Friday, August 17, 2007

Guildhall Library-Aug. 3

With one last gasp, we arrived early morn for our last visit as a class at London's Guildhall Library in the shadow of St. Paul's Cathedral. This reference-only library dates back to the 1420s but the present day institution was created in 1824. The library's Printed Books, Prints and Maps, and Manuscripts sections offer a wide and in-depth view of London and British history.

Printed Books includes London 1841-1901 census returns, London stock exchange company annual reports 1880-1965, and Lloyd's of London's maritime collection 1740 to present (over 300,000 voyage cards are available providing a valuable glimpse of British maritime commerce).

Prints and Maps offers over 25,000 online searchable images of historical London and various themes e.g. religion, politics, satire. London maps from the 16th century to the present are also available.

Manuscripts archives the records of various London-based organizations such as city wards, parishes, and business and commercial ventures e.g. London Stock Exchange, Lloyd's of London.

Our tour guide explained that Printed Books is the most frequented library section. In addition to regular users, Printed Books receives 10-15 emailed research queries/day. Library staff is able to offer patrons 20 minutes of free research assistance; after that, patrons are charged $100/hour.

Guildhall library uses the fairly ubiquitous Talis software for their OPACs. It takes 10-15 minutes for a requested book to be retrieved from the library's closed stacks. Internet access is free.

There are 43 staff members and four volunteers.

Attached to the library is the Clock Museum. Founded in 1814, the collection of clocks and watches is the oldest such museum in the world.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Who Is Buried In Milton's Tomb?-Aug. 2

After visiting Barbican Library, I strolled over to nearby St. Giles Cripplegate Church where John Milton is buried. Like most of the Barbican area, this church was hit by German bombers. It wasn't destroyed but there was extensive damage. St. Giles' numerous busts, plaques, and statues memorialize the church's links with other famous men: Cromwell was married here, DeFoe's burial is recorded in parish records, John "Pilgrims Progress" Bunyan worshipped here, and St. Thomas More's parents were married here. Sorry to report I was unable to find John Foxe's burial spot. It must have been under a chair or something. Below is Milton's statue and his grave not far from the altar. Here is a layout of St. Giles' interior.

Barbican Library-Aug. 2

Winding down our 4 week trip to England, we squeaked in a visit to the City of London's Barbican Library, one of only three lending libraries in the old, formally walled, 1 square mile section of Greater London (the old City of London is on the north bank and is that portion of London which burned during the 1666 Great Fire--St. Paul's Cathedral is located in the old City of London).

As with all our visits, we were met by gracious host tour guides. (We have been blessed this entire trip with extremely friendly, generous, bright and articulate hosts. The folks at the University of Southern Mississippi, our sponsoring school for this trip, really outdid themselves lining up such an impressive array of speakers and tour guides.) The Barbican Library is part of an entire complex of residential, entertainment, and retail buildings in what we Americans use to call a Planned Unit Development (PUD). This area, said our hosts, was bombed to smithereens during WWII and was rebuilt and became the present-day Barbican. The library is one of the oldest public libraries in England dating back to the 1400s and circulates annually 500,000 items serving daily 1,200 people.

With 17,000 CDs, the Barbican boasts one of the two largest music collections in London. Patrons may use listening booths to listen to CDs and a head-phoned equipped keyboard for practice. Each bourgh library is required to specialize in their nonfiction collection. The Barbicon is heavy with Dewey-classified Marxism, finance and classical crime. There is also a superb modern map collection. There are 25,000 items in the children's area for newborns and children through 14 years of age. The children's librarian has established close ties with state and private schools. Free internet access is provided for children and adults. Children's internet is filtered.

Barbican library has 44 staff people. Ten of these people are full-time professionals. Financial support comes from a bourgh tax levy. Barbican is well endowed because it is in a wealthy bourgh. Bourgh libraries on the south bank e.g. Southwark, are less well off. RFID tagging and self-check out is used by the Barbican.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The National Maritime Museum Library and Royal Observatory-Aug. 1

We climbed aboard a commuter boat early morn and traveled the River Thames upstream to Greenwich to meet our tour guide for a glimpse at the National Maritime Museum's library. Founded in 1937 the museum displays an impressive array of model ships and naval battle exhibits. The reference-only Caird ("Strive and endure") Library holds 100,000 naval-related volumes including 8,000 rare books such as naval logs, correspondence, spy books, and waggoners (pirate books). The collection dates from 1322 to the present. Items are classified according to the Universal Decimal System.

Our gracious tour guides brought out a number of archival gems for us to peruse. We saw ship logs from: the Pearl which captured Blackbeard in 1720 off the coast of North Carolina, John "Amazing Grace' Newton, HMS Bounty, and Cook's voyages. We were also privy to some of Admiral Nelson's private letters to his wife and mistress and to original pictures of Titanic life-boat survivors taken by a photographer on the Carpathian.

Nearby Royal Observatory sits atop a stEEp hill. Some of us huffed-and-puffed to the top. There is a great eastward view of London. The Royal Observatory venue is the earth's time and space benchmark. It is here where all of earth's clocks and longitude are calibrated and measured. It is here where you can have one foot in the western hemisphere and one foot in the eastern hemisphere (as fellow librarian Nancy demonstrates). It is here where you can watch the big red ball drop at 1 pm. It is here where you can watch and listen as the Observatory's importance is explained. And it is here where you can see closeup, John Harrison's revolutionary, super-precise, robust, 18th century maritime clocks that helped solve the centuries-old problem of determining longitude.

The National Art Library-July 31

Having returned to London wet and hungry after hiking Hadrian's Wall (see blog entries for Hadrian Wall hike), I tagged along with my fellow librarians to The National Art Library at London's Victoria and Albert Museum. This is a reference-only library. Registered readers are allowed to look at materials in the library's reading room and may use digital cameras to make copies.

Our tour guide took us to the periodicals storage area which houses art sales catalogs and art exhibition catalogs from around the world.

At another part of the library, we were shown some unusual handmade books that are works of art. One book was page-after-page of ever changing strings, while another book was a series of tunnels. My favorite was the nutshell book made of an actual nutshell. Inside was a tiny book with pictures of various nuts.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Edinburgh's Writers' Museum-July 25

On my last day in Edinburgh, we visited Edinburgh's Writers' Museum honoring favorite sons Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Located in historic Lady Stair's House, this building was gifted by the 5th Earl of Rosebury to the city of Edinburgh in 1907. Although tiny, the Writers' Museum groans with cool stuff: Burns' sword stick and writing desk, Scott's chess set and printing press which printed his Waverly novels, and Stevenson's fishing rod, pipe and riding boots he wore while living in Samoa.

The picture above is from London Libby's blog (thanks Libby). We happy librarians are waiting early morn outside the Writers' Museum. Prof. Wright is front row left in purple and Prof. Welsh is front row right with the purple scarf. I'm in the back (I'm the only one with a mustache). We are standing in the Museum Makars' Court ("Makar" is Scots for poet or author skilled in the craft of writing). Stone slabs in the ground are inscribed with pithy quotes from Scottish authors. My favorite quotes are John Buchan, 1875-1940, "We can only pay our debt to the past
by putting the future in debt to us" and Neil Gunn, 1891-1973, "Knowledge is high in the head but the salmon of wisdom swims deep."

After the Writers' Museum, we met for a late morning coffee at the Elephant House where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for Harry Potter. The writer's Muse struck us all in mid-slurp and we immediately began next year's bestsellers (picture below, thanks again Libby). My bestseller will, of course, be a manly bestseller with lots of blood and severed limbs. The ladies are doing teddy bears and talking ponies. At this point, I left the ladies for the Edinburgh train station to begin my journey to Hadrian's Wall.

The National Archives of Scotland-July 23

After visiting the National Library of Scotland earlier in the day, we walked over to the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) where we were greeted by the very gracious education director. She explained that the NAS is comprised of three sites: General Register House (where we were), St. George's Church, and Thomas Thomson House. Records from the 12th century to the present are stored at the NAS. According to our guide, there is a growing demand from people doing genealogical research.

We were shown a number of old records but the most exciting presentation was the actual Exchequer (Treasury) scroll referencing the oldest Scottish record of a whisky transaction. The handwritten scroll, written in ornate and difficult-to-read Latin, records that a buyer in 1495 bought malt from Friar John Cor to make aqua vite ("water of life" aka Scotch Whisky). Earlier scroll entries of other types of transactions date back to the 13th century. What was remarkable to me was the scroll's great condition. It was actually possible to roll and unroll (carefully) this huge ancient paper record.

National Library of Scotland-July 23

After a nine hour bus ride from London to Edinburgh the previous day, we visited the National Library of Scotland (NLS) where we were greeted by David, Senior Curator of the John Murray Archive. David explained that the NLS is a copyright deposit and reference-only library. The NLS is especially proud of its 2005, $62 million purchase of the John Murray Archive which contains over 150,000 documents from one of Britain's greatest 19th century publishing houses. John Murray was the first publisher for many great works including: Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species, Jane Austen's Emma, and Samuel Coleridge's Kubla Khan. "Ideas That Shaped The World" (picture above) is an amazing, innovative interactive display of eleven Murray-published authors including: Charles Darwin, Benjamin Disraeli, Sir Walter Scott, David Livingstone, and Robert Peel. We were shown an informative PowerPoint presentation of John Murray Publishers. One quote from the presentation about the importance of publishing books really caught my attention--"[Publishing books is like] dropping sparks into the tinder of our imagination."

The NLS's total collection is worth $150 million. Scotland's Heritage Council funds the NLS at an annual rate of $17 million. Other interesting NLS statistics: 8,000 items received daily, 50,000 items being digitized, 2 million maps, 300,000 sheet music items, and 13 million items in printed collections.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bo Diddley and Harry Potter At Oxford?-July 19

We invaded Oxford University's Bodleian Library early morning and took no prisoners (we did, however, truimphantly scurry away with some nifty bookmarks). We were all surprised to learn from our tour guide that the library is NOT named after Bo Diddley but rather benefactor, Sir Thomas Bodley. Bodleian is actually a complex of libraries with the Divinity School library being the first one built, 1427-1488. Divinity and witchcraft collide in this library for it is here that Harry Potter and friends were filmed being nursed to health at Hogwart's infirmary. The Proscholium, 1610-1612, and the unique round Radcliffe Camera (above picture) are the other Bodleian libraries and together with the Divinity School hold more than 8 million items. Bodleian is not a lending library. Even kings, explained our guide, have been refused requests for books. As with the British Library, Bodleian is a copyright deposit institution.

Bodleian's new director, American Sarah Thomas, is looking for off-site locations for the library's ever expanding collection. Here are some other interesting library statistics: maps--1,241,000; length of shelving--118 miles; average time to deliver requested books from New Library stack to reading rooms--3 hours; number of reading rooms--30; and number of reading room seats--2,482.

Below is St. Mary the Virgin Church directly behind Radcliffe Camera. This church showcased such notable clergymen as John Henry Cardinal Newman, founder of the 19th century Oxford Movement, and John Wesley, founder of Methodism.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hadrian's Wall Hike, Day 1, Part 4-July 26

Sign before River Tyne Bridge to Chollerford.

River Tyne Bridge to Chollerford.

Field near Chollerford.

Brunton turret.

Black Carts Turret (29A ).

More of Black Carts Turret.

Muddy driveway to Green Carts Farm B&B.

Green Carts Farm B&B.

Hadrian's Wall Hike, Day 1, Part 3-July 26

This is St. Oswald's Church. It was built to commemorate Angle King Oswald's 7th century Battle of Heavenfield victory over a pagan Celtic army.

This is a segment of Hadrian's Wall at Planetrees. Only a small portion of the original 84 mile wall remains. During the centuries after the Romans left England, most of the wall was dismantled by locals to build homes, churches and roads.
Another view at Planetrees
A close up view at Planetrees.

A HUGE mutant tree with a nasty case of acne.

Hadrian's Wall Hike, Day 1, Part 2-July 26

This is the vallum (Latin for "wall") which is actually a ditch that parallels Hadrian's Wall on the south.

Another example of the vallum.
The countryside reminds me of Kentucky's rolling hills. Do you recognize the stone fence craftsmanship?
The trail plays tag with highway B6318.

St. Oswald's Tea Room where I stop to have green tea and a cheese scone.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hadrian's Wall Hike, Day 1, Part 1-July 26

Fellcroft Bed & Breakfast, Corbridge, England

My Fellcroft hosts, Arnie and Tove.

This is a typical Hadrian's Wall stile. This particular stile at Portgate is north of Corbridge and is the begining of my four-day (July 26-29), 39 mile hike. Notice the overcast sky. Excellent Hadrian Wall websites are found here and here. The website for my hike organizer, Mickledore, is here.

This is what I see after climbing the stile.

Muddy trail.