You may remember a post I did a few weeks ago concerning the differences between the UK and the US (Part 1) personally noted during this summer’s British Studies adventure. I’m an American commenting on what I saw in the United Kingdom.
One of my fellow British Study librarians posted an article from The Guardian where an Englishman (Paul Owen) comments on the differences he’s noted while living in New York. It’s highly enlightening and a wonderfully opposite perspective from mine!
…funny enough, though, we note some of the same differences.
“…2. You need to tip for everything. If you think maybe you should tip, you should tip. You should be tipping me for this article.
…21. Yeah, that’s right. And bragging is considered perfectly OK.
22. And so is telling someone sincerely that you think they, or something they have done, is amazing and fantastic.
23. I mean it.
24. No, really.
…30. If you’ve got good health insurance, the doctor will give you everything you need …and more.
31. If you haven’t… Oh, God. Good luck to you.
…39. Order a cup of tea in a cafe or restaurant and you will be confronted with a glass or mug of lukewarm water with a teabag of some alarming flavour, like pomegranate or boysenberry, floating sadly on the top like a punctured dinghy, and some “milk” that is probably 50% cream, delivered on request. I’m just going to say it once: the water needs to be at boiling point for the tea to infuse!!!
…47. The weather really means business.
48. Americans are acutely conscious of race, in the way British people are acutely conscious of class…”
Imagine… you are travelling to another country. Things will be very different from your everyday life.
That may sound obvious, but until you’re actually there you don’t fully realize the extent of how different everything is. Here is a list of things that I found different between the UK and US.
Currency -Study it a little, you’ll thank yourself. The first time I tried to pay for something I was flustered. I didn’t know the coinage yet, and you don’t swipe a card with Pin & Chip technology… you insert from the bottom.
Food -I only traveled to the UK, so most foods were fairly similar though they have dishes that we don’t (bangers and mash, black pudding, haggis, meat pies, etc.). It’s not that big of a cultural jump. Try them and have fun! Expand your horizons!
-Recognize that the UK uses different names, for example:
bacon=a ham-like meat, similar to what we call Canadian bacon
-Full English breakfasts consist of eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes… and I think it’s delicious. Some people think the beans are weird, but try it! Full Scottish breakfasts add black pudding and have potato cakes.
-Water can be still (like tap water) or sparkling (carbonated).
-Coffee is taken quite seriously in the UK, I think. Every place I went had an espresso machine used to make coffee. There wasn’t any of the percolated, instant stuff! I was glad that I looked at a coffee infographic that described different coffee drinks… this isn’t your Starbucks macchiato, people.
-Tea is very serious in the UK, especially England. It’s hot tea, by the way. Americans have a fascination with iced tea and you might find it in the UK, but if tea is on the menu I’d bet money that it is severed hot.
-Usually tea is served in a pot and you get a couple of cupfuls out of it.
-English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and black tea blends might be severed with milk. You’ll be asked if you want any milk or it will be brought in a tiny pitcher; they won’t just put it in your cup, don’t worry.
-I wouldn’t ask for lemon slices… that’s generally not a thing… I think.
-You’ll find sugar on tables in restaurants, and your choices are brown or white. I rarely found sugar substitute packets. Also – sugar cubes are darling!
-Now this may be a stretch and I don’t know how accurate this is, but I theorize that UK food products use fewer preservatives and chemicals. This has the downside of not lasting as long as US products, but possibly it’s healthier? Maybe I can’t claim that UK food is altogether healthier, but it certainly tasted wonderful.
-A lot of European countries eat with a fork in their left hand and a knife in their right hand… normal so far for Americans… but they don’t switch the fork back and forth! I’ve known several Europeans who thought it very strange that we cut our food using the method picture below, set down the utensils, and switched the fork to the right hand in order to eat. Why not just keep the fork in the left to shovel into your mouth? Therefore, the British keep the fork in the left. I suggest trying it! What do you have to lose? You’re visiting another country, so why not “do as the Romans do” and so on?
-I was told UK beer is stronger than US beer. I prefer craft beer in the US, so I didn’t notice a big difference… but I just drank with meals.
-The drinking age in the UK is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for distilled alcohol.
-Check out my Food page to see examples of what you can find in the UK!
Restaurants -This isn’t the US anymore and the customer is, most definitely, not always right. You won’t get your way all the time. Don’t make a ruckus and expect to be compensated for throwing a fit. That’s rude and a “typical” American attitude.
-Like the US, some places want you to seat yourself while others ask that you wait to be seated… there weren’t always signs, though. Just ask someone!
-Pubs general had you find a table and then go to the bar to order food and drink. Remember your table number when you order so they can bring the food to you!
-Some places had you order before bringing you the appropriate utensils for your meal. It makes sense to me! Not everyone uses their spoon and then it’s unnecessarily washed… this way it’s more efficient.
-Tipping is a tricky topic. I don’t think you should tip in most places because the UK actually pays a living wage for service staff and bartenders… but then some places like you to tip! (Bartenders love US tourists because they habitually tip.) Some places tack on the gratuity, too, so always check your ticket.
-Speaking of tickets, you’ll most likely have to ask for your bill to be brought to the table. Servers don’t rush their customers out of the restaurant (again because they’re paid a living wage and don’t need to turn tables). Restaurant-goers can take their time eating the meal and don’t need to rush off after 45 minutes. Servers leave you alone the majority of the time, but don’t take that as rude! Kick back and enjoy the meal…
-Bathrooms don’t have outlets. Don’t expect to plug in your hairdryer, straightener, or curling iron.
-UK outlets are a stronger wattage from US and are an inverted three prong from the US.
-Outlets have a switch next to them to turn them on and off. Remember to switch it on when you charge your phone! …I learned that the hard way. 😉
-A lot of buildings don’t have air conditioning… it’s only hot for a little while! You can usually open the windows. That being said, large international chains (like Hilton) most likely have A/C.
-There’s a duvet cover on the bed and usually no sheets.
Transportation -In London transportation around the city was fairly simple to understand. The Underground was a beautiful, beautiful, fast system; the buses worked well to get around and see the city.
-When using escalators, stand on the right. I repeat: stand on the right!
-Because it’s a city of many people, it takes extra time to get around. (It took an hour to go 10 miles when visiting Kew Gardens.)
-They drive on the left side of the road.
-When crossing the street look right first, since they drive on the left. Basically make sure your head is on a swivel looking right, left, right, left…
-Use the crosswalks. They’re there because drivers pay attention to them… usually.
-They have more roundabouts than the US. AND THEY KNOW HOW TO DRIVE THEM TOO!
-When using transportation, especially the Underground, the British don’t really talk. Or make eye contact. It’s a little odd for someone coming from the Midwest where EVERYONE smiles and nods in acknowledgement of someone, but it was nice not having to fake small talk. Everyone minded their own business.
For fun! -Before leaving for the UK and while in London, Anglophenia on YouTube was a joy to watch! She explains most things British and it’s hilarious. Check out the videos! With titles like “How to Swear Like a Brit,” why shouldn’t you?!
Wednesday, July 22, 2015 We visited the Barbican Centre in the City of London borough today where the Barbican public library is located.
The library is open Monday through Saturday and is the leading lending library in the City of London. It opened in 1982, though the space was not designed as a library. It was an art center surrounded by residences in a major financial district. There are many online resources and an online catalog, but you have to be a member to access those. Anybody can join to view the materials in the library, but can’t be a member unless you regularly visit the physical library. This is for financial reasons… you need to pay taxes or supplant the local economy with money. The public library needs to benefit somehow, I guess is what I’m trying to say.
The library has done tons of outreach, but still remains hidden to the majority of the public. The vast majority of its patrons are business people, mainly men over college age. The Barbican Centre is almost a city in itself, but not everyone realizes a library lurks on the 2nd floor.
Above you’ll see the fiction section. To the right is the London and classic crime collections. Down to the left of this photo you’d find the children’s library (which is booming, by the way!). They are benefiting from marketing to the local nurseries and babysitting places. Behind us in the above photograph is the art collection and movie area. Behind us and to the left you’d find the music library.
The music library at the Barbican is the second largest public music repository in London, behind Westminster, I believe. There are hundreds of scores, theory books, magazines, periodicals, reference works, CDs, and DVDs for people to check out. The CD selection is the largest in London at 16,000 materials. Two pianos are available to use for hour-long periods. There’s even an exhibition area out front (currently being used by BBC)!
The head of the Barbican Library also came to speak with us for a moment. The main takeaway is for libraries to “be relevant.” It’s just that simple. Libraries, especially public institutions, should be something for everybody. She mentioned the Sieghart Report on Public Libraries as an interesting and poignant read.
I very much enjoyed visiting this library and speaking with the librarians. Before travelling to London I had thought that I wanted to work in an academic setting. I was rigid in this thought. It wasn’t that I disliked public libraries, I just valued academic institutions with rare book collections a tidbit more. After visiting the Barbican and Edinburgh though, my view has been swayed a little. These librarians were passionate about their community and engaged with their patrons. They wanted to give their patrons as much as possible. They weren’t blocking the way of access to information, rather they were finding new paths to reach a larger audience.
As I look to applying for jobs this fall I want to keep myself open to academic and public institutions.
The first room entered was the Reading Room which is public and open to all who desire to use it. They get around 30,000 visitors per year which make up a wide demographic: professionals, researchers, art students, curatorial staff, and others. It’s a reference library so nothing can be checked out, but almost anything can be viewed. They have a couple of items, like the Dickens’ manuscripts, that are also in facsimile form for patrons to view instead of the originals. They also have complete runs of fashion magazines including Vogue. Some of the special collection items we got to see are pictured below.
The above item is the oldest book on pottery production. Recipes and techniques found in here have been tested and still work!
The above pictured books is the first published tailor’s pattern book. Before this, tailoring was sort of mystical and mysterious. This book revealed some of the secrets of the trade for middle class clothing; the secrets of making upper class clothing remained hidden.
Above you see an example of fine binding. The cover is completely embroidered! The contents are on the New Testament.
You’ll also see that the fore edges are painted. Personally, I love this trend. The Lilly Library, where I work, has a nice collection of fore edge painted books.
The next is a sketch book by Pugin. He created (from his imagination) a castle and all it’s decorations, reviving the gothic style. He was only 21 at the time of these drawings and went back years later to write in what he thought was wrong with them. I didn’t think he should have been so hard on himself, but I guess that’s how artists progress.
The above is a reference book for artists to use in order to create new styles and decoration. Use the past as inspiration, according to Owen Jones, and “form without color is like a body without a soul.”
The above pages were created by two sisters, the Fouché girls, who wrote about and drew the fashions they wore between 1892 and 1898. As girls are wont to do, they even went back and wrote in the margins if they were horrified to have worn a particular outfit – a “what were we thinking?” moment that we all experience.
Mr. Séguy took design inspiration from nature; this volume was about insects in particular.
Karl Blossfeldt used a homemade camera to take pictures of plant structures – they’re almost architectural, aren’t they?
The book became an object of study in this library. It was an art piece in and of itself. Certainly the works found within the books can be considered art; but book as object was an interesting perspective that I certainly can subscribe to. Just type “books as art” or “book as object” into Google and you’ll find hundreds of hits that describe the movement better than I can, but to me…
First up this morning was St. Paul’s Cathedral Library with the wonderfully knowledgeable and witty Mr. Joseph Wisdom. Do you remember this building from a previous post?
Now, let’s take a look at the inside… a professional picture…
Now pause for a moment and imagine what the library for this sort of building might look like…
Yeah. Now take a look at this:
It’s even better in real life.
Unfortunately, a researcher was using the library when our tour was supposed to begin which delayed the group from entering. Completely understandable (libraries are designed to be used!), though it did shorten our visit since service began at 12:30. BBC was also setting up cameras to broadcast the Tuesday evening service in remembrance of those killed in the 2005 London bombings.
Our group just got a glimpse of the library, but it was enough for me to fall deeply in love with the room and its contents. Joe Wisdom was also a treasure. He spoke quickly and knowledgeably about any and all subjects. Just to sit and listen to him talk longer would be a dream come true. If he does any talks with library associations I will make it a point to attend – he’s that good, and I only met him for 20 minutes.
He’s the type of librarian that I want to be: quirky and interesting, yet knowledgeable and personable.
The building, when its architecture was first conceived, was alien to English eyes. This was because the dome at the top was very Italian. The original building, before 1561, had a spire. The construction of that building began in 1087 and was consecrated in 1240 (Wikipedia). We saw a replica of it in the Museum of London. The new St. Paul’s with it’s dome was constructed after the Great Fire of London. Consequentially, the current library space was not originally created as a library space.
The Cathedral is located on the highest hill in London and right next to the River Thames. The library is at the top of a very tall, spiraling staircase. Joe talked about the appropriate conservation for the collection – and reminded us that there is no single correct answer for libraries. Each library is unique and each collection needs to be considered individually if librarians want to care for them correctly. That’s hard to think about in a day where time is money and things needed to be done yesterday. Getting to know a collection is time consuming, but worth it in order to be a “good” librarian.
The librarians were kind enough to bring out several of their treasures for our viewing pleasure!
Get ready for a stream of old book images!!
Here is a book published in 1491 detailing plants and animals found in the known world… it’s the last published before the discovery of the Americas.
Above is a short history of Bethlem Hospital… better known as Bedlam.
You’ll see Benjamin Franklin’s signature on The Charters of the Province of Pensilvania…
Here is a bound copy of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense…
Above is an impression made of smallpox inoculation…
Allen Ginsberg was a lecture at King’s College and this a signed copy of his poetry…
And lastly, this is Nazi propaganda. The Nazis had a Jewish artist create scenes of an idyllic concentration camp to show the Red Cross how “well” everyone was being treated. I found this image of a butchery most haunting…
The Maughan Library, outside of the Foyle Special Collections, was what you would expect from a modern university library… albeit housed in a very neo-Gothic building. It’s looks like a castle, sort of. There is a separate study room for quiet readers (it’s also dodecagonal, which I found atypical but very cool). The whole of the library is fitted for RFID, which makes the whole system fairly self-reliant. Students don’t have to talk to a living soul in order to check out or check in books. They even had an automatic book sorter behind the main counter! We library students loved it, of course.
King’s College has some great material and I hope to be in contact with them soon about my research paper! It’s an academic library that was around during World War II, though the building was the Public Records Office at the time. They had to have been affected by the war, especially since they were located in downtown London. Bombings definitely took place in this area. How were they affected? Did they lose any materials? Were materials sent elsewhere? Did the library remain open during the War? How did being a university library affect them financially during the war? Did alumni help rebuild the collections if necessary?
Thursday, July 2, 2015
The Royal Geographical Society was our next stop and it was AMAZING. It wasn’t something that I was super excited about before coming to London because I didn’t know much about it.
The librarian, Eugene, has been there for 15 years and he made the objects come to life. Here’s a rundown of the stories.
The Society was founded in 1830 to promote and fund scientific geography (exploration). Have you heard of David Livingstone, Ernest Shackleton, or George Mallory? They made trips to find the source of the Nile, the magnetic South pole, and the peak of Mt. Everest. No small tasks! Eugene actually showed us objects and maps from their expeditions! (No photos, unfortunately)
Here’s Dr. Livingstone who set out to find the source of the Nile River. His story sounds very similar to that of Mr. Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. (Mr. Kurtz was actually based on Joseph Conrad’s own experiences on a Belgian steamer, but the novella draws parallels between London and the Congo.)
Here is a photo of Ernest Shackleton who raced to make it to the South Pole. A Norwegian man beat him (Roald Amundsen), but Shackleton’s also famed for being a part of the Endurance crew.
And finally, George Mallory. George Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew “Sandy” Irving climbed Mt Everest in 1924 to be the first ever to reach the peak. Unfortunately, they disappeared.
It wasn’t until 1999 that a climbing expedition found George Mallory’s body – he was frozen and preserved relatively well after 75 years. (YouTube video of finding the body)
Two major theories exist concerning if Mallory reached the top of Mt Everest: his wife’s photo was missing from his wallet, which he carried with the intent to leave at the summit; and his goggles were found in his pocket, suggesting that the pair were climbing down from the summit after sundown. Irving is said to have carried a camera, which would possibly prove if they reached the top. Irving nor his camera have ever been found. It wasn’t until 1953 that the first successful expedition reached the top of Mt Everest (Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay).
I’m super geeking out about these topics and I didn’t even know it was something I was interested in.
Eugene told their stories in a way that I now want to read more on the subjects! That’s what a great librarian does. He made this library experience for me. The intimacy of the space and the personal touches that Eugene gave as librarian were exceptional in my eyes. He made me realize that he’s the type of librarian I want to be. I don’t believe he had specialized knowledge before becoming a librarian at the Royal Geographical Society; he just learned about his collection. In learning about the collection he learned the above stories and was better able to tell us about them.
I’ve been told by several librarians including my academic advisor at IU that when I get to a new library with different collections, take time during every shift to learn a little bit more about those collections. It could be spending 30 minutes after lunch in the stacks physically looking at and touching the books on a single shelf. Overtime I’ll get to know the collection personally. It’s a living object – materials are added every day and they relate to each other. I want to be personable and interesting, but I also want to be knowledgeable.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Like I said in a previous post… the British Museum is huge and the British Museum Archives is tiny.
Think: “PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS… itty-bitty living space.”
The Archive location is quite cramped. There’s only one room and it sort of feels like a submarine packed with books.
The Museum was founded in 1753 and officially opened in 1759, but the archive has documents dating back to 1738 when Hans Sloane began collecting materials. The original catalog of materials is, unfortunately, virtually indecipherable. Collectors throughout the last 300 years might have gathered incredibly important, amazing materials… but not documented the “whens” and “wheres” as carefully. Financial transactions weren’t documented and stored in an easily identified areas. Different committee and trustee documents were haphazardly kept, stored, and indexed making the finding of information nowadays extremely difficult.
There is no comprehensive catalog of museum materials.
That may sound really surprising to the average person, but libraries and museums are chock FULL of stuff, and things aren’t always documented the same way every time especially over a 300 year period. People take jobs. People retire or leave jobs. Knowledge is not always passed on from one person to the next. Nor are professionals always the ones taking on these major responsibilities. I’m sure volunteers or untrained people tried to do their best for the Museum’s archives, but failed by today’s standards. There’s only been a professionally trained archivist at the Museum for the past fifteen years.
Currently there is still only one trained archivist in the entire Museum.
It’s unfortunate that the archives have taken a back seat to the collections. Yes, some might argue that the collections are what make up the Museum, but the archives are what backup those collections! The documents that are supposed to be found in the archives would help prove ownership, history, monetary value, cultural value, etc. Objects do not have intrinsic value. Humans place value on objects, often arbitrarily. The Rosetta Stone is only a rock with a few marks in it -OR- the Rosetta Stone is the key to solving and reading Egyptian hieroglyphs. That has to be documented and written down somewhere! The past has to be remembered and saved if these objects are to maintain their worth for future generations, I think.
I guess money, time, and administrative higher-ups are universal problems.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015 The London Library is a bit smaller in size and scope than other libraries, such as the British Library.
The London Library was founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle who was unhappy that he could not take home any of the books at the British Library (then the British Museum Library) to use. The London Library was his response, because it acts as a lending library. The London Library is a member-only library. Anyone can become a member though!
Some of their most famous members include: Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Henry James, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Birginia Woolf, Isaiah Berlin, Laurence Olivier, Agatha Christie, and Harold Pinter. Four Poets Laureate and and nine Noble prize-winners have used their collections. There are currently around 7,000 from all ages and backgrounds. (History of the London Library)
Members can check out the majority of the books located within the building. Some of the reference books must stay in the building, but I find this normal for most library collections. The London Library collections number around 1 million volumes, with 8,000 titles added yearly. The stacks are open to roaming members, though!
The books on the shelves are arranged by subject according to its own classification scheme. All books are hardback on the shelves and none contain dust jackets. This means that space is conserved and mold has no chance to grow between a jacket and binding. On the day we visited, the weather was stifling and hot. The library, like most places in the United Kingdom, did not have an air conditioner and therefore opened the windows to ventilate the space. These books need room to breathe on the shelves due to the changing weather climate.
The building used to be an old house and has been added on several times to house the growing collections. The process is ongoing. The London Library has plans to continue refurbishing all areas where books are held and increase the number of reader’s desks from 55 to 200.
Personally, I ADORED this library. It was intimate, yet professional; cozy, yet spacious; stereotypical, yet on the cutting edge. Our host showed us the newly renovated rooms and updated website. I loved everything about the place!