures. Little did I know I was in for so much more.

History of Library:
In 1689 a group of six lawyers began the Library of Advocates. In 1925 it became the National Library, one of Europe's major research library and later the largest in Scotland. The National Library became a copyright library in 1710 to give an indication as to the size of their collection. Today their focus is on the history and culture of Scotland rather than collecting every book published in the UK. The visitor center was just opened this year and boasts a new exhibit area, gift shop, cafe, computers and information point. Their goal is to increase and improve access to the library collection. The staff works on educational programs with schools and families, outreach programs and retrospective acquisitions. According to the website, the library is governed by a board of trustees and managed by a team of directors under the guidance of the National Librarian (http://www.nls.uk/about/nls/index.html).

The library aims to build relationships with local authors to keep modern Scottish culture alive and preserved. The atmosphere here is more interactive than most libraries I've visited. Their goal is to engage people and get them reading and this is done through the various exhibits and collections. With 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps, 32,000 videos, 25,000 magazines and 6,000 new items per week, this can be daunting but incredible to materialize! Their collection ranges from British collections, business, digital, foreign, manuscripts, maps, music, newspapers, rare books, publications, science and technology, and film and video from the last 100 years. Preservation is done on site-and is nationally and internationally recognized as a "centre of excellence" (http://www.nls.uk/about/preservation/index.html).

There was a fantastic exhibit called "The Original Export: Stories of Scottish Emigration". This is what I love about a library-that it can take it's collection and arrange it in such a matter that it tells its own story. There were suitcases filled with letters and journals - you can listen to them being read on a phone nearby. Artifacts like clothing and mementos of the time, poetry, maps, film and music outline the four stages of the emigration. These stages include Preparing to go, Getting there and settling in, Building a community, and Identity and belonging. It was a very heart wrenching exhibit and I felt the hope of the emigrants through their letters. I loved how they used luggage tags to display text for each item displayed-it made it feel much more personal. Toward the end of the exhibit there was a large display showing how people who immigrate are connected. People from all over the world filled out luggage tags with their story of emigration and hung them on the wall to share. The people behind the items were really brought to life.

Visit them online at http://www.nls.uk/ Their digital collection has many interesting items.

Feminist Library

The Feminist Library is tucked away in a building that barely housed its collection. The small library is run by volunteers but according to the volunteer that day, they have a very good reputation. According to a publication by the Friends of the Library, they are recognized as "the most significant library of contemporary feminist material in England". Although the physical space is small, the collection was vast. The atmosphere felt friendly and informal. It did not feel like a typical library to me, it was more like a little book shop down a side street. There were three large rooms, full to the brim with books, magazines, posters and pamphlets. Sadly, their collection is on the verge of being split up because the library-you guessed it, can not get funding. For a very special, 'special library', that will be a sad day.

The picture below is an example of a 'zine' or magazine I found at the library. It is aimed at children, more specifically girls. It is sending the message of equality and imploring girls to look at themselves in a different light. Once they achieve this others will perceive them in a different way and the cycle of sexual discrimination can end. This magazine was written by children, for children, and had a very positive, strong message. I like how it played on the toys 'Bratz' for girls, and showed them how this is not a good way to be portrayed. I don't know of any kids in my life that play with these dolls so I never really thought about it, but now that I do, it seems so silly! Why would girls want to be viewed as a brat and valued only for their looks and fashion sense? What are we teaching this generation? This zine explores that concept and helps lead children to discover their own values.

One article that struck me was 'If Barbie was a Real Woman'. The article went on to describe all of the health issues Barbie would have because she is too skinny, too small and completely out of proportion. What message is this sending to young children growing up playing with these dolls? It may seem inconsequential because it is just a doll, but since being at the Museum of Childhood, I know that it is not just a doll. The article then goes on to ask children to draw their own version of Barbie-and give their thoughts on this concept. The magazine had many interesting stories and ideas.

It is interesting to see how a library with such great materials can not get funding to continue their work or even pay their staff. There is much to debate about a library at this stage. If these items are split up into different libraries, will the collection maintain it's intended message? Will another library hold these items in such high regard as the Feminist Library? On the other hand, if they go to a bigger library with more funding, perhaps the collection on whole can benefit from more exposure. The overall goal is to make these items more accessible to patrons, so maybe the public will have better usage of these great resources. Only the future will tell...

Currently, the libraries collection is jammed packed into rooms like the one pictured above. There were hand made labels and signs for everything. I could see this as being confusing and unorganized, but the staff seems to be able to find things when they need them! Why is space always an issue for libraries?

They do not have a website, but if you are in London you can visit them at 5 Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth London, SE1 7XW. Call ahead-remember they may split the collection and not even exist in the near future!

Friday, 24 July 2009

V&A Museum of Childhood

Young or old, this is a museum not to miss!

This was one of the most fun museums I had the opportunity to visit. If the goal of a children's museum is to teach and entertain both the child and the adult, this was a sure success. It was very interesting to see toys from so long ago, toys that I grew up with, and finally toys from today. There were so many different areas for children to explore and learn-I even had a blast doing so! According to the website, "The V&A Museum of Childhood houses the UK's national collection of childhood-related objects, one of the finest in the world. Spanning the 1600s to the present day, the collection features toys, dolls, dolls' houses, games, puppets, nursery, children's clothing and furniture" ( http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/collections/).

Most displays start with text explaining the relevance of toys as learning devices. It was amazing to see the progression of toys through the last few hundred years. What was most interesting to me, is that toys have not changed much! Children still play with the same type of things, and in a very similar way! The only things that have changed are the materials, sometimes shape and design, and basic manufacturing.

This is an example of how some items and concepts are displayed. The display case explains the importance of toys not only for amusement but for their inherent learning qualities. This is a great learning museum for children as it encourages them to actively think about the displays, not just passively view them. Inside most displays were plaques with analytical questions to get people thinking more in depth about the exhibit. Engaging children in active learning sets them up to appreciate the museum because they are truly considering the items on display. Some displays ask them to examine items, imagine concepts, or simply encourage creative learning.

Part of the exhibit displayed common items like old highchairs, baby bottles; the basics needed for caring for a child. Some of them, like the bottle, were barely recognizable. It was interesting to see the change, and I think children would really find this funny. The picture above is asking visitors to actively think about how items familiar to them have changed through time. It is different when you read about history-you have to paint your own pictures or look at one in a book. By being able to compare a very old bottle to what a child would recognize as a bottle today, it's easier to see the progress that was made and it becomes more memorable. That's the beauty of a museum.

Children can also participate in daily events and seasonal activities. According to their website, they have an "excellent education programme with popular teaching sessions and resources linked directly to the National Curriculum".

This display was successful in showing the timeline of fashion for children from the 1750s until today. My only issue with it was that I don't think it accurately portrayed the current fashion for children today-however it is 2009 and the trends are constantly changing. Then again, if they pick one outfit to represent the 2000s and it seems misrepresented-who is to say the other outfits do justice for their time? That, I will have to leave in the trained hands of these professionals.

This is the 'Make Believe' corner-one of the many little areas that children can take a break from looking around and just play. Ah-ha, fooled you too! When I say 'just play', sure I mean 'play' but I also mean learning disguised as play! All of the play areas attract children because they are so fun and colorful, but they are also fine tuning certain skills and developing new ones. This corner stimulates the imagination and helps children distinguish identity.

History of the museum:
In 1855 Prince Albert proposed the construction of a building in South Kensington to house items from the Great Exhibition of 1851. This exhibit is what made libraries and museums gain popularity with the general public. The iron structure of the Museum of Childhood building was once part of the original V&A Museum. It was transported to Bethnal Green, its current home, and reconstructed in the late 1860s. I found it interesting that the marble floor was made by women prisoners from Working gaol. The Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) opened the museum in 1872. 1.5 million visitors had passed through the doors in it's first year of operation! The original collection consisted of food, animal products, and French art from the 1700s. It was not until Arthur Knowles Sabin was the Officer-in-charge from 1922-1940 that the collection was directed towards children. Activities, children's visits, educational programs and displays were all developed to cater to children. Donors generously helped to fund this project, one of them being Queen Mary.

Their site is very fun, take a virtual tour!! Go to http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Most fitting, the coat of arms proudly displayed is an open book. Today the library is part of the Copyright Act, so their collection grows constantly. The first library here was built in 1320. Sir Thomas Bodley gave his own time, money and books to expand the library, which was opened to students in 1602. He devoted his life to expanding the library space and collection. He asked his friends to will their library collections to this library, which furthered it's size and importance.

There was a wonderful exhibit, An Artful Craft, which gave an overview of historic collections of unique book bindings. Historic Bookbindings from the Broxbourne Library and other Collections featured rare books of various textures, materials, and structures. They were beautiful and still so carefully preserved. The collection displayed important bindings from the 12th century up through modern day.The bindings are made from different materials, techniques, and to serve different purposes.

Visit them online at http://www.ouls.ox.ac.uk/bodley

V & A National Art Library and Museum

National Art Library

The National Art Library is closed access because it is a reference library. They use Dewey, but also use their own in house system that is classified by size. It was interesting to learn how the Great Exhibit of 1851 lead to an increased interest in libraries and museums for the general public.
Funding for this library comes from the main museum and the DCMS. The collection grows daily and is currently numbered at around 2 million items and 75,000 being books. Items come from all over the globe and in every language, as long as they are related to art. The majority of the budget is spent on journals, which I found to be interesting. They receive and send out many exchange books and gifts with other libraries around the world. The special collections focus on the 'art' of the book, and design through history. Only a small percentage of the collection is digitized because of costs and time constraints.

We had the opportunity to view some incredible items, like medieval manuscripts from the 15th century. One of Shakespeare's first folios was on display as well as a hand written John Keats piece. Another treasure was a 1st edition copy from 1853of Bleak House by Dickens that he proof read and marked this original copy! It was incredible to have the chance to see these items, and not behind glass!

Beautiful, isn't it? What a treasure! It was an honor to be given such free access to these items. Sure I've seen a few behind glass, but nothing beats being this close to one of the first folios! History at my fingertips...

This is one of the mid-evil manuscripts, notice how bright and beautiful the colors are still.

The National Art Museum

I could have spent days here! This is one museum that I spent the most time in and still felt like I might have missed something (and I bet I did). I was there until closing and still, there was not enough time. When I think of an art museum, this is NOT what comes to mind. I'm glad the V&A was able to change my perception. There was fashion, jewelry, costumes, theater, furniture, ceramics, photography, and much, much more! Of course there was what I expected of an art museum, a portrait gallery, paintings, drawings and sculptures.

We had too much fun playing dress up in the exhibits for costumes! Behind me and Cassie, you will see a dressing room with authentic items from Kylie Minogue. Not all that interesting in terms of musical selection, but very fun collection all the same!

*Photo courtesy of Lauren Dodd :)

I implore you, visit them online! http://www.vam.ac.uk/index.html
You will not be disappointed.

Monday, 20 July 2009

British Museum

*photo courtesy of britishmuseum.org

The British Museum was founded in 1753 and contains collections from across the globe. There are roughly six million visitors per year and admission is free! It was very crowded and pretty warm but well worth it. There was not enough time in one day to enjoy all this museum had to offer.

The British Museum holds the Parthenon Sculptures, which were extremely impressive. The entire collection of remaining sculptures is divided between six different countries with the most being in Athens and London, and some in the Louvre and the Vatican. The pieces in London are sometimes known as the 'Elgin Marbles' and have been in this museum since 1817. There is much of a debate about these items being here and not in Athens. You can read more about the debates on their website, or at www.culture.gr.

Other interesting objects were the Egyptian mummies and artifacts. This was what I wanted to see first, and where I spent a lot of my time wandering and pondering. There were even mummified cats!

There is also the children's section which offers free art materials, free access to the online collection, and children's books. There are free family activities every day, and 'Hamlyn family trails' that guide children's exploration and understanding of the library. It is fantastic that children are encouraged to love museums at such an early age. This can set them up for greater understanding and appreciation of culture and learning. It is important that children see the museum and library as a place that is fun and affords diverse activities that they enjoy. This is certainly the place for children to realize this concept!

The Hamlyn library contains over 18,000 items and is reference only-not a lending library. Unfortunetly I did not have a chance to see inside the library but according to their website, their collection has over 18,000 items. The collection contains information about the exhibits and various cultures displayed in the museum. I found it interesting that the library is a serious reseach library, and at the same time they hold regular storytelling sessions for children. Great balance!

*Photo by Lauren Dodd :)

Visit the museum's website at www.britishmuseum.org

National Maritime Museum

July 20

For a museum that I did not expect to have much interest in, I was very intrigued by the Maritime Museum and Library. The original library opened in 1937. Sir James Caird is credited with forming the basis of the library, therefore it is named in his honor. The Caird Library is rich with its original oak bookcases and treasures behind glass doors.

This is one of the largest maritime libraries in the world. The collection covers emigration, navigation, piracy, astronomy, naval architecture, and the Navy. There are rare books, journals, charts, maps and manuscripts. Currently they have about 3 to 4,000 library users per year, and 15-18,000 electronic library users. Due to construction, the library is only open three days per week instead of the usual six. The library is funded by the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and major private donations. The staff, including head librarian, consists of about thirteen members.

In order to open the collection further, the goal is the digitize more of the items but as always, funding is an issue. The first priorities for electronic access is family history accounts and then crew lists-because these are so extensive and used to trace family heritage.

Rene explained the rare books in the Caird Library, and Mike went over the manuscripts. I held in my hand a very tiny, old relic book. According to library legend, it is made out of the wood of the wreck it tells the history of. The Royal George at Spithead went down in August of 1782-and each book varies a bit in its account. The in-house conservation team of four has done a flawless job at keeping these books in top form. Another interesting item was the first book published in the Antarctic in 1908.

There is an electronic library that can be accessed only from inside the museum, but you can visit the library and see some of it's collection at their website, http://www.nmm.ac.uk/.

Sunday, 19 July 2009



Shakespeare Library

Stratford-upon-Avon, The Shakespeare Library

There is something to say about a library whose main focus and collection revolves around one of the greatest writers in history. The opportunity to visit this library and receive a behind the scenes tour was amazing. Shakespeare has never come alive to me in the way it did during this visit. Although I have read and studied his work extensively, I have never had the chance to see and touch first hand resources from his time. The picture above shows the first poster, printed in 16--, to advertise for his first show.
This particular library contains a reading room open to the public, and a basement full of stacks with some very spectacular books. It is a reference only library but the reading room and library services are free. To access the rare books, you need an actual academic reason since the items are delicate. The collection contains local items from the 12th century, documents, maps, books, pamphlets videos, photos and more. It contains the only surviving letter written to Shakespeare. This collection grows almost every day, as they receive donations and items.


Not only did I get to visit this library, but was able to see the play As You Like It, which was a first for me. I laughed, I literally cried-mostly from joy and wonder, and did not want it to end.

Before the play, I had the opportunity to walk around this beautiful town. The beauty of the River Avon truly struck me, as well as the incredible church where Shakespeare is buried.

The Museum of London

This exhibit displays the notion of "London before London" in a very effective manner. It is the largest urban history museum in the world, and has over 400,000 visitors each year. The goal of the display is to convey the message of people through evidence, the river-and it's spectacular finds, climate change and atmosphere, and the legacy this has left behind. It focuses on people as individuals, place and landscape. People generally don't recognize these elements when they think of pre-history. Also, schools in this area do not cover pre-history!! Their lessons begin with the Roman invasion, which I thought was very interesting. London before London encompasses the time periods of 450,000 BC- AD 50.

The museum is laid out so you walk along the River Wall and view the items that have been found in the river through time and see how life progressed since 450,000 BC. The other side of the wall is the Landscape Wall. It was interesting to see the development of London through time in displays such as Carving out A Home 4000-1500BC, to Moving Beyond the Valley 700BC-AD 50.

Some of the things that really impacted me and brought out the intended message were the skulls and weapons dated from 1300-1000 BC. It is incredible to think that these skulls were people like us once and that we look like that underneath. Another item was a piece of wood from the first London Bridge dating from 1700-1200 BC. It is humbling to know we are not the first, and will not be the last. It makes me wonder if people from the past thought they would have this much of an impact on the future, or be held in such high regard.

This tablet is from the Old London Bridge and says 'Annodni/1509'. The bridge was supported by the income it received from renting 139 houses and shops, tolls, and private donations.

This little piece of history is part of the remains of a fort built by the Romans when London was called Londinium. It was used not only as a fort, but mainly as a home for the soldiers since they did not live with civilians. It was only discovered in the 1950s.
There are some really great resources on the museum's website.
Get a close up of this incredible wall by visiting: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/learning/features_facts/digging/army/s1.html

Check the rest of the museum out too! http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/English/

Saturday, 18 July 2009

British Library

The British Library holds over 150 million items and is part of the copy right act. All books printed must have one copy deposited here. All of the services offered are free and the majority of their income is generated from donations. This serves as a reference library only, books or items can not be checked out. It is mainly used for academic research, although with the gift shop, cafe and wonderful reading rooms and garden, it is increasingly becoming a cultural center for people to gather. It is so massive, that half of the building is underground, and they are hoping to expand in the future.

Their collection of over 14 million books was a sight to behold. King George 3rd left behind his gorgeous collection, pictured above with his statue, with the requirement that all the books be stored in one place, and they would be accessible to all. These books are so carefully preserved and cared for, that this is still possible today. In order to retreive a book you must place an order and a librarian will deliver it.

It was incredible to use the interactive 'Turning the Pages' software that made it possible to leaf through the virtual pages of some incredible selections-like Mozart's musical diary, and da Vinci's sketches! Check out http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/virtualbooks/index.html to do the same!

The wonder of this library so far does not even include their collection of "treasures" and treasures they were! Behind the glass, I spied an original Alice in Wonderland book, the first major book printed in England from 1530, and a book of Gospels in Greek from 995, just to name a few. The Magna Carta was incredible, of course, and had a room of it's own. This is not a pun on Virginia Woolf-although I did see a copy of Mrs. Dalloway from 1925! Walking through the gallery made me feel like my undergraduate studies were coming alive right in front of me! Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Marlowe's 1616 edition of Dr. Faustus, Jane Austen's Persuasion from 1815, and some Shakespeare items from 1595 were all in front of my face. This has been a major highlight of my trip so far.

There is also an online gallery, and you can see it at http://www.bl.uk/

The picture above with the rows of stacks was probably the most fun. As you walk towards it, the stacks dance out and seem to come at you. It was a 3-dimensional piece, but you can barely tell until you are right up close to it.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

St Paul's Cathedral Library

St. Paul's Cathedral has existed in one form or another at this site for about 1,400 years. Walk up the beautiful spiral staircase (picture the Harry Potter staircase!) and behind closed doors is a fantastic old library-closed to the public. Unlock with a great, old fashioned key and enter a world of incredibly preserved books and the classic smell of an old library. The library at St. Paul's Cathedral was seriously impressive and left me in awe. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed the original collection, however it was built up again starting in 1712. The image here, obtained from http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Library, shows a small corner of the library that I was able to feast my eyes upon.

Joe Wisdom, Librarian, imparted some very interesting knowledge of this gorgeous, old cathedral and library. We were able to access a few areas that are usually closed to the general public. How lucky I felt to be standing among books that dated from the early 1600s and covered topics from theology, philosophy, church history and more. It was overwhelming to take in a room full of history so carefully preserved, from rare manuscripts, books, and artifacts behind glass windows. To witness these artifacts and to imagine the time and hands they have passed through is an incredible opportunity. The masonry and design of the room emitted an aura of learning-from the sculpted wheat, grapes and books on the walls, to the tall stacks full of historic wonder. The librarians strive for minimal intervention-so while we could not walk around the room I was still able to appreciate the conservation of over 20,000 historic items.

See for yourself at http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Library

Barbican Library

Children's Library
Today we took a stroll to the Barbican Library where I visited the children's section. The librarian was very kind and full of useful information. Being there and speaking with her reminded me of why I want to be a children's librarian. The atmosphere is very inviting and colorful. It is apparent that the staff is very involved in the library and truly take their jobs to heart.

Schools come to visit as a group, and the library does outreach to certain schools that can't make it to them. If there is a specific project a class is working on, the librarians organize a project loan-which contains books and resources for the classroom to work on regarding a certain academic area.

Their summer reading program is called Quest Seekers and is all about fantasy. The children are encouraged to read six books in six weeks, and will get a sticker and prize after every two books they finish. Painted on the glass window is a large green dragon with a big open body and tail. There are a few colorful circles inside that contain a child's name and the title of the book they read. Upon completion of program, the goal is to have the dragon's body filled with these colorful 'scales' - evidence of the great work and fun the children participated in.

The storytelling area is just charming, and reminds me of the elementary school I attended. I always loved having a unique area to read in, and that is what kept me so interested in reading. At the Barbican, they have book shelves with steps built in so the kids can sit and listen, and at the same time it doubles as a book shelf! There is one main chair for the story teller and directly next to it is a cave display with a stuffed dragon inside. I heard one frightened child tell his father, "No-don't touch it!". His father assured him it was a nice baby dragon, and proceeded to creep up to the dragon, pet him and jump! There are bean bag chairs and books arranged in colorful boxes on the floor-which I think is great for kids to be able to access. It looks more fun than the typical book shelves-although there were plenty of those as well.

There is one main librarian, one full time assistant and 8 clerks. The city of London pays for them to get their degree as long as they promise to work in exchange. What a great opportunity! Also, the city pays for Book Start-a program where children get a pack of free books and activities from birth - age 5. Starbucks funds three programs a year, all of which seem very in depth and fun. Participation is very high at this branch, and the librarian owes it to getting to know your patrons, and advertising events. These were the two key pieces of advice she gave us. She also said to not worry about making a fool of yourself in front of the kids-just have fun and get into your role. Because of the wonderful job they do at the Barbican, the program is growing rapidly. One story time, there was attendance of over 70 kids! After that, they decided to break it down by age even more. Currently, there are events for infants up through the teens.

For those of you interested in music, there is a special Music Library with a very unique collection. Regretfully, I did not have time to visit it- but you can see for yourself online at http://www.musicpreserved.org.uk/