Barbican Library

Out of the three lending libraries in London, this is the largest.  Our guides for this tour were Geraldine Polt and Jonathan Gibbs.  Barbican Library opened in 1982, although the space was not designed as a library. It uses Dewey classification mostly, but has their own variation system.  Books and items are weeded constantly.  They do use volunteers, but the volunteers are not allowed to shelve.  They mostly sit with children who have problems reading, and encourage the children.  The library has home delivery for 30 people in London.  The library also has audio, e-audio and e-books available. They have reading time for preschool children, game time for the older children, and sessions for those with reading difficulties.  Volunteers listen to the children read and encourage them. For every child that is born in London, the library give them a pack of books when they are born, and another pack before they start preschool.

A library assistant named Natalie talked with us about the children library, which serves ages 0 to 14 years old. The children’s library has 23,000 items.  15,000 of these items are upstairs, while the remaining 8,000 are in the stacks downstairs.

Patrons can borrow up to 12 books for up to three weeks, but there is no fine if they are late.  The goal of the library is to be something to everybody.  That goal reaches from birth to death.  They strive to be relevant.

One of the most interesting things that I found about the Barbican Library was the music library.  We had an opportunity to listen to Richard Jones tell us about the history of the music library.  It was opened in 1983.  They have a team effort to keep their followers updated through Facebook, and Twitter.  They currently have 1,800 followers on Twitter.  The music library has 9,000 books.  It also has a reference section, as well as listening booths.  There are 16,000 scores at the music library.  They have the largest cd collection in London.



*Kew Royal Botanical Gardens

I was interested in touring the botanical gardens because the university I work at is entertaining the idea of starting a medicinal garden.  I thought that it would be interesting to see how the botanical gardens got its start.

The library is 160 years old, although Kew Gardens was founded in 1759.  There were originally two gardens. Currently, there are 300,000 volumes of books and pamphlets, 5,000 periodicals, and 200,000 pieces of botanic art.There are 7 million sheets of paper in the archives.  There are 30,000 items that are added to the archives in a year.  The archives and the illustrations are not cataloged.

Andrew Wilshire talked with our group first about Beatrix Potter.  It was really interesting to hear about her history and interest in fungi.  He told of how she kept a journal, but wrote in a code of her own making.  Beatrix Potter came from upper-middle class, and had a wealthy, domineering mother.  A man named Leslie Linder tried to break the code of the journals.  It took him five years to break the code, four years to translate, and another four to get it published.  Potter’s most famous book was a book of a little rabbit named Peter.  Between the ages of 25 to 30, she became interest in Fungi.  She figured out that fungi spread by spores in the ground.  She wrote of her findings, but was turned down when she tried to present her research to Kew Gardens because she was a woman.

The library is more interested in botany than they are in the study of horticulture.  Botany is the study of plants that grow naturally. One of the challenges that the botanical gardens has is putting the information or items into the hand of the public is difficult.

After touring the library and archive, we were able to explore the gardens.


Edinburgh Central Library

Our class toured the Edinburgh Central Library July 15. This was the first public library our class visited.  The library is actually two buildings joined together.  The library opened in 1890 by Andrew Carnegie. The first room we entered on our tour was a children’s library, where they have story time every Thursday.  The children’s library have seats incorporated inside the books shelves so that the children will have somewhere to sit and read.  There is also a separate room for children ages 5 and under.

The library uses a modified version of the Library of Congress for classification.  The Central lending library is the busiest part of the library. Computers are available for patrons to use.  There are eleven floors to the library.  The music library opened in 2014.  Patrons can borrow up to 80 copies of scores.  There is a special section for the Scotland and Edinburgh collections.  The library is 125 years old and are still collecting items. The collection dates back to 1465 (the 15th century). There are 60,000 items in the Edinburgh collection, and 50,000 to 60,000 items in the Scotland collection. The collection isn’t just looking at the past, it looks toward the future.  The library collects all formats. The library purchases items, receives donations, and receives items by accident at times.

One of the best collections that is housed at the library is the Edinburgh collection. It contains books on history, maps, and images of lost buildings.

Future plans for the library include digitization of collections.  The librarians also believe that the collections must be promoted and made fun. There are 28 branch libraries.  Each library manages their own facebook, twitter, and social media blogs. The library partners with other institutions to raise awareness of dyslexia.  This involves four steps: awareness, engagement, support/ resource, and mainstreaming. The library also has various programs for helping children learn to read.


National Maritime Museum

On July 9, our class toured the National Maritime Museum. It is located in Greenwich, which required a short ride on a river taxi. The museum was founded in the 1937 by Sir James Caird.    Our guide for the museum was Michael Bevan, who is one of the archivist.  Any books that are before 1850 are considered to be rare books.  Modern books, or anything later than 1850, belong to the museum, and are part of the working collection.  The oldest item that the museum has is an atlas dating back to the 16th century.  The oldest manuscript item the museum has is a contract document for the vessel “Our Lady.”  The reading room is broken up into parts by a glass enclosure, so that there is a quiet section.  Librarians and archivists work the desk to answer questions. The museum gets 200 written inquiries per month, and another 120 by phone. The museum has 3 sites for offsite storage, and items are retrieved once a week from storage.

The librarian showed us documents relating the to funeral of Admiral Nelson, dated January 9, 1806.  His body was put in a lead coffin, and was filled with brandy to preserve the body.  HIs body and casket were held at Greenwich hospital for three days for the wake.  7,000 people attended his funeral.

While in Greenwich, a group of us decided to tour the Painted Hall.  It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1698.  We also visited The Queen’s House.  It was the first fully classical building in Britain, and the only surviving building from the Palace of Greenwich.

One question that was never answered involved the crest that was above the entrance door.  The crest has a lion and a unicorn on it. The unicorn has a chain around it.  No one was ever able to tell us why.


*King’s College: Maughan Library & Special Collections

On July 8, our class visited what would be my favorite library of those that we visited.  Our class toured the Maughan Library and Special Collections at King’s College.  The collections consist of around 180,000 items, covering the strengths of theology, medicine, literature, travel, exploration, Judaism, and science. The library uses the Library of Congress classification scheme. The library serves the students of King’s College, which consist of students numbering between 25,000 to 30,000 a year.  There are five faculty members.  The group study rooms are first come, first serve.  The library also has a computer room that can be reserved.  There is an additional round reading room that is modeled after the British Library round reading room.  I think that the favorite room among my classmates was the Weston Room.  It is located in the oldest section of the building, and had originally served as a chapel.  This part of the library is where the exhibitions are displayed for the public to view.  Currently, there is an exhibit that shows some medical instruments.  For example, there is an amputation set that was used at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. There are several books that are on display with these instruments.

The librarians of the special collections had set out several items that were interesting.  Some of these included a book on how astrological events affected health, Edward Jenner’s book on small pox, John Conley’s book of insanity (published in 1830), and the Penny Lancet.  The Penny Lancet was for people who could not afford to go to a doctor, or for those who just did not trust doctors.  It gave crude instructions on how to “heal” yourself. One set of instructions told of how to do surgery on yourself.

I really enjoyed the medical collection of the archive.  A significant amount of the 19th century collection is at the Wellcome Library for digitization.


National Art Library/ V & A Museum

On the afternoon of July 6, our class visited the Victoria and Albert museum to tour the National Art Library. It is one of four art libraries in the world, and its strength lies in its collections on decretive arts and design.  There are an estimated 1 million books in the collections. The library originally opened in 1837 at the Somerset House as a small, but practical library. It was moved in 1852 to the Marlborough House, and later moved again to the South Kensington Museum.  In 1899, the library made its final move into the Victoria and Albert Museum, which was originally the South Kensington Museum. The library maintains that the stacks are closed, which means that all items are for in-house use only.  None of the collections can be taken out of the library. Any item that was created before 1850 is part of the special collections.  The staff pulls materials for patrons, and leaves in on reserve for three days.

The library has 11,000 periodicals, 1,000 of which are current subscriptions.  The numbering and lettering of the books are done in-house, and books are classified by height.  The National Art Library uses Library of Congress subject heading when cataloging books.  There are no photocopies in the library, although patrons can use the scanners that are provided.  By using the scanners, patrons can save the images on a thumb drive/ flash drive. Our guide also told us that the library has a budget of 175,000 pounds per year, and that there were around 4,000 inquiries a year for material.

The library has an online catalog that makes searching the collections easy.  The library website suggest to send a request for the material before arriving, as most material is housed in storage.  This can be done using the online library catalog.

The art library houses collections that include jewelry, fashion, and even has some information on the history of music halls.


St. Paul’s Cathedral Library

My first glimpse of St. Paul’s was the first Sunday that we were in London.  I went to the optional morning service, and was in awe of the cathedral.  I was even more amazed when we got to tour the archives.  The cathedral itself was founded in 604.  The collections were almost completely destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.  Sir Christopher Wren was brought in to design the new cathedral.  He was Britain’s most famous architect, although he thought of himself as more as a mathematician or geometrician.   He also had a strong interest in astrology.

St. Paul’s Cathedral opened for its first service since the Great Fire of London in 1697. Above the entrance door, there is a heart and book.  This symbolizes “In all we do, we do with love.”  The collections at the cathedral include anything related to the cathedral, including the construction.  There is an actual model of the original design of the cathedral, although the design was not used.

Our tour was given by the librarian, whose name was Joe Wisdom.  After performing a short song, Mr. Wisdom gave us instructions on how to properly pull a book off the shelf.  The books are arranged by size, and then are organized alphabetically.  The largest of the books are at the bottom, while smaller books are on the top.

As part of our tour, we were able to see the geometric staircase that leads up to the library. While we were touring the library, the BBC was setting up to broadcast the next days service to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the bombing. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to see the collections that “live” in the cathedral library. I also enjoyed meeting the interesting and knowledgeable librarian that works with these collections.