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

Thursday, 15 July 2010

National Art Library

V&A Museum, National Art Library

Made up of over one million volumes, this closed access library offers books, manuscripts and periodicals on fine and decorative art, craft and design from all periods.  There is an online catalog detailing items acquired since 1987.    The Centre Room seats up to 20 readers, offers self-service copy  machines, digital cameras for rare/fragile items, and the Enquiry Desk.  The Reading Room, where you first walk in, has camera stands to hook up your own digital camera and is a silent room.  New patrons can attend an induction class that will show them how to navigate the library and its resources, reserve books, a seat and utilize the catalog. 

This exhibit outside the library is by Rintala Eggertsson and is called "Ark".  It is a giant wooden library tower.  I was immediately drawn to it, and would have stayed in there all day reading!! It reminded me of this wooden ship one of my school libraries had when I was growing up.  That is one of my favorite memories of reading and one reason I originally wanted to become a children's librarian.  So many good memories! 
The National Art Library does not use a classification system-they shelve by size because of the scope of their collection.  The goal is the preserve the collection rather than outsource for conservation.  Single issue items are usually outsourced for binding however funding is limited at a time like this and items are currently not being bound.  Items are not weeded which offers a comprehensive look at the history of art. To preserve items, there is a machine that creates a box or envelope to the specifications needed.  Enter the dimensions, and this machine will develop an acid free container to house the item for safe keeping. 

Currently the staff consists of about 30 members, however this number is decreasing.  Also decreasing is library space, as the museum tends to need gallery space for their increasing collection.  There is one gallery area that used the be all library space.  Shelves actually are locked to prevent the public from taking books down.  I thought this would increase circulation for the library but there are no statistics to indicate so.  The public going through the gallery can easily see there is a library available, which is a fact that could have been out of sight.  The only downside is that if a patron wants a book from that section, a librarian needs to get a screw driver to access the item! 

In viewing the special collections, I found myself sitting inches away from a Shakespeare first folio from 1623.  It contains all plays in one work and is considered the most authentic because it is by the Kings Players, those who actually performed the shows.

Is it:
A) art
B) a book
C) both?!

I didn't want to give it away, but it's both!  This item is a book sculpture made from a desk.

copyright skull and crossbones!

Visit them online at

The V&A is one of my favorite museums. They have seven miles of gallery space, almost all free.  There are additional Study Rooms to get a closer look at items like the Prints & Drawings room, RIBA Architecture room, South & South-East Asia and Textiles study room.  Some are self-services, however most follow the closed access model of the main library.

Search the study room catalogs at

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

London Library

The London Library is an independent arts and humanities library that dates from 1841.  It is the largest independent library in the world, and patrons pay a yearly fee to use the collection and resources.  Membership offers "affordable sustenance for the mind and the soul" and "stacks of inspiration".  Recently they have experienced a major renovation that increased their space by 30% and will allow for considerable growth for roughly the next 25 years.  This library has a wealth of history and key literary figures like Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and T.S Eliot to name a few, have used this library for research. 

An interesting note is that they do not weed anything unless it is a duplicate.  The historical provenance of an item is what makes the collection so special and comprehensive.  Items are cataloged by subject to allow for easy browsing.  This also gives readers the full range of a subject by grouping old and new items together, as well as items in other languages. Items are loaned out for as long as needed, provided no other patron is waiting for it.  There are no late fees and items can also be mailed anywhere in Europe for just the cost of postage.  Collections include some rare items dating from the 16th century and span over 50 languages.  Roughly 8,000 items are added the collection yearly.  Some quick facts: there are over one million books, in two thousand subjects and over 850 current periodicals.  Browse the open stacks and take advantage of the serendipity of this arrangement.  Subjects range from children's books, anecdotes, art, biographical collections, bibliographies, fiction, history, genealogy & heraldry, guide books, law, literature, religion, science & miscellaneous, societies and topography.  Don't want to join as a yearly member?  Temporary day passes are only £10 and weekly is only £30. 

The Times Room

It was very interesting to visit a library of this type, I have never experienced a subscription library before.  Librarians here offer the highest lever of service to their patrons and guide readers on how to use the multiple reading rooms and services.  The building was interesting in that it was an old townhouse, converted and now with other buildings added on to easily merge the collections.  It was one of the first steel structures to be built in London, and you can still see the steel grates today. Don't drop a book through the slits!

The Art Room collection

The conservation studio was the most interesting part of the tour.  The librarian had photos of the collection prior to her adding her was a bit disorganized to say the least.  Entire collections were reorganized and items were arranged in a more suitable style for patrons as well as preservation. This involved moving over 14 kilometers of books, shelves, binding books, training staff in proper handling and basic conservation as well as categorizing books that are not able to be sent out in the post. 

Visit to check out their services and apply for membership.  The Electronic library is only available to members.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Royal Observatory, Greenwich

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich is the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian of the world.

The jewel of their collection, at least for me, was Harrison's 1759 prize-winning longitude watch called H4 (for his fourth watch). H1, H2 (was out for conservation work) H3 and H4 were all on display here.  There is an interactive display that reminds me of the British Library's Turning the Pages digitization of objects for a closer look. Also on display was Harrison's Regulator that only lost one second in 100 days.  His closest competition lost 1 second per seven days!  After reading Dava Sobel's Longitude this was a highlight to experience since I did not go here last year.  

The Time Ball

This is the Flamsteed House, the original Observatory building at Greenwich. Designed by (guess who) Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, it was built in 1676 for the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed.  The ball on top was first used in 1833 to tell time for ships on the Thames.  At 12:55 the ball begins to rise, and falls at exactly 13:00.

 I'm on one side of the hemisphere. Now I'm on the other!  Every location is measured in terms of its distance east or west from this line.

Visit their site at

Friday, 9 July 2010

American Library in Paris

Literature. Learning. Culture. Community

In the midst of being lost in language, The American Library in Paris was like a little slice of home.  This subscription library opened in 1917 in order to serve U.S. service personnel.  It was founded by the American Library Association.  In 2009 the library expanded the reading room and increased their computer access.  The collection has grown to offer over 120,000 books, 300 periodicals, multi-media, online databases, programs, a bi-weekly e-newsletter that reaches over 4,000 patrons, and more.   I found it interesting that this was the first library on the continent to offer Braille books in English in 1955. During the months of July and August the library is closed on Sundays. 

According to their Web Site, their vision and mission is as follows,


The American Library in Paris celebrates the written word and the life of the mind. It is constantly renewing its purpose in Paris as a center for literature, learning, culture, and community.


  • To provide access in France to what is best in English-language books, periodicals and other materials by sustaining and extending a varied and enduring collection.
  • To provide the services of a contemporary American public library.
  • To encourage and support reading in English by children and young adults.
  • To act as an educational support center for people of all ages on their pursuit of formal instruction or personal growth.
  • To promote better understanding between France and the United States by making available the artistic, historical and business record of the American experience to an international audience.
Our group had a brief tour of the library.  I was invited back to help with activities in the children's department the next day, however I was already booked on another tour.  The children's room was small but comparable to other UK and US libraries.  It seemed like a great learning environment for children.  There are 10,000+ books, 1,000 audio visual items, 15 magazine subscriptions and programs for all ages.  Story time readings are called "Lap Sit" for 1-3 year olds.  There is no registration for programs unless they are for special events.

On one of the brochures there is a picture of the Statue of Liberty, with the Eiffel Tower in the background, reading a book titled American Library in Paris.  They have clever marketing and outreach to promote their services.  Outside of the library was a cart full of books all marked FREE.  Our professor thought we were going to town buying books, not realizing they were marked free.  I added a few quick summer reads to my collection and then ended up donating them to another library before leaving the UK.  

I think it is very important for Americans to have a library like this in a foreign country.  I was only in Paris for a few days, and felt pretty overwhelmed with the language barrier and being out of the loop from American happenings.  This is a great place to go for American materials.  Even though it is a subscription library, it is well worth the rate if you consider how much it cost to purchase books, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, etc.  I know I would rather give my business to a library than a book store any day of the week.

Visit their site at

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

British Museum Archives tour

This year our class was fortunate enough to take a tour of the central archives at the British Museum.  Stephanie Clarke, the Museum Archivist, offered us a behind the scenes tour that winded through the basement of the museum.  Here we saw some pretty important documents and learned about the way information is arranged and preserved.  There are eight archival departments, divided by geographic location of the major collections.  While not all departments have professional Archivists, Stephanie and her staff help them where they can and provide advice as needed.  The archives team are not actually a part of the library, however they are considered to be part of legal services.  This includes records management, freedom of information and data protection, among other aspects.  

Archival documents include a series of six subjects; governance, staff records, finance, building plans, temporary exhibits and records of objects.  These are all documented and saved in books dating back to the foundation of the museum in 1753.  Since preservation is always a concern the information has been transferred to microfilm, which is how the general public usually accesses it.  Since 1753 there has been a book to document donations as well as a book of letters to and from the director. 

The archives collection holds about 8,000 pictures of which we were shown a few of the most fascinating.  Particularly, the photos capturing the destruction from WWII were really devastating, as well as a bomb shell that was found at the museum. Interestingly, this shell is not part of the collection! 

The Natural History Museum archives are also housed in this location since it started here at the British Museum.  There are photos proving how packed the collection was, it is no wonder they had to start a new museum!

Years ago, potential patrons had to supply a letter of reference with their application.  An interesting application we studied was that of a Mr. Thomas Stearns Eliot, for those who know the name!  What is so fascinating about this is that it records all of the addresses where he lived while abroad as well as his intended course of study at the library.  The American Consular wrote his letter of recommendation and cited him a student at Oxford.  We were also shown the signature card for Karl Marx from 1918. 

Ah, the British Museum...

Upon entering the Great Court, pictured above, visitors are greeted by the seven ton Lion of Knidos. Once guarding a tomb on a cliff in Turkey, this colossal marble monster is believed to be from 370-350 BC while others date it around the 2nd century BC.  Either way, massively impressive and a sight to see, it was 'discovered' in May of 1858 and brought to the British Museum.  What interests me in this lion is that the marble to make it travelled across the Aegean Sea from Mt. Pentelikon, near Athens.  What a journey this marvel has endured and the only loss was his eyes, lower jaw and front paws.

Moving on, my next goal was to find this giant arm that I took a picture with last summer.  In keeping with tradition, I had to have another photo.  I learned this time around that this arm is desperately holding onto a container for documents.  It comes from a statue commemorating a king of the Eighteenth Dynasty, about 1390 BC (?). 

Here is the rest of him, so you can realize just how massive it all is:

Outside of the museum there is a recreation of a lush African landscape.  Besides for the apparent natural beauty, I was struck by the description of the landscape.  Everything has another purpose...nothing is wasted.  How did they learn, for example, that the coleonema pulchelllum, or the confetti bush, is a natural insect repellent?! 

Who was the unfortunate soul who discovered this:

Looks good enough to eat, and similar to other plants or flowers that are edible...!

Other fauna is used to treat hard corns, warts,  and boils.  Sap that is poisonous to eat is used to make rubber.  Some are used in traditions such as charms to help crops.  Others like the dioscorea elephantipes, or elephant's foot, is used in multiple ways; medicinal as well as fermenting it to use as a yeast to bake bread.  This was a very interesting perspective and a lovely outdoor exhibit. 

Visit the museum at

They have a great gift shop! Last year I bought a CD that has the sounds of London...saved it for a long time before listening to it (with a big smile on my face)!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Clockmakers' Museum

Photo courtesy of

The photo above captures The  Harrison case.  It contains the famous "H5" clock that John Harrison perfected to solve the problem of longitude.  The cases across contain works by Mudge, Arnold, Earnshaw and other influential clock makers.  

The Library and Collection are funded by the Clockmakers’ Museum and Educational Trust. There is a part-time consultant keeper. The Guildhall Library, where the Museum is located, manages the collection on a daily basis.  

See manuscripts, drawings, and more at

Barbican Public Library

The Barbican Library is located within a community of about 9,000.  Its service area includes the square mile of the "city" of London in which 350,000 people work!  There is a school of music and drama close by that utilizes the collection, however the Barbican Library does not cater to their curriculum.  For events and programs, they sometimes work in conjunction with St. Giles church one of the only local building not destroyed during WWII.  This does, however, cause some friendly rivalry in terms of book sales! 

Below is a bird's eye view of the Music Library at the Barbican.  Although it is a general public library, there is a focus on the arts and this is a very strong department- and one of the few that has a chartered Music Librarian.  The exhibit you see along the wall is actually made up of his personal collection! Along with score sheets and reference materials, there are rows and rows of CDs arranged to look better than a Best Buy.  Something that is interesting and different than the U.S. is that items like world cinema DVDs rent for 2.75 per week and music for 2.50, payable with credit or debit.  This, I think, is a great idea for more than one reason.  My local movie rental store went out of business.  I will never purchase a movie, dvd, book, magazine, newspaper, etc, ever again!  Charging for items like this at the library will not only increase library funds, which face it- is greatly needed these days, but it will also protect local businesses who can't compete with the library's free services.  There is a 3 month rule on new CDs that come out, they can only be listened to inside the library.  This is to stop people from renting the new CD and burning it (within the first 3 months). 

The following photo captures a lot of what is interesting at this library.  The librarian, John Lake, is hilarious as well as very knowledgeable.  Sometimes the public views the library in general as a boring, harsh place.  Librarians like John Lake and everyone else at the Barbican are changing that perception, one patron at a time.  If all librarians could take a page from this book, I think more people would utilize the services at their local libraries.  In his hand, he holds a remote RFID that is not in use at this time.  The library is set up for RFID - self checkout, however some patrons do not know this service is available because the set up is built into the current checkout counters so well that it is barely  noticeable.  The only issue they come across is scanning items like CDs and DVDs and items like Yoko Ono's book that has a foil cover!
Side note: John is also responsible for something that I have been admiring since I arrived in London this summer.  Some of the tubes have 'Music Poems on the Tube' blurbs, pictured below.  Fitting since this library boasts one of the largest music libraries with over 16,000 CDs, listening booths, music tabs and much more.  There was one that had a few lines from the Tempest that described my feelings of summer in London this year...It was really interesting to me to see a librarian's work in action.


Monday, 5 July 2010

Greenwich Maritime Museum, Caird Library

National Maritime Museum, Caird Library:

The library is moving from its original location where it has been in operation since 1937.The rotunda is the only room that will be kept in its original condition.  The new library will better house the collection of immigration, piracy, navigation, astronomy, exploration, naval architecture, Merchant and Royal  Navy as well as geneological resources.  Although the library has been previously redesigned to allow for more readers, the musuem now needs this area for a gallery, and the library needs a larger space.  To give patrons access to the rare books, it is necessary to have a sight line on readers to ensure they are handling the books in the proper manner.  In the span of roughly one year despite being opened limited hours, there were over 2,000 visitors in the library.  Keep in mind the current library is basically hidden from the public- locked behind fire doors.  Patrons must be 16 years of age to use the resources.  Imagine the possibilities when the new library opens! In addition there will be more modern software to allow for online orders. 

The "gems" of the collection include over 8,000 rare books, pre 1850.  The modern books (post 1850) consist of over 100,000 titles. 

Set of Signals from the US Frigate Chesapeake- 1810
Lead in spine so book would sink if it needed to be thrown overboard. 
Ship set sail from Bosten and lost a15 minute duel vs. Britain.
After this loss, the American Navy had to change their codes!
This is where the term "don't give up the ship" originates.  Interesting...

Notice something funny about this map?

Visit their collections online at

British Library tour

While not much has changed in terms of the tour of this National depository library, it is a place that will never get old.  The collection began at the British Museum in 1753 and officially opened at the current location in 1998.  Design began in 1962! It is the biggest public building in the United Kingdom and the busiest research library.  This year we had a glimpse at the delivery room where a one mile long system carries books and delivers them to the appropriate reading room. 

I learned some new facts about the library from our tour guide, Chrissy-who was very knowledgable.  I found it funny that the balcony that overlooks the King George the 3rd's Library is known as Scholar's Leap.  It offers the best view of the library and showcases how massive the stacks of the King's Library are, from floor to ceiling.  It was interesting to learn that if books get wet from the sprinklers (which is better than burned) they will blast freeze them to dry them out.  She said she pictures Tesco's emptying out their frozen peas to make room for the rare manuscripts, like the 10th century manuscript of Beowulf! Something that was pretty incredible to see is the world's largest atlas.  Last year it was closed behind glass, but now it is open on display as part of an exhibit, Magnificent Maps.  I was wondering how mangificent they can truly be, let me tell you- it was incredible.  I've never seen such varying types, sizes and representations.  There were huge map tapestries from 1590...wooden pocket globes from the 1670s,  medieval maps from 1390 that convey their version of the history of civilization, progaganda map posters, and more.  Magnificent, to say the least.

This lovely area allows readers to relax in the garden and get some fresh air. Not that we don't all love the smell of old books :)  

Visit their incredible site at

Be sure to check out their page for Treasures in full.  Flip through the virtual pages of history.

St. Paul's Cathedral Library

Cathedral Library
This library is in the process of cataloging their collection into a database,although it will not be web-based.  It is 85% complete and takes even longer than expected because they do not 'copy catalog' or import from OCLC.  Doing so would create what Joe Widsom refered to as "noise".  Noise refers to copy specific data that makes each monograph unique.  Each item has its own valuable provenance, and individually cataloging an item will retain that exceptional value. 

An interesting note Mr. Widsom spoke of in terms of special collections is rule #1 and rule #2 - never get rid of an outdated catalog.  Although this seems like something a library would weed, as an old catalog is not useful for patrons, it showcases the progression of the collection. 

The earliest item in the collection is a 12th century Book of Psalms.   

Visit their site at