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!