Sunday, July 31, 2011

Farewell London

In a few hours I will be leaving London so I decided to write some things down about my month studying abroad. This was a great month of travel to many different places and it is filled with some great memories. When I first arrived I was very apprehensive about what to expect during my time here. This apprehension quickly disappeared and I started to feel more comfortable. The first couple of days were planned with neighborhood walks that familiarized us with the city. I am going to remember the libraries my class visited during the first few days and how different but similar each one was. The thing that I am going to remember the most is wandering around the city alone. These times were very interesting and involved getting a lot. I was lost more times than I can count during these few days but these times were always the most interesting and I have seen some of the city that I would not have seen otherwise.

The London Explore for a group of students was getting the opportunity to go to Paris. Paris was interesting and was a good experience to have had. Besides all of the walking I am going to have one or two main memories from this trip. One memory is on the coach ride from London to Paris. Somebody read an article about how a person stowed away under one of these coaches and kept on pounding on the floor. I found this story amusing and each time our coach hit a bump all I could think of was somebody pounding on the floor. The other thing that I am going to remember is walking around the city with two friends that I made during the weekend. We did a lot of walking and one walk in particular stands out. We just left dinner with the group and it was close to midnight. This walk was not suppose to be long but became so when I got us lost and we kind of circled the area where our hotel was located.

The next week of classes involved us going outside the city on a few occasions. We went to Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, and a few libraries within the city boundaries. The week seemed to go by very fast and the next thing I knew we had a free day before leaving for London Away. This free day involved me doing laundry and packing but also included a short walk through the city. The next morning we left for Scotland and in particular Edinburgh.

The coach drive seemed to take a long time but we finally arrived. We stayed at Dalkeith Estate which is a little outside Edinburgh. I went into town that night with some friends and Scotland instantly became one of my favorite places in the world. I love London but Scotland has a different feel about it. We spent a few days in Scotland and visited some of the libraries in the area. One of my favorite things to do in Scotland was just walking around and looking at the beautiful scenery. Everything was so green and I could almost always hear bagpipes in the distance which completed the experience for me.

My mini-break was a lot of fun and involved me meeting up with three of my siblings in London. We did all of the tourist attractions and tried to see everything we could in a limited amount of time. Highlights from this weekend was seeing the Hard Rock Vault, Churchill War Rooms, Wembley Stadium, a football (soccer) match, Buckingham Palace, Dover, Abbey Road, and many others. This too seemed to go by really fast and before I knew it I was checking back in to my dorm room.

The final few days of classes were very relaxing. I made sure I went to some of the museums and galleries that I had not previously gone through and walked around the city a lot. Some of the highlights were going to afternoon tea with three friends and dressing up to go to the research symposium.

This experience was a lot of fun and I am so glad that I decided to come. I was able to see some amazing places, met a lot of nice people, and made some good friends. I am very appreciative of the University of Southern Mississippi and Kings College for allowing me to have this experience. I am going to miss London and Scotland. Hopefully one day I will be able to come back.

Farewell London!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Imperial War Museum

For my optional visit I decided to go to the Imperial War Museum. The idea of the Imperial War Museum was established in 1917 when the Cabinet wanted to collect and display materials from World War I. The museum was firmly established in 1920 when Parliament appointed a board of trustees. On 9 June 1920 the museum officially opened in Crystal Palace by King George V. The original site of the museum was in South Kensington and presented problems due to a split gallery. King George VI opened the museum in its present location in 1936. From 1940 to 1946 the museum was closed and the materials moved to other locations outside London. After the war ended the scope of the museum included World War II and any other military operation the Empire was involved with before 1914.

Walking up to the museum the first time I was impressed with the two guns that point out from the main entrance. The main exhibition area for the larger military items felt small but contained a lot of machinery. I left this area and went to another floor to look at the WWI and WWII exhibits. The information in the exhibits was really interesting due to the fact that they were presented in an excellent way and contained a lot of detail. Even though the exhibits were interesting I was most interested in two experiences I was told by the director of the British Studies Program. One experience takes you through the trenches of WWI. The first time I went through this I was a little claustrophobic and got a sense of what the soldiers went through in these trenches. The other experience was a Blitz experience from WWII. In this experience you go into a small room and sit down on a bench. The lights then turn off and you get to hear people talking as if they were in a bunker. After listening to this you go through another room and it is suppose to be like you went out into the city to see what happened during the bombing raid. I really enjoyed this experience and it started to get me thinking about the topic for my research paper.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

British Library Centre for Conservation

The British Library can accommodate up to 1,200 readers a day. Each reader can check out ten items at a time. Since the items can be used at such a high rate, general wear and tear can occur. The Centre for Conservation has five different teams of conservationists and has room for six teams. Each conservation team has specialties and only works on those types of materials. When an item needs conservation work it is given to the appropriate team through the curator of a collection. That team takes the items and stabilizes it rather than trying to restore it. This stabilization allows the item to maintain its history. All procedures completed on the items are re-treatable.

On our tour we were shown two different techniques of conservation work. The first technique was the conservation of 300 year old palm leaves. These leaves are religious texts and have serious damage to them. It was interesting to see how they use pulp fibers to hand fill in cracks on the leaves. This process is very meticulous work and leaves that have more damage are repaired by using casters. These casters can speed up the number of leaves that can be completed in a day. The other technique we were shown was how to put on gold leafing on the spines of books. This was very interesting especially since we were shown the traditional way of doing this technique. If done correctly the lettering can remain on the leather for about 400 years without needing additional conservation work.

The conservation studio of the British Library is huge. I was a little taken aback by the size of the area but I really like watching the two techniques of conservation work. This was a good way to end our course work for the month. Photo courtesy of the British Library website.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Middle Temple Library

The Middle Temple Library is the library for one of four Inns of Court. Materials in the original library went missing after some time due to misuse of the library users. After his passing, Robert Ashley donated his private collection to Middle Temple which reestablished the library. The library is not in the original building due to it being destroyed during the bombing of World War II. The new building was built in the 1950s out of reinforced concrete. This was done because the builder was worried about another bombing and wanted to protect the library materials. The reinforced concrete gives advantages to the library. The building can with stand the weight of all the materials and it provides good conditions for the rare materials.

Most of the materials held by the library pertain to law. The audience is usually lawyers, researchers, and others who need access to corporate or international laws. It was interesting to me that this library has a large collection on American law. This collection is one of the largest US law collections in the country. Another interesting fact is that five of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were members of the Middle Temple. Similar to other libraries, this library does not have a classification system. This library also has no labels on the books and it is suppose to simplify the process of finding materials except when items need to be moved.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

King’s College Maughan Library

King’s College Maughan Library opened in the current building in 2001 but has a long, prestigious history that dates back to 1829. The current building was the building for the public records office and was the first fire proof building. Since the building was mostly closed to the public while it was the public records office, the library had to make the building more accessible for shelf browsing. This proved to be difficult since the building is leased by the library and it had to get approval from the owners and building preservation organizations before anything could be done. Restrictions were placed on the library to what they could do to the building. Working with these restrictions, the library has placed signs at the end of shelves and grouped materials by genre.

The library has 1,000 reading rooms, 1,300 computer places, 750,000 items and volumes, and serves about 11,000 students during term. Materials are mainly from humanities, law, and sciences with medical resources being located at other King’s College libraries. The library also contains DVD and audio materials along with a keyboard that can be used. During the term the library is open seven days a week and 24/7 around exam weeks. The library has also installed self service machines that provide the opportunity for the user to check-in or check-out materials at their convenience.

The special collections’ strength is on travel and discovery. The oldest documents date back to the 1490s. Some of the materials that we were shown included a book by Florence Nightingale, a Pennsylvania Charter that has annotations from Benjamin Franklin, and a Holocaust collection that includes lithographs done by a concentration camp inmate. These materials were really interesting and yet again we were allowed to actually touch the materials.

I enjoyed touring this library and seeing how they have implemented different programs to benefit the user. Self service machines seem to be really popular and if used correctly can allow librarians to help users with more difficult questions. I liked how this library has so many computer spaces and study rooms throughout the building. This seems to makes it more convenient for study and research.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dunfermline Carnegie Public Library

The Dunfermline Public Library is the first Carnegie library. It was opened on 29 August 1883 and all books were checked out on this day. Users of the library can choose from the nearly 59,000 items in a large variety of genres. The library has expanded the building on two separate occasions with the last one being in 1992. The 1992 expansion provided an area for the children’s department. This area conducts rhythm time sessions, toddler sessions, and craft events. A summer reading program began last year and is called Circus Stars Program. This summer the program has continued to grow with 139 children enrolled thus far.

The special collections department houses exhibits of the Murison Burns and George Reid collections. In the collections are medieval manuscripts and early printed books. The materials in these collections are closed to the public except for requests.

The local history department is a major strength of the library. It contains space for exhibitions that users of the community or the library can show collections. The open access books in the section are arranged by locality. It is determined which part of Scotland the book is referring and it is placed with other books of its kind. I was intrigued by this classification system and did not know if it would really be that effective. However it seems that this is the best way for these materials to be arranged since it is a relatively small collection and the users mostly want books about certain areas.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Edinburgh Central Library

This library was a different experience from the other libraries we have visited. We were met by a number of different librarians from different departments and given information about these departments. The first department that we were given information on was the digital information team. This team tries to provide the user with 24/7 online service. Throughout the library are touch screens that gives the user more information about the library. Also on these touch screens are exhibitions that allow for more material to be viewed. The library also has strong social media connection with a developed and well visited blog. One of the most interesting things to me about this department was the program Library2Go. This program allows the library user to read or download ebooks and audio online for free. The department’s goal is to increase the use of the library’s resources which they seem to be doing a great job in achieving.

The next department that we were given information on was reader development. In reader development it seems like the goal is to promote reading to any and all members of the community. Author events are one of the many events that the department hosts. In the author events, an author is invited to speak to the public which promotes the authors’ works and also the library. An aspect of the department that I found interesting was the book groups that are promoted through the library. The book groups can be the traditional idea of a book group or they can be specialized for a certain population in the community. All of the events that are promoted through this department are to get people to read more and to read different genres.

The most interesting thing to me that this library does is through the informal aspect of learning department. This department teaches computer literacy and literacy to members of the community. Sensitive, warm environments are created so that members can learn in a non-threatening environment. A six week program was set up to provide this learning environment. An additional program that was set up is the IT Buddies and is for people who still are not comfortable with computers after the first six weeks. A volunteer then works with this person until they are comfortable using the electronic resources. Along with the electronic teaching is ESL and non-literate teaching. The library has books in many different languages and mature content books at lower reading levels for people just starting to read.

This library is very advanced and does everything possible to give their users what they need in a variety of different ways. Photo from the Edinburgh Central Library blog.