Internship – Week 13

As part of the coursework, interns have to keep a weekly journal of our experiences. Blog entries are acceptable and I thought this would be a great way to keep everyone updated on my library activities at the Lilly Library!

November 16 – 20

Monday, November 16th (4.5 hours):
Today is the first day without Dave. I definitely feel his absence… the librarians left have to take a bigger workload in order to maintain. I’m just trying to help with anything they need.

So, I spent the beginning hour answering a few emailed reference questions. The rest of my time was spent finding and choosing interesting Lilly books on fairy tales. Rebecca has a class coming up this week on fairy tales, but doesn’t have notes on most of them. She has a large list of great books to show on Cinderella and Bluebeard. I was to look up the origins of Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and The Snow Queen. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Most modern fairy tales had been passed down orally for centuries before being written down. What would you consider original, then? The oral stories or the first written down version? What if multiple cultures had similar stories? What if Perrault and the Grimm brothers both took inspiration from the same story? I love this kind of research! If I hadn’t have gone into Library Sciences I probably would have studied folklore and fairy tales.

Most of us, if you’ve looked up the origins of fairy tales, know the big ones: Charles Perrault, a Frenchman famous for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty; Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish gentleman famous for The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling, and The Snow Queen; and the brothers Grimm, German brothers famous for tellings of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and Snow White.

Beauty and the Beast was interesting because it WASN’T one of the big three. The modern, popular representation of Beauty and the Beast is attributed to Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont from France.

Now, let’s take a moment to recognize the original titles of these tales:
Beauty and the Beast = La Belle et la Bête (French)
Bluebeard = La Barbe bleue (French)
Cinderella = Cenerentola (Italian); Cendrillon, or, La Petite Pantoufle de verre (French); Aschenputtel (German)
The Little Mermaid = Den lille havfrue (Danish)
Rapunzel = Rapunzel (German)
Sleeping Beauty = La Belle au bois dormant (French); Dornröschen (German)
The Snow Queen = Snedronningen (Danish)

Illustration of Cinderella bent down in the kitchen with pots around her
Charles Robinson illustrated Cinderella in the kitchen (1900), from “Tales of Passed Times” with stories by Charles Perrault. (via Wikipedia)

Wednesday, November 18th (4.5 hours):
I walked in and they were completely caught up on reference questions! It was amazing! So, I spent some time preparing for my class on Friday. It’s a home schooled group ranging in age from elementary to junior high studying ancient Rome to  early printing. To keep everyone’s attention we’re making this relatively hands-on and fairly short, only 30 minutes per small group. I’ve gathered some visually stimulating objects that won’t damage easily:

  • Roman tombstone
  • Large Antiphonal, with illumination
  • Gutenberg Bible fragment
  • Paper molds with deckle
  • Composition stick
  • Paper-making machine figurine
  • Vellum roll

I’m excited for it! I want it to be educational and interesting, but obviously straightforward and not above their heads.

Friday, November 20th (4 hours):
The home-school group of elementary kids was amazing! They were fewer than anticipated, so we talked as a single group. We talked in the main gallery for a little while and looked at the Adubon, checked out the Lincoln Room with the Gutenberg Bible, went into the Ellison Room to look at the objects I pulled, and then back to the Main Gallery to see how the printing press might work. It was a lot of information and a long hour for the kids, but they were great! Several of them had strong questions and were able to answer mine easily. They were super inquisitive and I was glad to have helped show them what the Lilly collected!

Group of children around a table with a woodblock
Homeschooled class visiting the Lilly to see early printing materials (via @IULillyLibrary on Twitter)

The rest of my time was spent on reference questions. Wouldn’t you know we were relatively quiet all day Wednesday and Thursday, and even Friday morning… but when I arrived at 1pm we had 7 simultaneous emails! Isabelle, Rebecca, and I got to most of them. I had another copyright question, where someone wanted an entire book digitized. The book, a miniature, was published in 1987, but the text was originally written in the 1700s. Interesting little problem, heh?

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Internship – Week 12

As part of the coursework, interns have to keep a weekly journal of our experiences. Blog entries are acceptable and I thought this would be a great way to keep everyone updated on my library activities at the Lilly Library!

November 9 – 13

Monday, November 9th (4.5 hours):
My classes today went fantastic! It is such a wonderful feeling when you, as a librarian, are able to affect a few patrons. Today’s classes were made up of freshmen. They were taking this class as an introduction to the University’s resources, which obviously included the Lilly Library. I pulled a few treasures to represent our varying collections and showed them how they could conduct primary research. We started with a “tour,” and introduction to the Lilly’s collections and how to use the materials. I went over the history and described the size and scope, but then I took them into the Ellison Room where the materials were laid. That’s where the treasures were. I described the materials in a previous post, I believe, but the students interacted with me! Some of them were excited, visually, by what I was showing them! It’s nice having that connection with people; a mutual delight over old books.

This is why I want to be a reference/instruction librarian. I delight in showcasing the libraries materials and seeing others share in that joy. Books as objects are important. Seeing a digital representation of a page is a profoundly different experience than being able to touch it, turn the pages, notice the quirks of an individual item. I don’t discredit digital images or digitization… they just have a separate function. With these rare materials we are able to get closer to the source or original version of the text; we can see how materials were originally published; decipher marginal notes written by previous owners; understand size and color of an object; see the writing process of authors; and experience these materials as objects. The information about the object often speaks to and enhances the textual information found within the pages.

Gersdorff, Hans Van. Feldtbüch der wundtartzney. [Strassburg]: Schott, [1517?] (via Lilly Library online)
Gersdorff, Hans Van. Feldtbüch der wundtartzney. [Strassburg]: Schott, [1517?] (via Lilly Library online)
Wednesday, November 11th (6 hours):
Happy Veterans’ Day! A quick thank you to all who have or are serving in our armed forces!

Another side note… today is Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday… check out the Lilly’s Vonnegut collection here: .

Alright, now down to the nitty-gritty.

I arrived at the Lilly early today in order to booksit for a class taking place at 11:15. The materials pulled were really interesting: a Mercator map, Gesner’s Historia animalium with a rendition of Albrecht Dürer’s Rhinoceros, French encyclopedias, books on plants.

(Albrecht Dürer - National Gallery of Art: online database: entry 1964.8.697; via Wikipedia)
(Albrecht DürerNational Gallery of Art: online database: entry 1964.8.697; via Wikipedia)

It really was an interesting amalgamation of items. The course was taught in French, but she slipped into English several times. I feel like I want to be open and welcoming during these sessions because I want students to be excited by these materials, but if I haven’t instructed them on how to handle the books I get a little anxious and feel as if I’m the overprotective-helicopter Mom. I don’t want to be a helicopter Mom… but I don’t want the materials to be ripped or mistreated either.

It’s a balancing act.

I continued working on more reference questions. They included more copyright/publication questions as well as regular counting/reproduction questions.

Friday, November 13th (4 hours):
Busy day today! I got in around 1pm and worked some on emailed reference questions; one issue that came up was photocopies of correspondence held at another institution. We have photocopies of the letters for continuity purposes intended for researchers physically at the Lilly; if a researcher emailing the Lilly wanted photocopies of these letters (as was the case here) we had to direct them to the institution holding the original copies.

That’s a lot of words to vaguely explain the situation, isn’t it?

Anywho… about twenty minutes before the tour was to take place two gentlemen arrived. They were wanting to listen to the tour, but wanted to get registered in the Reading Room first so their books could be pulled while on the tour. I helped the two and then walked them to the Main Exhibit Gallery to begin the tour. Well, wouldn’t you know there were three more women waiting for the tour?! That doesn’t usually happen. I was a bit flustered and just began. At the first pause, the women went to take their jackets off since they hadn’t yet… and another student walked in for the tour! There were six people on this tour! That sounds like a small number, but the Lilly (and I’d wager other rare book collections) never usually get that many people interested in the history of their collections all at the same time. I talked and answered questions for half an hour and then 5 of the 6 decided to come into the Reading Room.

The two gentlemen were covered, but I had a few treasures pulled for the women. I gave them a personal, short presentation on a 15th Century Book of Hours, J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan manuscript, Shakespeare’s First Folio, Fruits of Philosophyand the Oscar. One of the women began crying when she saw the First Folio! It makes me incredibly happy that other people are so affected by these books. A digital image of the First Folio is a very different experience than getting touch it and turn it’s pages.

Before I was finished showing the women these materials, another foursome became interested in them. When the women were finished I pushed my little truck over this group of two boys and two men. I went through my little spiel and they were super excited by the Peter Pan. It’s not a very visual piece, but it’s handwritten by Barrie… it’s physically touching history. (Check out my post on seeing Peter Pan as an opera in London!)

AND… today is the last day of one of my mentors! Dave Frasier is retiring from the Lilly Library today. I appreciate everything that he’s shown and taught me over the past year. Thank you, Dave!!

Day 27: Barbican Centre Library

REFLECTIVE BLOG

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
We visited the Barbican Centre in the City of London borough today where the Barbican public library is located.

The Barbican Centre (via K. Emmons)
The Barbican Centre (via K. Emmons)

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.

Library is located on the 2nd floor (via K. Emmons)
Library is located on the 2nd floor (via K. Emmons)

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.

Fiction section (via K. Emmons)
Fiction section (via K. Emmons)

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.

Music Library (via K. Emmons)
Music Library (via K. Emmons)

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)!

Music Library Exhibit (via K. Emmons)
Music Library Exhibit (via K. Emmons)

The state of British librarian organizations was touched on too. CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) is the equivalent to the ALA (American Library Association).

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.

Day 11: National Art Library

REFLECTIVE BLOG

Monday, July 6, 2015
Our group then left St Paul’s and dashed over to the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) where the National Art Library was located.

Entrance on the 1st Floor above the ground floor (via K. Emmons)
Entrance on the 1st Floor above the ground floor (via K. Emmons)

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.

Cipriano Piccolpasso circa 1556 (via K. Emmons)
Cipriano Piccolpasso circa 1556 (via K. Emmons)

The above item is the oldest book on pottery production. Recipes and techniques found in here have been tested and still work!

Juan de Alcega, published 1589 (via K. Emmons)
Juan de Alcega, published 1589 (via K. Emmons)

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.

Published 1594-1598 (via K. Emmons)
Published 1594-1598 (via K. Emmons)

Above you see an example of fine binding. The cover is completely embroidered! The contents are on the New Testament.

Fore-edge painting (via K. Emmons)
Fore-edge painting (via K. Emmons)

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.

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, published 1833 (via K. Emmons)
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, published 1833 (via K. Emmons)

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 Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, 1856 (via K. Emmons)
The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, 1856 (via K. Emmons)

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.”

Jane and Lucy Fouché, 1892-1898 (via K. Emmons)
Jane and Lucy Fouché, 1892-1898 (via K. Emmons)

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.

E.A. Séguy, 1928 (via K. Emmons)
E.A. Séguy, 1928 (via K. Emmons)

Mr. Séguy took design inspiration from nature; this volume was about insects in particular.

Karl Blossfeldt, 1929 (via K. Emmons)
Karl Blossfeldt, 1929 (via K. Emmons)

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…

…books are beautiful, inside and out.

Day 11: St. Paul’s Cathedral Library

REFLECTIVE BLOG

Monday, July 6, 2015

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?

St. Paul's Cathedral (via K. Emmons)
St. Paul’s Cathedral (via K. Emmons)

Now, let’s take a look at the inside… a professional picture…

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

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:

18th Century. Breathe it in. (via St Paul's website)
18th Century. Breathe it in. (via St Paul’s website)

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.

Day 13: Maughan Library at King’s College

REFLECTIVE BLOG

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
The LIS class visited the Maughan Library at King’s College as well as the Foyle Special Collections Library there later in the afternoon.

Maughan Library (via K. Emmons)
Maughan Library (via K. Emmons)

The librarians were kind enough to bring out several of their treasures for our viewing pleasure!

Foyle Special Collections (via K. Emmons)
Foyle Special Collections (via K. Emmons)

Get ready for a stream of old book images!!

Herbal and Animal encyclopedia of sorts (via K. Emmons)
Herbal and Animal encyclopedia of sorts (via K. Emmons)

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.

History of Bethlem
History of Bethlem “Bedlam” Hospital (via K. Emmons)

Above is a short history of Bethlem Hospital… better known as Bedlam.

Benjamin Franklin signed copy (via K. Emmons)
Benjamin Franklin signed copy (via K. Emmons)

You’ll see Benjamin Franklin’s signature on The Charters of the Province of Pensilvania…

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (via K. Emmons)
Common Sense by Thomas Paine (via K. Emmons)

Here is a bound copy of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense…

Image of smallpox vaccination (via K. Emmons)
Image of smallpox inoculation (via K. Emmons)

Above is an impression made of smallpox inoculation…

Allen Ginsberg signed copy (via K. Emmons)
Allen Ginsberg signed copy (via K. Emmons)

Allen Ginsberg was a lecture at King’s College and this a signed copy of his poetry…

Nazi propaganda (via K. Emmons)
Nazi propaganda (via K. Emmons)

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?

Day 7: Royal Geographical Society Library

REFLECTIVE BLOG

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.

Plaque on the door (via K. Emmons)
Plaque on the door (via K. Emmons)

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.)

“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” (via Wikipedia)

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.

Shackleton in 1917 (via Wikipedia)
Shackleton in 1917 (via Wikipedia)

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.

Did Mallory reach the top? (via Wikipedia)
Did Mallory reach the top? (via Wikipedia)

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.

Day 6: London Library

REFLECTIVE BLOG

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 (via K. Emmons)
The London Library (via K. Emmons)

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!

Open stacks! (via K. Emmons)
Open stacks! (via K. Emmons)

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.

London Library shelving units (via K. Emmons)
London Library shelving units (via K. Emmons)

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!

Day 6: British Library

REFLECTIVE BLOG

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
The British Library is housed in a large edifice near King’s Cross and St Pancras stations. It was designed by Sir Colin St John Wilson to look like an ocean liner, and took 36 years to build.

British Library (via Jack1956 on Wikipedia)
British Library (via Jack1956 on Wikipedia)

The British Library just formally opened 1998 making it very young. It is the national library of the United Kingdom and a legal deposit library, meaning that the British Library can receive a copy of any book published in the UK or Ireland.

3 above and 4 below (via K. Emmons)
3 above and 4 below (via K. Emmons)

It contains 200 million items in its seven floors (three above ground, four underground), including King George III’s Library located in the middle for all to see.

King George III's Library in the center of British Library (via K. Emmons)
King George III’s Library in the center of British Library (via K. Emmons)

Previously all collections, and the library itself, were part of the British Museum. It is a reference library, which means all materials must be looked at on site; no book is lent out to readers. Readers cannot roam the stacks, and must apply for a reader’s pass. Anyone can register, but must have a reason for using the collections.

If you can think of it, the British Library probably has it. There are books, manuscripts, letters, paintings, sound recordings, handwritten, typed, documents in any language you’d want, maps, patents, newspapers… the list just goes on!

One of my favorites spaces was the treasures room. It has handwritten lyrics by The Beatles, Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks, Jane Austen’s writing desk, and a couple dozen religious tomes both ancient and beautifully decorated. They even had workstations where you can electronically flip through the books! It looks like you’re turning the page! Imagine a Kindle or Nook but the size of a television screen and in High Definition even when you zoom in. There’s some amazing scanning technology behind these computers.

Now on a personal level, I was so excited to visit this library and was slightly intimidated by it’s rules and how mechanical it seemed. This is a well-oiled steamboat! I imagine this is what most people feel like when trying to visit any library; this is the stereotypical “gateway” librarian. A lot of places in America seem to be pushing access, but I didn’t quite get that from the British Library. Yes, Kelsey, this is a different country and they probably have different values. I know. That’s what this trip is about: learning and understanding similarities and differences between US and UK libraries and archives. And if you look at the facts they seem to support patron access:

  • *onsite space for 1,200 Readers
  • *16,000 people use the collections each day, onsite and online
  • *they operate the world’s largest document delivery service providing millions of items a year to customers around the world
    (via About US)

But… still… the process to use the materials in The British Library isn’t a walk in the park. You have to apply for (online) and obtain (in person) a Reader’s Card. Fairly normal. You sometimes need a letter of introduction (several students in my library class did). A little archaic to me. You really need to have a reason to use the materials in the library; you can’t browse or see things just for fun. I know, this is probably for security reasons. I understand that. Even electronic access can be a bit tricky on their website, but perhaps I just haven’t spent enough time learning their system.

The British Library works like a machine. They work very efficiently from what I can tell, which is saying great things for a GIANT library.

Day 5: Bodleian Library at Oxford

REFLECTIVE BLOG

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
The Bodleian Library is one of those libraries that you hear about in the rare book world. It’s located at a famous university, first off, and has quite a long history.

Selfie at the Bodleian! (via K. Emmons)
Selfie at the Bodleian! (via K. Emmons)

The doors of the Bodleian Library officially opened to scholars in 1602, but at that time scholars meant men of a certain status. Women were later allowed into lectures at Oxford in 1878. Even before 1602, though, the building had to be constructed. The Divinity School building (above which sits the Duke Humphrey’s) took 65 years to build and was finished in 1488. Funding, unfortunately slowed by the end of it and you can see differences in the architecture. This building did house the books of Humphrey Plantagenet, the youngest of Henry IV by his first wife; this collection is the Duke Humphrey’s of today.

(Photo by James Whitaker via Bodleian website)
(Photo by James Whitaker via Bodleian website)

Duke Humphrey’s has a wooden ceiling filled with panels of the University’s coat of arms. There are scores of leather bound books filling floor to ceiling bookcases. Larger books are in the lower gallery and smaller books fill the uppermost shelves. It once was a chained library and you can still see an example near the entrance. There are still lecterns dotted about where scholars had to read the chained materials.

After 1488, though, the printing press began affecting the world. New technologies tend to do that, you know. Administrators pressured by legislation passed during the Reformation (the English Church triumphing over the Roman Catholicism) decided to dispose of many of the libraries materials. Apparently the new regime wanted to rid themselves of Catholic images and documents. Only 50 of the original 500 survive – 12 of them having returned to Oxford.

Sir Thomas Sackville Bodley rescued the library around 1598 and eventually reopened the library in 1602. Thomas James became the first librarian of this library. Thankfully, Bodley was a thinking man. He made an agreement with the Stationer’s Company in London to have one copy of every book published in England and registered with the Stationer’s Company deposited in the Bodleian. This created a wide-ranging library full of many topics, since they’ve been collecting for 400 years.

The magic that is Duke Humfrey (via Bodleian weblog)
The magic that is Duke Humfrey (via Bodleian weblog)

The Bodleian is a research library, meaning that no book can be borrowed. No book can leave the walls of the building and be taken home. Even the King of England has been refused! King Charles I was denied book borrowing privileges in 1645.

Today, the library’s mission is “to provide an excellent service to support the learning, teaching, and research objectives of the University of Oxford; and to develop and maintain access to Oxford’s unique collections for the benefit of scholarship and society.” There are more than 11 million printed items in the collections.

The Bodleian’s website claims the following:
“Every second someone interacts with out electronic collections.
Every 14 seconds someone visits one of our libraries.
Every 21 seconds someone borrows one of our books.”

Interesting statistics, wouldn’t you say?

Space seems to be a problem in all libraries. Being a national deposit library, the Bodleian faces interesting challenges. The buildings are also “listed” and protected, so major construction can’t really take place to add more storage. Off-site storage is important in this instance. Tourism and research are equally important here, I would also claim, though research possibly more so. The librarians did not talk to us, library students. That was disappointing. The tour guides were EXCELLENT and I highly recommend going on their tour, please don’t get me wrong! Just… as a library student… I would expect to speak to library professionals… that’s my opinion though, and it definitely did NOT hurt my experience in the Bodleian Library of Oxford Univeristy.