Saturday, 13 July 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday- July 4
I was sad to be out of America for the first time on a Fourth of July, but it turned out to be a really great day! We took the tube to King’s Cross and got to take our pictures with Platform 9 ¾.  They also had a Harry Potter store that was new since the last time I was there.  I bought a pair of HP glasses.  Our morning tour was at the British Library, which is the National Library of the UK.  Again, we had a very lovely guide here! Like the Bodlien, they get a free copy of everything that is published in the UK and Ireland.  Unlike the Bodlien, they do not get to choose if they want it.  They actually have to take everything.  For this reason, they are more selective about the other items in their collection.  Right now they have over 200 million items, and the oldest items are 3000 years old.  The copyright law was just extending to include websites, so they are starting to acquire that material as well.  The library has been around 40 years, but it is only have the size of what was planned because of budget problems.  There is actually more library space underground than above ground because the building was designed to not obscure the views of the buildings around them.  There is space equal to 8 floors underground to store books.  Books are actually stored by size here, in order to maximize space.  Most people use the British Library for academic purposes.  Anyone over 18 can get a reader card, but they have to know what they want from the collection, and have a reason to see the material.  Readers can request items online because much of the collection is stored or kept offsite.  We were able to see the mechanical book handling system, which brings books from the storage to the correct area for a reader to use.  The system handles 5,000-6,000 books a day.  Most of the money for the British Library comes from the government.  They supplement with money from tours, donations, and shops.  A really amazing part of the library is the private library of George III, which is on permanent, public display in the middle of the library.  There was also a really great exhibit of original manuscripts when we visited. 

After our tour, a couple of girls and I went shopping in Camden.  It is a huge market area, and you can find some really cool stuff. I am sure I will be going back at some point on this trip.  We took the tube home to Waterloo and decided to cross the street under the IMAX, where we just happened to run into a movie premiere!! It was so exciting and we got a lot of pictures and autographs! I was just on cloud nine.  Afterwards, we went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen for a Fourth of July dinner and it was delicious.  


Wednesday, 7/3
In the morning we took the tube to Paddington Station where we caught a train heading out to Oxford.  I absolutely loved Oxford! First we went for a tour of the Bodlien Library, or as the young Oxford coeds call it, “the Bod.”  The first room we walked into for the tour was used for the infirmary in the Harry Potter movies, so I was in heaven! It is beautiful, and carved from soft sandstone with a chisel.  It took 60 years to build that one room, and it is 525 years old now.  There was a door added later by Wren because he designed a building next door and added the door so it would lead to his building.  It’s now called “the Wren door.”  There are still podiums in this room where students studying divinity would have their oral disputations.  They were debates that served as their final exams, and they would stand at the podiums for hours!
The library is about 700 years old, and contains over 11 million items and treasures.  It also appeared in the Harry Potter series as the restricted section of the library.  The Bodlien is not a lending library, so you have to read there.  They claim to have one copy of every book. 
The library had no light or heat until 1927.  They didn’t want any fire around the books.  Until 1602, they had slope lecterns along the windows that fit 4 people standing up.  The books were chained so you had to stand and read there.  Later they added chairs and shelves, but the books were still chained.  Also, the books had to be put on the shelf backward because of the way they were chained.  But because of this, no one could see the spine of the book, and they had to be numbered.  There was a list that matched the numbers with the titles and authors of the books, so this was the beginning of cataloging.  Charles I and James I read at the Bodlien.  There are 2 reading rooms with screens that were only for “privileged readers,” which actually only meant kings and queens.
Next to the Bodlien is the Radcliffe Camera.  It is a popular reading area with a beautiful dome ceiling.  It had light before the Bodlien, so students would go there after the Bodlien closed.  In 1909, they tunneled out 2 floors of space for book stacks and storage.  They have been, and are still in the process of making this space more user friendly. 
After our tour, we had some time to shop and eat.  I loved the shops in Oxford.  We ate lunch at The Eagle and Child Pub, which is where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to meet and chat.  After lunch we went to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Shop.  They had really cute stuff in there.  Then we took a tour of Christ Church.  It was amazing.  We got to hear all about Lewis Carroll and Alice and her cat, and we got to see the dining hall that was replicated for the great hall in Harry Potter.  

Hurry up, house elves!! I'm hungry!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Barbican Library, St. Paul's, Soane Museum

Tuesday 7/2-
Tuesday was a very busy day!  We started out in the Barbican Library, which is a public lending library that moved to the Barbican center in 1982.  First of all I have to say, our tour guides were absolutely wonderful at the Barbican.  They even gave us tea and biscuits! The Barbican’s patrons are residents and people who work in the city.  They are predominately in the 25-45 age range, and more men than women.  The library is open two late nights until 7:30 and all day Saturday to accommodate their users.  They also have online resources and returns technology that is available after hours.  It is interesting because they have a 2-hour per day limit of library use to keep people from staying there for hours.  They also change the wifi password once every week.  Inside the library is an exhibition that changes every month.  There is a very high standard, and it is very competitive to be chosen for the exhibition.  The Barbican Library is huge! The fiction books are on shelves in middle of the room, and nonfiction is organized using Dewey on the shelves around the border of the room.  Art and music materials can be found in their own sections, however, and computer books are located near the computers.  The building was not designed to be a library, so there are aspects about it that are not great.  For example, there are large pillars in the library, but nothing can be done about them because they are part of the building.  I found the Barbican very user friendly.  They offer ESL classes, a “skills for life” collection, and a delivery service for the elderly.  The music and art sections are very extensive.  The music library even has two pianos for patrons to use.  All of the music scores are bound before shelving, which is expensive but allows the material to last longer.  The children’s library serves users from newborn to age 14.  It contains 24,000 items.  There is no school library system, so the Barbican visits schools.  They offer story time 3 times a week, as well as other programming. 

After the Barbican we went to a top secret corporate library that I am not allowed to post about, but it was interesting to hear about another type of library that I have never seen before.

That afternoon we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  St. Paul’s is beautiful and we were able to see areas that most people don’t get to see! I enjoyed seeing the staircase from Harry Potter.  The library had a large collection of rare and very old books.  It even smelled like “old books” when we walked in.  We talked about preserving and conserving old texts.  They focus on restoring the books, and more importantly, preventing any further deterioration. 

Tuesday evening, Amanda and I went to the Soane Museum because they have a candlelight tour on the first Tuesday of the month.  After sitting outside in the cold, wind, and rain for two hours, we finally went inside.  It was kind of interesting, but not really my cup of tea.  I have decided Soane was basically just a glorified hoarder.  But the outside of his house is another Harry Potter film location- 12 Grimmauld Place.

Greenwich- National Maritime Museum & Royal Observatory

On Monday, 7/1, we took a commuter boat to Greenwich called the Thames Clipper.  I sat outside to see some sites along the way, and it was really nice.  When we got to Greenwich, we saw some beautiful, symmetrical buildings designed by none other than our good friend, Christopher Wren.  Our first stop of the day was at the National Maritime Museum.  They have a brand new archives department, and we were able to see some amazing manuscripts.  It was really exciting because we could even flip through and read a couple books! One book was a spy book from 1588 from the Spanish Armada.  It listed the ships available to the King of Spain.  In the book there are about 130 ships listed, which we know is accurate.  We also saw letters from the King (signed El Rey), and an original song by Queen Elizabeth.  There was a lot of material about Lord Nelson from the 1800s, and about pirates from the 18th century.  What is very interesting about these pieces we saw is that they are actually used as part of the curriculum for secondary school students, and they want to start to include younger students as well.  The students try to transcribe handwriting from a certain period.  This is difficult because there were no set was of spelling words back then.  Next, our guide took us to the Caird Library on the second floor of the museum.  This library is not well known, but they are working on ways to advertise it more.  They have a new reading room that is 2 years old.  I really enjoyed the technology in the library.  There were ways to scan manuscripts and look at microfilm.  The most interesting to me was a screen where you can choose a kind of ship and see the plans for it digitally.  They still have a lot of work to do on digitizing the collection, but it is still very cool to see what they have done.  Then we went on a tour of the stacks where they keep materials that are not on display.  It is a new and enhanced system.  They don’t need to store collections off site anymore.  They have storage for collections on the 2 floors above the library and 1 below.  We couldn’t take pictures here because of security, but it was interesting to see how they keep their pieces organized.  They arrange by format and then section.  We also saw the biggest lift we have ever seen. It was humongous.  I wish I could’ve taken a picture!!
After our tour, we had a few hours to look around Greenwich.  We went outside to see the ball on the top of the Royal Observatory that rises and drops everyday at 1:00 pm Greenwich Mean Time.  It was cool to see.  Then we hiked up the steepest hill I have ever seen, all the way up to the Royal Observatory.  We went inside and saw John Harrison’s clocks.  I had just read Longitude by Dava Sobel so it was amazing to see the original clocks he made.  I made sure to set my watch according to the atomic clock, and we took pictures on both sides of the Prime Meridian! It was very fun.