Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Kings College Maughan Library

The tuesday after our break, we had an optional visit to the Kings College academic library, the Maughan Library.  This library was magnificent. I wish all academic libraries could look and run the way the Maughan Library did.

Kings College's libraries are spread over many campuses across London. The Maughan Library is the most substantial of the branches and is also the headquarters of administration. The library houses 1.25 million books, 300,000 ebooks, and 600 databases.

The library seemed to be moving toward a digital set up, as many other libraries we visited have also done. They had self check out machines in the front entrance, near the information desk. I keep seeing these, and similar, machines at the lending libraries we visit and I think they are the most innovative things.

The one thing we were shown that I haven't seen yet at any library is their automated book sorter. The books that are returned are automatically sent through a sorter that checks them in and sends them to the appropriate bin for shelving.  The library's goal is to have everything back on the shelves within 4 hours after they are returned, which I found to be very impressive, considering the size and scope of this library!

 We were told that the library used to be the Public Records office, and because of that the building was built in such a way that if there was ever a fire or a flood, the rooms could be closed off from one another to save the majority of the records.  Now that the building is a library, it is very much like a maze.  There are many rooms that house offices, books, study areas, and lecture halls all throughout the building.

The library has created a map of sorts that breaks each of these areas into "zones" for silent study, quiet work, and discussion areas.  Each reading room and area has a sign to let visitors know which zone they are entering into.  In my opinion, this is an ingenious way to let patrons know when they can talk and when they need to be silent without treating them like children and constantly quieting them or removing them from the space.

The "zone" areas and rules of each zone
Like I said above, I really wish that all academic libraries could look and work as well as this library does. Not to sound cliche, but it definitely seemed like a well-oiled machine at work, and everyone working knew where they were to be and what they needed to do.  The modernization and technologies of the library were also very welcome. Just like I had mentioned in previous blogs, it is so nice to see how a library that has made its home in such an old building can still preserve that history while keeping with the changing face of libraries.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Palace Green Library, Durham, England

During Mini Break, one of my classmates and I visited Durham, England for a day. We had heard that one could book a dorm room in Durham Castle for a night, so we jumped on the chance to say we stayed in a castle! Like everything else on this trip, it was amazing. I think we were giddy about it the entire time we were there!

While in Durham, we had the privilege of taking a tour of Durham University's Palace Green Library, which is the home of the university's special collections library.  The university's librarian, Jon Purcell, gave us a tour of the collections housed in the Palace Green Library, as well as a short history on the library and the castle.

The library was founded in the 17th century by Bishop John Cosin.  One of the collections we visited was Bishop Cosin's library.  Cosin founded his library as a public library for clergy and other scholarly visitors.  The room we visited on our tour was the original place where Cosin built his library. Mr. Purcell told us that there have been modifications to the room to ensure preservation of the materials, but as a whole, the room remains very much like it was when Cosin built it.

Cosin created his own classification system. He had pictures of theologians surrounding the room, and the books by, or about, each theologian were placed underneath each respective picture.  The library has kept this system the same over the years.  Most of the collection is in french, and very rare, and everything has been cataloged for public access.  The room itself is open to the public from 2pm-4pm three days a week.

The collections as a whole were outstanding, and the fact that this library has so many magnificent collections in its possession was just amazing.  Mr. Purcell kept stressing to us that he and his colleagues strive for the libraries and collections to be living. He wants to keep the collections useful and alive.  The library regularly brings local schools and groups in to use and view the collections, and they have recently built a learning center within the Palace Green library for school visits and interactive tours of the library.  Mr. Purcell and his colleagues were very passionate about their work and it was exciting to see a group of workers that involved and that thrilled about the work that they do and the impact it makes on their community.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

J.M. Barrie and Kirriemuir

Statue of Peter Pan in
the Kirriemuir town square

Courtesy of the BBC
So most of you lovely readers know my particular love (see: obsession) with Peter Pan, right?  Well the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, was born in Scotland, in a little town named Kirriemuir which is in the Dundee & Angus region.  During our research day in Scotland, I decided to take a journey to Kirriemuir to see the town as well as the J.M. Barrie Birthplace Museum. I had originally been planning on writing my research paper on J.M. Barrie, but as things go, this did not work out. However, I was still set on visiting the museum.

It was a little more convoluted to get to Kirriemuir than I had originally thought. I had to take a train to Dundee, then walk completely across the town to the bus station to catch a bus to Kirriemuir.  The day I decided to go was very rainy and dreary, which doesn't make for pleasant travel when you know where you are going, let alone when you don't.  Needless to say, by the time I made it to Kirriemuir, I was almost fed up with the whole experience.

But I wasn't going to give up that easily. Who knows when I will have the chance to visit Scotland again?  I got off the bus in the middle of Kirriemuir and began wandering.  Even though the town does not seem like the biggest tourist destination, there were thankfully some signs pointing me toward the house.

For some reason, I was expecting the museum to be bigger and more elaborate than it actually was, but upon more thought, I realized that it was just right; it was supposed to be a recreation of Barrie's childhood home, and it utilized the space very nicely.

The museum shared the space between Barrie's house (number 9) and the adjoining house (number 11). Most of the museum was presented in the upper rooms of Barrie's house, recreated to look as it would have when Barrie lived there as a child.  I was not able to take pictures myself of the inside, as many of the documents and photographs were still under copyright, but I was able to find some online.

The National Trust of Scotland manages the museum, and has created a wonderful museum with the the little they had.  The lady working at the museum informed me that Barrie was one of Scotland's first celebrities, and he was very well known and very popular while still alive. People would take pilgrimages to Kirriemuir to see his house and the gardens where he would perform his first plays as a child.  Barrie loved his hometown and the people that lived there so much that he would give away his possessions to friends and family in Kirriemuir. Much of what was in the museum were items donated to the National Trust from ancestors of these friends and family.

Here are a few images from the inside of the museum, borrowed from the BBC and from National Trust Scotland:

The second picture shows what could very well have been Barrie's office when he got older. From what I was told, the furniture in the room was original to the house, and the desk in the center was Barrie's writing desk.  One really interesting piece of information I learned from this room was that Barrie wrote with both his left and right hand, so there were scuff marks on the desk on both sides from where his arm would rest as he wrote.  Under the glass of the desk was the original screenplay manuscript for Peter Pan. The museum supplied visitors with a copy of the manuscript to flip through and see Barrie's notes written in the margins.

After I visited the museum, I went in search for the Camera Obscura that Barrie donated to the town. Unfortunately, after walking for a good half hour and not finding anything, I had to give up and make my trek back to Edinburgh. I did look at a map later, after I got home and realized that I was most likely very close to making it to the Camera before I turned around, which was extremely disheartening.  Hopefully I will make it back to the town and the museum one day.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Edinburgh Central Library

Courtesy of Brian McNeil via Wikipedia
I have never had any desire to work in a public library system, but I think I could definitely change my outlook on that if I were able to work at the Edinburgh Central Library. I feel like it might be extremely cheesy to say so, but this library just felt so alive. You could tell just by walking inside that it was well used and well loved by its staff and its patrons.

The building itself was one of the oldest on the street. It was funded by Andrew Carnegie, and opened in 1890 as the first public library building in Edinburgh.  When first opened, men and women who used the library were separated while inside.

Our guide first took us to the reference library, which was such a beautiful room. We were told that it has not changed much since the library was first opened, and they still have their original card catalog index, which I know most librarians (including myself) would love to get their hands on for a personal library!

The next space our guide took us to was the Central Children's Library, which I had seen in passing its window at least once a day since we arrived in Edinburgh. It looked like such a neat children's library that I so wanted to find a way inside! And thankfully we got our peek!  The children's library was a new edition to the Central Library, and it was wonderful! I feel like my adjectives are just not doing these places justice.  The children's library was currently hosting the Summer Reading Challenge, where the children had to read 6 books during the summer. They also regularly host teddybear sleepovers, and craft times.  Our guide showed us their craft room, where children and their parents could come at any time to play and create.  The library was split into a room for older children, and a room for babies and younger children. The architecture of the rooms was, again, wonderful. Here are some of the photos I took:
The little children's room

The older children's room

The craft room.  The brown paper object on the table is a paper Nessie!
The Central library is a public lending library like the Barbican, so it is natural that the children's libraries are not as similar to that of the elementary schools back at home.  I was, however, very impressed with the organization of the materials, as well as the vast amount of materials they had for all age groups.  I also loved how much effort they spent into getting the children to come to the library and learn to view the library as a place of learning and fun.  I definitely think with younger age groups it is becoming more and more of a struggle to get these children to enjoy spending time reading or visiting a library, and the Central library's Children's section definitely makes it a fun atmosphere for the kids!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Kew Gardens

I know I've said this same thing about many of the other places we have visited, but I think Kew Gardens might have been one of my favorite tours. It was absolutely amazing, and the materials pulled for us to see were just so beautiful.

Kew Gardens, also called the Royal Botanic Gardens, were founded in 1759, and were private gardens until 1840.  The library itself was established in 1850 and now has over 300,000 books and over 7 million sheets of paper.

Our Guide, Fiona, took us into a hallway outside of the library where she had set up tables filled with books and prints from their collection.  Among these items was their oldest in the collection, which dates from 1370. It is an herbal, or a book about using plants as remedies, and is written entirely in latin.

Every piece Fiona showed us was simply amazing. Here are some pictures I took of the items:

One of the facts Fiona told us that I found particularly interesting was that the best way to identify plants was by having a good illustration.  Many of these books are centuries old, but are still used by botanists today because they are still scientifically important.  The fact that these books aren't simply being saved for the historic value placed on them, but also for their scientific importance was really interesting to learn.

After our tour of the archives, we were free to explore the gardens.  Kew Gardens are the world's most famous gardens, and the world's largest collection of living plants.  We found one of the greenhouses on the grounds and toured each of the rooms, before we headed toward one of the coolest features, in my opinion, of the gardens: the treetop walkway.  Here are some of my pictures of the gardens!

Treetop Walkway