Saturday, July 31, 2010

Maughan Library & ISC, King's College London - July 29

Our last trip as a class was to the Maughan Library and ISC at the Strand Campus of King's College. The building was previously used by as the Public Record Office. When it became vacant in the late 1990's, King's College elected to consolidate 4 separate libraries into 1. Since the building was built to house public records in 1851, it was designed to be fireproof, a perfect match for a library. One hurdle the college had to deal with is the fact that this is a Listed Building and very few, if any, structural modification could be made. However, another benefit of the previous purpose is that the building was designed to bear the weight of papers and documents, so load bearing has not been a concern for the Library.

The current collection consists of 3-4 million volumes and covers numerous topics, such as American studies, Byzantine & modern Greek, digital culture & technology, European studies, film studies, history, linguistics, theology & religious studies, war studies, law, engineering, mathematics and physics. The Library is available to anyone with serious research plans. There are approximately 11,000 students at the Strand campus and 20,000 students city-wide.

The building is a nice mix of the old and new. Due to the restrictions by the English Heritage, the architects had no choice but to leave the historical integrity of the space. However, they succeeded in bringing the facility into the 21st century with modern amenities.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The National Archives of Scotland - July 20

After our wonderful trip to Dunfermline, we returned to Edinburgh to visit the National Archives of Scotland (NAS). NAS is government agency, headed by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland. The mission of NAS is to preserve, protect, and promote the nation's records and to provide access to the archive that educates.

The Archive is split into 2 divisions, Records Services and Corporate Services. The building we visited is known as the General Register House and it holds 70 kilometers of records dating back to the 12th century. The records maintained by NAS are divided into the following categories: government, legal registers, courts, churches, nationalized industries and transport, Local authorities, Private and corporate bodies, and Maps and plans.

Patrons of NAS tend to fall into 2 groups, academic researchers or genealogists. This latter group tends to utilize the Scottish People Centre which has been widely digitized. Others looking for on-site research may do so in one of the reading rooms, like the Historical Search Room seen below.

Dunfermline Carnegie Library - July 20

The Dunfermline Carnegie Library was the first of 2,500 Carnegie libraries around the world. With an initial gift of £8,000, the Library was opened in 1883. There was so much interest in the Library that it ran out of books on the first day. The collection has since grown to over 64,000 items with 20,000 books being issued each month.

Our tour included 3 sections of the Library: the main lending library, the special collections, and a local history room. Below is a view of the main lending library which is comprised of adult fiction and non-fiction. Also part of this section is the bright and cheerful children's library.

Despite being housed in an historical building, the local history department has modernized the facilities and the collection is now housed in a climate controlled room. This department includes local newspapers that date back to 1859, parish records, census records from 1841 and later, minutes from the county council meetings from as early as 1843.

One of the highlights of the Special Collection department is the Murison Burns Collection. John Murison was such avid fan of Robert Burns work that everything in this room has either been written by or about Robert Burns. There are a number of art pieces that depict Burns, as well. The collection is a living collection and continues to grow with new items each year.

For some brief information about Carnegie Libraries, visit: Wikipedia

The Central Library of Edinburgh - July 19

I would like to start this post by saying "I love the people of Scotland!" The folks at the Central Library of Edinburgh were so warm and inviting. They were knowledgeable about their library and patrons and city.

When we first arrived, they brought us into a conference room where we could sit and fully absorb what they had to say. Several staff members presented on their departments' roles in the Library and community. Like libraries on this side of the pond, the Central Library is constantly working to increase its profile and draw in new patrons. One of the initiatives they have implemented is the development of their virtual library. It was started less than a year ago as a useful alternative to the physical library. It is not meant to replace the brick and mortar library, though. Instead the hope is it will draw people in. Patrons are able to search the online catalogue for Capital Collections (an image library focusing on Edinburgh) and "Your Edinburgh" (a one-stop shop for local information, health, advice, support groups, business, community, and activities).

Another important initiative the Library has taken on is reader development. The goal is to engage readers and find what they prefer while also trying to broaden their interests. They are working to put books at the core of what the Library does so people will be more likely to fight on behalf of the Library when it is threatened. Author events is one aspect of this initiative.

The Library is fortunate to have been solidly built so environmental fluctuations are not a major fear. However, dust is still a threat to the 1 million items in the collection.

The Library was founded in 1886 with a grant of £50,000 from Andrew Carnegie. At the time the only libraries in Edinburgh were subscription libraries and thus out of reach to the working class and poor. The building still has many historical features, such as the narrow corridor seen above.

The National Library of Scotland - July 19

Our first full day in Edinburgh was July 19th. In the morning we headed into the city from Dalkeith (which I have come to affectionately call the creepy palace of doom, but I'm a total sissy so don't take my word for it). Our first visit was the National Library of Scotland, however, due to the size of our group they were unable to provide a guided tour. Instead, we browsed around the 2 exhibits just off the main lobby.

The first exhibit started with a nice background and history of the Library and its collection. The National Library of Scotland is 1 of 6 legal deposit libraries in the British Isles and consists of a collection covering everything from serious academic publications to Dennis the Menace cartoons. There are: 14 million books & manuscripts, 2 million maps & atlases, 300,000 music scores, 32,000 films & videos, and 25,000 newspaper & magazine titles. The Library acquires 6,000 new items each week.

The Library got its start from the Library of the Faculty of Advocates which was established in 1689. When the upkeep of the collection became too much they collection was gifted to the nation in 1925. The current building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956, however, it was expanded in the 1980's to accommodate the growing collection.

The next section of the exhibit focused on the history of golf and I imagine it would be very engaging for a golf enthusiast, unfortunately, I am not an enthusiast. I found it to be nicely arranged and interactive, though.

I next moved on to the John Murray Archive, however, I entered from what I am guessing is the exit because I found the background information plaque at the end. Although the displays were interesting and engaging I was left wondering if that was the entire archive. Are there documents housed somewhere else in the Library?

The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford - July 16

On July 16th we headed out of London to visit Oxford's Bodleian Library as a class. Oxford and the "Bod" have an interesting history in that the University didn't have it's own building or library until the 14th century, despite the fact that teaching at Oxford can be traced back to the 11th century. Until the approximately 1320, students relied on their individual college libraries. From these humble roots, the library grew when Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the brother of King Henry V, donated a collection of 281 volumes and helped with a fundraising effort to expand the Library's space. It was finally opened in 1488, however, the collection was disassembled during the Reformation. Sir Thomas Bodley (from whom the Library receives its name) came forward to help rebuild the collection in 1598. The Library was reopened in 1602 and in 1610 Bodley arranged to have the Library become a Legal Deposit Library. Due to space restrictions the Library only receives requested materials, however, that is still 5,000 new items each week. The collection is approximately 11 million items, some of which is housed off-site.

Our tour with CeCe began in the Divinity School, which is part of the 1488 building. Above is a picture of the Convocation House and Court, a room that was used for governing meetings of the University and by Parliament during the Civil War.

We proceeded upstairs to Duke Humphrey's Library where there are still books chained to the stacks as they were in 1488. CeCe also brought us into the underground stacks that connects the old Bodleian Library to the new building across the street. The majority of the collection is housed in closed stacks with the exception of quick reference materials and items frequently used by undergraduates.

Bodley's touch still remains throughout the Library. For instance, the Head Librarian still carries the title "Bodley's Librarian." The person who currently fills this role is the first woman in the Library's history. She is also the first American.

The National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum - July 15

The National Art Library at the V&A Museum is a closed-stack public reference library that caters to academics, as well as the casual art lover. The Library was founded in 1837 to support the School of Design. It was later merged with the Victoria and Albert Museum and has grown to include over 1 million items. The collection includes: books, exhibition catalogues, auction sale catalogues, periodicals, archives, and Manuscripts.

Because the Library is constantly struggling for space, they have utilized a shelving system that maximizes the available space, by grouping items by size. For this reason it is very possible for a book on modern art to be shelved next to volume on Egyptian sarcophagi.

The highlight of the visit had to be the selection of materials that were pulled for us to view. Among the treasures was a first folio of Shakespeare from 1623 and a complete collection of Charles Dickens' Bleak House in the original monthly editions.