Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Class 2 Continued - Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral Library (02/07/2013?

After an amazing tour at the Barbican Public Lending Library (see prior post for more details about that fantastic tour), the BSP library students were introduced to the library at St. Paul’s Cathedral (
Ruins from a burned down church, awaiting restoration. 

First, to get to the library, we walked up 140 spiral steps, steps that were used in some filming of the Harry Potter movies (gasp!). Once we entered the upstairs area, named the tri forium level, our guide Joseph Wisdom began to tell us all about the history of the building. From learning a bit about the architect, Christopher Wren, to looking at mosaics to seeing viking texts, a style which is called Ringerike, there was an abundance of things to look at before we even entered the library. Mr. Wisdom even took us out on a balcony to look out over the cathedral, a sight that is truly unlike any other. However, despite the amazing view of the whole cathedral, the most interesting part of this tour was seeing all the broken pieces of stone that were shelved on the walls. We learned that all of these pieces belonged to a church that was burned down, and now they are housed here and awaiting restoration. 

Dream come true:
I know now how Belle felt in Beauty and the Beast
After learning a little about the cathedral, Mr. Wisdom took us into the library. Walking into this room, I felt like Belle when the Beast takes her into his library in Beauty and the Beast. The musty leather smell, the floor to ceiling shelves filled with books, the dim lighting and the amount of papers and volumes scattered throughout the area was a dream come true. After taking in the fantastic sensory overload of this room, Mr. Wisdom introduced us to library’s conservation and preservation efforts, told us about the age of the books (some dated from before 1802) and explained to us that the library used a database but it is not accessible to the public, it is strictly for in house needs.
Joseph Wisdom introducing us to some of the library materials. 

Lastly, the lesson that stuck with me was the fact that cathedrals were always about science. This is an association that is not usually made, in fact it is always quite the opposite that is assumed. However, Mr. Wisdom pointed out that with the architecture of cathedrals, the design and the height, these places were often used to observe the laws of gravity, astronomy and other experiments. Never before had I heard this and I thought it was such an interesting tidbit to share. One that I will definitely always remember. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Class 2: The Barbican Public Lending Library (02/07/2013)

Trying to find a blend between traditional services and user friendly self services, the Barbican Public Lending Library ( is among the top revolutionaries in library services. Between their use of card catalogues, now used to store different types of information, exhibition space, which invites local artists to compete for a chance to show off their newest creations, and the availability of self return and OPAC systems after library operating hours, located outside of the locked doors to help patrons that cannot make it during the day, the Barbican is a library that prides itself on their combination of traditional and self services.
Example of the quick choice display.
Having moved to this new location in 1982 when the Barbican Center opened, the library is said to be of the Barbican but not the Barbican. Being part of a major tourist attractions center, the library is constantly improving self service and user efficiency. The Barbican is a high traffic, highly popular entity. When our group visited this library today, we learned all about the patrons that come in and out daily, as well as met some of them that waked in while our guide for the morning, Jonathan Gibbs, told us all about the library and the constituents that visit. In addition, we learned about the wide range of on-line services and that the Barbican has a home delivery service for those patrons that cannot physically make it into the library.  

Once inside the Barbican, one of the things that stood out the most was their quick choice display. Books were stored face on, displayed much like a bookshop, and offered current/relevant titles that may peak readers interests. Similar to a lot of other services offered, this display is meant to peak readers interests and allow them to find what they are looking for quicker. This was a creative way to ensure titles were being seen and to keep circulation up. 

Another display that really stood out was the display of crime novels from the 1920’s and 1930’s. Although we were told that the stories were virtually unreadable, the artwork on the cover was nothing short of entertaining. An octopus grabbing a woman in a red dress, it doesn’t get better than that? It has nothing to do with the library services, but it was a unique display that definitely catches the attention and draws you in. 

After looking at the books, Mr. Gibbs took us to see the Art section of the library which contained DVDs and a small collection of Blu-rays. Unlike the libraries back in the states, patrons are charged a small fee to loan these items out for a week.

Children's Room at the Barbican 
After looking at the arts section, my class was taken to see the music library, one of the two largest collections in London. Housing over 15,000 CDs, a number of journals dedicated to individual composers, used for reference only, thousands of pages of sheet music, all of which are sent out to be bound before being placed on the shelves, and two digital pianos, available for patrons to rent out and use to practice on, this music library was impressive. From the minute I walked in with my class and heard the one student practicing a tune on the piano, I knew this was a room unlike any other.

Lastly, our tour of the Barbican took us to the children’s section. With over 24,000 items in the room, this is one of the largest children’s collections, ranging from infancy to 14 years old. There is no youth programming available; there are reading schemes, 12 local schools use the resources of this library, three times a week a story time is offered and there is a book start program aimed to encourage parents to read and bring their families into the library. What was interesting to learn about was the Summer Reading Challenge. Like the summer reading programs back in the states, this is a national program aimed to get kids reading over the summer. Similar to our system, there is a set amount of books each child needs to read in order to be acknowledged. What makes this program a little different is the emphasis that’s placed on the summer program. At the end of the summer, each child is invited to a ceremony, held at an off site location, where they are presented with a certificate and a medal. It gives the kids a chance to feel like what they did is a huge accomplishment and inspires them to want to continue. Out of all the sections my class saw today, this children’s section, by far, was my favorite. The Barbican Public Lending Library is truly a great library. 

Entrance sign in front of the Children's Room.
Could not have asked for a better one. Personally I love L. Snicket.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Class 1: The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (01/07/2013)

After a long and very fun weekend, the first day of class quickly hit our group on Monday. However, what better way to kick things off than with a lovely boat ride down the Thames River? Not one I can think of, that’s for sure. Along the commuter route, we passed many sights, such as the London and Tower Bridge and the Globe. With the sun shining, the breeze blowing and a fresh notebook ready to take notes in, I knew this was going to be a great day one in British Studies. 
Royal Naval Academy 
Upon docking, I quickly realized that my expectations were far exceeded. With a brief walk past a huge ship, the birthplace spot of the Tudor Family and a class picture in front of the Old Royal Naval College, it was time to make our way into the National Maritime Museum. Greeted by Mike Bevan, Archive Manager, and Graham Thompson, Archives Assistant, our class was split into two groups and given a tour of the library and a closer look at some of the materials in the collection. 
1st of many name badges.
So official and exciting!
First up for my group, lead by Mr. Thompson, was a closer look at some of the materials that are housed in the Greenwich collection. With boxes labeled Armada, Georgian and Pirates, we were allowed to see and handle some of the documents. Among my personal favorites was the Book of Intelligence from Spain, which dated back to 1580, the song that was allegedly written by Queen Elizabeth for a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s, the illustrations of notorious pirates and the book from 1736 that contained illustrations of authentic pirates, still used to this day to recreate authentic looks and costumes. Being able to handle to all of these old documents was a first time experience for me, and it was an amazing moment to actually realize how old some of this manuscripts were and how long they have lasted. It truly was a special moment, and one that I know will stay with me. 
Examining materials and manuscripts 

From there, we were taken on a tour of the Caird Library. Located on an upper floor, the library is open to everyone and free to use if there is a purpose for it. Currently the staff is working on getting more people in the doors and keeping traffic up. Major improvements are being made and they are working more closely with the museum to have exhibitions tie in together. From there, we were taken to see the state of the art systems, taken into the basement stacks and allowed to see what goes on behind the scenes at the library. Once again, this was a first time experience for me and it was such an awesome experience. 
All in all, day one of classes was a complete and utter success in my book. Having never worked in a library setting before, I was exposed to some many behind the scenes things that I never saw before. It was fantastic to see what lies ahead of me in my journeys, and I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of this class had in store. 

Also, for more information on the National Maritime Museum and the Caird Library, please visit

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

"But there's no place like London!"

Trafalgar Square
What a whirlwind the first day was. From the minute I stepped off the plane onto the train, then caught a cab with two other students which brought us to the university we’d be living in for the next month, there was no stopping. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

After unpacking and getting acquainted with my new room, our group went on a walking tour of the city. Beginning with our block, we traveled past the National Theater to the Thames Riverbank. From there, we dined on some great pizza (who knew London pizza could compare with New York?), sauntered around Gabriel’s Wharf, continued on past the National Gallery. Professor Welsh brought our group to see the old Oceanic Building where passengers bought their tickets for the maiden voyage on the Titanic and topped off the neighborhood tour with a magnificent view of Parliment and Big Ben as dusk was beginning to set in. To these native eyes, the view was one that cannot be compared to any other. It was at that moment that it finally set in and I realized that I am in London. 
Beautiful view of Big Ben and Parliment.
The true sight that makes anyone realize they really are in London. 

On that first day around the city, I couldn’t stop gapping and looking at everything around me. Since I was 16, I said I wanted to see this city before hitting 25, and here I am making it six months before my due date. Just seeing what was within walking distance gave me the desire to want to explore anything and everything that these streets had to offer. 

London Calling: Let the Adventure Begin/My First Blogging Experience!!

I cannot believe five days have come and gone since I arrived in London. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was sitting at my terminal at JFK and thinking, "What is this next month going to bring?" So far, it has been more than I ever could have imagined. From the meeting the other students to seeing Big Ben on the first day to catching Macbeth at the Globe within a week of being here, I am in awe of everything that is around me.  Coming from Long Island, I thought I had a preconceived notion of what to expect, but all I can say is Toto you are not in Kansas anymore.

Greatest View in the World!! 
In order to preserve and be able to reflect on this trip later on (as well as meet the requirements of this course) I will record the daily comings and goings of this once in a lifetime experience. From this point on, it's all London all the time.