Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Maughan Library

The last library visit! A momentous occasion. While some of the group took the bus, others of us walked over to Chancery Lane to visit the Maughan Library, one of the libraries in the Kings College Libraries system. Sally, the Information Services Manager, greeted us and told us a little about the Library and the College. Kings College was founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829 and now consists of several campuses. We were visiting the Strand Campus. Before moving into its current facility in 2001, the Maughan consisted of 4 libraries, each crammed full of items. The move, into the former Public Record Office, allowed all the collections to be housed together. The building is fireproof (it was the first building in London to be built that way) but as it is a historic building, there were restrictions on renovations and use of space. When we toured the space we noticed the impact of this, including limited signage and areas of shelving that could not be used. The Library contains over 1300 seats (300 of them are at computers) and houses over 750,000 of the 1.3 million total volumes in the Kings College Libraries system. The Library serves the 11,000 students at the Strand campus, as well students from other Kings College campuses. In addition, the College has partnerships with other universities and also serves around 1,000 registered visitors. The move to the new building has allowed the Maughan Library to be open 7 days a week, and during exams the Library is open 24 hours a day.

On our tour of the building (I have never been through so many sets of doors in my life!) we saw a collection of short loan items, containing mostly law books, which students could check out for up to a day. Surprising, the Library also had a collection of DVDs and videos to support the film studies program, and any student could borrow from this collection. We also visited the Special Collections reading rooms. Special Collections consists of printed materials from the late 15th Century to the 21st Century. All items were closed access and had to be viewed in the 12 seat reading room. The librarian there showed us some items from the collection, including an illustrated book from a concentration camp, and a copy of a medical book that had recipes and astrological notes from its owner written inside. Fascinating.

Images courtesy of the King's College website.

National Archives of Scotland

For our final stop on our whirlwind Scottish libraries tour we went to the National Archives of Scotland. The National Archives is an agency of the Scottish government and has a staff of about 160 people. Its goals are "To preserve, protect, and promote the nation's records" and "To provide the best possible inclusive and accessible archive that educates, informs, and engages the people of Scotland and the world" (information from a presentation to our class). The Archives consists of 2 divisions, Record Services and Corporate Services, housed in 3 buildings. These buildings contain over 70 km of records. Records date from the 12th Century to the 21st Century and consist of such materials as taxation records, church records, maps and plans, government records, wills and testaments, and railway records. The Archives receives from 10,000-12,000 enquiries a year, quite a sizable amount! There is no charge for basic enquiries, but due to the amount of requests, staff are not able to do research for enquirers, only point them in the right direction. Extra services, such as looking at or printing digital records, requires payment. Archives staff also maintain 8 websites. Websites include the Scottish Archive Network, the Scottish Register of Tartans, and the National Register of Archives for Scotland as well as the online catalogue, containing over 3 million records.

The original building housing the Archives, the General Register House, was opened in 1847 and now functions at the ScotlandsPeople Centre, where people can trace their family history. The Archives grew at a rapid pace and required more space. The West Register House opened in 1971 and the Thomas Thomson House opened in 1994. The Archives are also constantly updating their services. The online catalogue is being updated to contain all items, the Church of Scotland records, valuation rolls, and other items are being digitized, and the ScotlandsPeople Centre has been formed. At this point I wished I had some Scottish blood in me so that I could trace my family history (maybe I do and I just do not know it).

We also went on a guided tour of the Archives, where we were saw the fabulous Robert Adams Rotunda in the center of the building (the General Register House) and some interesting mobile shelving. Upon our return to our presentation room, we were able to look at some of the items in the Archives. I looked at a cookery book and a letter that had words going all directions, so as to maximize the use of the paper. A few of us became fascinated (perhaps too fascinated) by an outpatient record book and puzzled over some mysterious ailments contained in its pages. All in all a very interesting visit.

Dunfermline Carnegie Library

Well, I am sorry to say that I have returned from my trip. There was so much happening at the end, what with the mini-break and trying to cram everything into the last few days in London, that I got a little behind in the library blog entries. Along with the following entry, I will have two additional entries.

The Dunfermline Carnegie Library, part of the 52 branch Fife Libraries system, is the first of over 2,500 Carnegie libraries in the world. This library is part of the focus for my research paper, which will compare the first Carnegie to a Carnegie in the United States.

The Dunfermline Library officially opened on 29 August 1883 in Andrew Carnegie's hometown (visitors interested in Carnegie's life may stop by the nearby Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum). It was such a success that it ran out of books on the first day! The Library has continued to be popular and has required additions to be built to add more space. A children's room was added on in the 1930s and another addition was constructed in the early 1990s. A museum and art gallery will be added in the near future.

Before our tour I took the opportunity to wander around the Library by myself. The Library used the Dewey Decimal System, and, like other UK libraries, had headings above each section to note their contents. Interestingly, I did not notice any DVDs in the building and later learned that they were not carried at the Dunfermline Library but were available for request from other libraries in the system. After my self-guided tour of the ground floor, our class met up again and we were split into two groups. My group's tour guide, Stephanie, showed us around the Library. In addition to the main lending area and the children's room, the Library is also home to a local and family history room, a reference room, and a special collections room. The local and family history room contained such items as ordnance survey maps, valuation rolls, council minutes, and photographs, all catalogued separately from other Library materials. We were given the opportunity to see the closed stacks area, where more valuable materials are kept. We then moved on the the reference room, part of the original Library structure. Next door to this room was the special collections room, not originally intended for that purpose, and only opened by appointment. In this area was the Murison Burns Collection, containing books and memorabilia about Robert Burns collected by the Scot John Murison.

At the end of the tour we were very kindly served refreshments and had the opportunity to talk further with our guides. I very much enjoyed the Dunfermline Library. I look forward to learning and writing more about this library in my research paper.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Edinburgh Central Library

Next up on our Edinburgh library tour was the Central Library, part of of the Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Services. The Central Library, a Carnegie Library, opened its doors in 1890 and has more than 850,000 items in its collections. I was really excited to be able to visit a Carnegie (I used to work in a couple of them in the States) and I wandered around a bit before the tour began. The Library is made up of several libraries, including the Central Lending Library, the Fine Arts Library, the Reference Library, the Scottish Library, the Children's Library, and the Music Library. (The Children's and Music Libraries are housed in a a separate building). I found the most interesting area to be the one-room Central Lending Library. The room was majestic with its tall wooden shelves and natural lighting. I noticed a collection of Arabic and Chinese books as well as a collection of Quick Reads books, a line with which I was unfamiliar. Quick Reads turned out to be a line of short, easy to read books available in the UK.

After browsing I joined the rest of the group for a talk and tour of the Library. We first heard from the head of Virtual Library development. This library started less than a year ago and is both a portal for online information and a way to raise the Library's profile. It contains e-books, the Heritage Image Collection, and a "Your Edinburgh" community information site that contains links to local and national organizations, health information, as well as other information pertinent to users. I think this is a great way to reach out to users and provide a portal to useful services. The Library also runs a blog and and a Twitter page to connect with the public.

We heard from the head of special collections (containing materials from the 15th century to present) and members of the Reader Development department. The purpose of reader development is to engage with readers to find out if users are satisfied with Library services. They also co-ordinate author events, book groups, staff training programs and other events. Currently, there is a rather interesting summer reading promotion called "Take a Break With a Great Scottish Book." While we have similar departments in the States, this seemed like a great way to keep in touch with users.

I really enjoyed my visit to this library. The staff were kind enough to provide us with refreshments and made us all feel very welcome. Thank you so much!

Photo courtesy of Edinburgh-Scotland.net.

National Library of Scotland

Hello! I have been away for a few days in Scotland (mainly Edinburgh) for a mini-break and am only now getting caught up on the blog. Before the break began our class visited a few Edinburgh libraries. The first was the National Library of Scotland in the center of Edinburgh Old Town. The Library grew out of the Advocates Library (established in 1689) and was only officially established in 1925 by the National Library of Scotland Act. Work began on the first building in 1938 but due to the interference of World War II, it did not open until 1956. As the Library is the legal depository library for Scotland, with 6,000 new items added every week, one building was not enough to house all of the collections. An additional building, the Causeway Building, opened in 1995. The collection consists of 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps and atlases, 300,000 music scores, 32,000 films and videos, and 25,000 newspaper and magazine titles (collection information from the Visitor Centre). These materials comprise 490 languages. To view these materials users are required to register for a card. Registration is open to everyone, and cards are available for short-term use (3 months), or long-term (up to 3 years). Registration forms are available online.

Although we were not able to see any of the collection, we visited two exhibitions in the Visitor Centre. The first contained items from the John Murray Archive, acquired by the Library in 2006. The first John Murray began a book selling business on Fleet Street in 1768 and became an influential publisher. The archive contains materials from the firm's publishing history. I was excited to see letters and other paraphernalia from Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Darwin, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, David Livingstone, and others. The other exhibition contained golf memorabilia.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bodleian Library

I got up bright and early (7:30) on 16 July to get ready for our trip to Oxford to tour the Bodleian Library. We started off our journey by taking the Tube to Paddington Station where I of course had to buy a bear (or two) and then we took the train to Oxford. This was my first experience on a UK train, and as it was rush hour it was unfortunately packed to the gills. I had to stand the entire way, about an hour, and also had to stand on the way back. Once we arrived in Oxford Dr. Welsh was kind enough to provide us with tickets for the sightseeing bus so that we could see the town. The town itself was beautiful; lots of old buildings housing colleges and churches.

Following a partial tour on the bus we alighted to make our appointment at the Bodleian Library, the biggest university library in the world. The Library was begun in the 14th century with only around 20 books. In 1439 Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester, donated 281 manuscripts from his own collection. While this might seem like a small number, for the Library it was a huge amount. Books were originally chained to the lecterns, and later, to the shelves, requiring a lot of space. The Library had to move to a new building to accommodate these new materials. Unfortunately, these books were destroyed during the Reformation and the space was left empty. Luckily, a man named Thomas Bodley came to the rescue.

Thomas Bodley was a world traveler and in 1598 he offered money and about 2,000 books to rebuild the Library. The new institution opened in 1602 and was named in his honor. While the Library was still rather primitive, electrical lighting and heat came centuries later, it featured shelves and chairs between the shelves, so that one no longer had to stand at the lectern to read. Books were chained to the shelves by their front covers. As this required the pages to face outward, the books were numbered on the pages and then recorded by number in the catalogue. In 1610 Bodley negotiated an agreement to get one copy of all published books for free. Presently the Bodleian Library has a partnership with the British Library, the National Library of Scotland & Wales, Trinity College, and Cambridge to receive all books published and share them between the group. The Bodleian receives from 3,000 to 4,000 items per week and has a current collection size of around 9 million items.

Students from Oxford University as well as any university in the world may apply for a reader's card. With a good reason members of the public may also apply for a card. As part of our tour, we went behind the scenes and looked at the book delivery system. Because the Library occupies more than one building, including the Radcliffe Camera, reader requests are received on a computer, then are fetched by staff, and are delivered using an automated machine. It takes about three hours to get a book through this system. Unfortunately, this delivery system will soon cease.

After emerging from the depths of the Library, we toured the Divinity School (take a virtual tour here) and Convocation House. The Divinity School was beautiful, with Gothic ceilings and interesting carvings. It was opened in 1488 and served as the school's first examination room. Andrea and I volunteered to go up to the pulpits and perform a mock examination. I was the student, and even though I did not know Latin, our guide pronounced that I had passed. Oral examinations could last up to 3 days and could be witnessed by other interested parties. It took 7 years to get a degree (1 year for each liberal art) and another 3 years to get a doctoral degree. The Divinity School was used as the setting for the infirmary in the Harry Potter films.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

National Art Library

On 15 July our class took a trip to the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The National Art Library is a public reference library with about two million items in its collection. The collection contains books and journals on all aspects of the arts and about 60% of the items are in a foreign language. Although it is a public library, readers must register before they look at materials (cards are valid for three years), and all items must be viewed in the reading rooms. Readers may look up their materials in the online catalogue, or get reference assistance at the enquiry desk. The Library also offers several e-resources, such as JSTOR.

As part of our visit we were given a special behind-the-scenes tour. Seven of us went first to see some special items that had been selected especially for our viewing. Included in these items were a Shakespeare First Folio from 1623, corrected proofs and serialized versions of Charles Dickens' Bleak House, and correspondence from John Edward Millais. I found the most interesting item to be what at first appeared to be an empty snow globe, but when shaken turned out to have words from the Pledge of Allegiance inside. The piece was from 1994. Our guide mentioned that because the collection is so large, the Library tries as much as possible to preserve rather than conserve and we saw several items that had custom archival boxes.

After viewing those treasures, we went into the stacks. With the exception of the archives, all of the Library's collections were on site. Due to the large size of the collection, items were housed everywhere, some above the regular museum collections, and others above the bookshelves or in cupboards. The two beautiful main reading rooms had books on the main floor as well as in galleries above. A third room featuring part of the museum's collection also had a gallery. Hidden from view were two floors of stacks. While items had call numbers attached, they were shelved according to size to maximize space. Requested items are fetched by one of the sixty members of staff every half an hour.

At the end of the tour we were free to leave. I stayed in the museum for about an hour, visiting the shop and the Medieval and Renaissance collections. Afterward I took the tube to Covent Garden to browse.

Photo courtesy of the National Art Library.