Tuesday at the Barbican Library

The Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre

Fifth Class Blog Post:

We got up fairly early to head over to the Barbican Library, which is a public library within the City of London.  I was quite confused about the whole City of London vs London concept, but as far as I understand (or quickly Googled), the City of London is basically a city within London.

I was very thrown off when our librarian tour guide informed us that only 50 babies are born each year in the City of London.  That definitely made me pause and think about that.  The City of London has a different government structure, known as the City of London Corporation.  The area is filled with businesses and the financial district, so that might explain why only 50 babies are born within the City of London each year.

Within the Barbican Library, there is the Children’s Library, the Music Library, and the General Library.  I can see the advantages of having a space completely devoted to kids because they have the opportunities to host programming events in the same space, close the door, and play music/games without disturbing the rest of the patrons.  I also noticed that different libraries call their patrons/users different names as we do back home.  At the Bodleian and the British library, they are readers and at the Barbican, I recall the Children’s Librarian referring to them as customers.  Perhaps, they are customers because they are in the financial district and have a very commercial-oriented mindset.  I would not be surprised.  Every institution must cater to different clientele.

I do not know a great deal about children/youth services, but I did notice that they do a lot of the same programming such as reading mentorship, reading challenges, and story/play time as back home.  One of the very novel ideas we learned about was about the project loan service, which the Barbican does for the schools around the area.  If I recollect properly, schools have to pay for project loan services to supplement their teaching (i.e. they might order 60 copies of a book on the human body).  I found some useful information on the City of Westminster School Library Service’s website, in case anyone is interested in learning more.

We went to the Music Library next.  I have never seen a dedicated music library in a public library before, so it was great to see the set up.  One of the most important things the music librarian mentioned was that they need a dedicated staff because their material is so specific.  They had everything from CDs to music reference books to scores, with areas to listen to sound recordings and two keyboards for people to use for practice.  The keyboards have headphones, so as not to disturb the rest of the library.  The music library is great in its ability to provide services I don’t normally associate with libraries: somewhere to listen to music and work, practice on the keyboard, and borrow sheet music.

We did discuss some interesting aspects of librarianship during various points of the tour.  I asked about digital licensing of ebooks  and I learned that the Barbican seems to have more flexible arrangements than we do in the US.  They actually buy the electronic copy of the ebook instead of licensing packages, which expire and/or have limitations.

In terms of patron privacy in regards to check out records and hold shelf names, the UK has the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act to ensure that sensitive patron information does not make it to the public.  I wonder if we are more weary of protecting (i.e. shredding/deleting) patron records in the US because of the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act and how it allows the government to obtain sensitive patron records.

I also learned that the UK does not implement a bright line percentage in terms of copyright, but they do use 5% as a guideline (I believe we use 10% in the US, though it is not a set bright line either).  The librarian at the British Library did inform us that the copyright laws are more relaxed in the UK than the US.  I am definitely interested in copyright issues, especially in regards to access and digitization, but reading about copyright law can definitely be tiresome.


Digging around the London Archaeological Archives and Research Centre

Map of London at LAARC

Map of London at LAARC

Fourth Class Blog Post:

This morning, we headed to the London Archaeological Archives and Research Centre, LAARC for short, at the Mortimer Wheeler House in Hackney.  Since the 1980s, the building was an archive and mostly used for storage and in 2002, they opened their facilities for research.  Though open for research, one cannot just stroll in – he or she must make an appointment.  The building houses three major distinct sections: the Museum of London Archaeology, the London Archaeological Archive Research Centre, and the Social and Working History Collection.

We first toured the Museum of London Archaeology section where we saw the facilities where they receive, clean, and store materials from excavations.  It was nice to get a sense of the process instead of thinking about it as a concept.  Sometimes one does not think about the work and effort that goes to just cleaning an artifact, let alone preserving it.

Next, we visited the LAARC, which holds a vast array of items excavated from all over London.  We saw items from Roman to medieval times.  As is the case with most traditional LIS centers, the LAARC faces issues of storage.  There just is not enough space!  I can imagine that space is more of an issue in London than in other cities because land is scarcer and more expensive.  If the LAARC ever runs out of space, they could have an annex, but creating an annex can raise more issues.  Since the LAARC holds fragile items, transport can be tricky and/or not recommended.  I cannot imagine that they can build a very accessible annex because land is scarce, so they might have to build an annex quite far away, which might mean that it might take longer for them to transport items.

Storage at LAARC

Storage at LAARC

One way they save space is by going through their older archives to condense boxes and update records.  LAARC relies heavily on volunteers who rationalize (make pragmatic decisions on what to keep and what to toss).  This process can take a long time because there is just so much stuff.  The archives have about 200,000 boxes with a variable amount of items in each box.

As another measure to save on space, they organize their items by year excavated instead of by subject, material type, or time period.  This idea of storing by the year excavated allows them to maximize space instead of having to guess how much space to devote to Victorian or medieval London.  This method reminds me of how USC’s annex and the British Library store their books by size rather than Dewey Decimal Classification or Library of Congress Classification.  Each information center must make the most practical decisions for their needs instead of blindly adhering to accepted standards.  That type of thinking promotes innovation and can really help cater to specific information centers and audiences.

We also got to see really cool items.  In the picture below you can see a footstep embedded in the orange-colored stone.  It is mind blowing to think that someone a really long time ago stepped down and made such an impression.  It is definitely very humbling and makes me think about cause and effect and snapshots in time.  We also got to see a medieval ice skate that people created out of animal bone.  Apparently the Thames used to freeze over and one could skate/glide over it.  I would never have guess that was the purpose of that particular artifact.  I guessed that it was a back scratcher!

Cool artifacts at the LAARC

Cool artifacts at the LAARC

At the end of our tour, we visited the Social and Working History Collection.  We were not allowed to take pictures there, but it was really cool because we saw the room where they store toys and items of communication.  The highlight of that section was probably the switchboard they used at Buckingham Palace in the 50s/60s.  I probably could have roamed around a little bit more because they had such interesting curiosities.  A lot of the items stored there are used for exhibits at the Museum of London and possibly other institutions (contingent on loan).

Overall, I really enjoyed the visit because it was very revealing and relevant to the LIS field, though not everyone would group them together.  LIS institutions and the LAARC both have a lot of the same issues of storage, archiving, and preservation, so it was great to look at those issues from another perspective.

Until next time, stay cool, friends!


Partying with 50,000 people at Hyde Park

A view of St. Paul's Cathedral from the Millenium Bridge

A view of St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Millenium Bridge

We started the day off at St. Paul’s Cathedral for an Orchestral Eucharist.  St. Paul’s is a beautiful building with extremely lavish decor, as one can imagine.  The service was unlike any I ever attended.  I was amazed that the service was so structured.  The program had almost every spoken word provided for us to follow along.  At some points, I kept itching for something organic, which might explain why I quite enjoyed the deacon’s message.  Her sermon was very personable and felt relevant.  Sometimes the Latin can make one feel a bit displaced.

After the service, Jade and I grabbed lunch and then headed over the Millenium Bridge.  We ran into three book benches today alone!  It was a great day for a book bench hunt.

I took a picture of Jade taking a picture of the Shakespeare Book Bench

I took a picture of Jade taking a picture of the Shakespeare Book Bench outside the Globe

Our plan was to visit the Globe, but it was inexplicably closed for a special event.  We headed over to the Tate Modern where we saw lots of great and lots of weird art.  We spent a few hours roaming around looking at works by Picasso, Louise Bourgeois, Henry Wessel, and Robert Mapplethorpe.  Jade had a great time looking at the photographs and I had a good time absorbing it all in.  I love London and its vast array of cultural attractions.

We walked back to the dorms along the Thames, so I could change my footwear.   My feet were feeling sore from walking around in my flats.  While we are on the topic of feet, here is an ankle update: my sprained ankle has resulted in a very fat and swollen foot that can only be described as “cankle.”  My cankle has actually developed some type of rash, probably from the wrap I wore for a few days.  I blame the London pollution.  Sorry if that was too much information.  Moral of the story: be smart and don’t sprain your ankle.

Jade and I headed over to Oxford Street next, partly to browse and partly in search of a floral crown for my evening venture.  We found one at Primark and I love it.  After our shopping, we parted ways.  I had tickets for the British Summer Time, a concert series at Hyde Park.  I entered the park from the North side, but I needed to pick up my tickets on the South Side.  When I received my tickets, I learned that I needed to make my way back to the North side.  My feet were screaming again because that the small stretch of Hyde park I trekked back and forth was not a very small stretch of land.

When I finally made it into the venue, the Backstreet Boys started playing.  I missed a few of their songs because I had to do some necessary thing such as visit the toilets and queue for fish and chips (obviously).  Surprisingly these fish and chips were way better than the ones I had at the pub.  They were delicious!  They had these little wooden forks to spear the food.  I loved it.

I joined the crowd to watch the Backstreet Boys on the main stage.  I had a great time singing along to some of their hits of yesteryear.  Memories!  They played a few songs from their latest album.  I did not even realize that they had a new album.  News to me!  Also, did anyone else realize that they have been around for twenty years?  I thought that was interesting.  I just had the best time singing along to Backstreet’s Back. It was a good time.

Backstreet Boys breaking it down

Backstreet Boys still breaking it down

After that set, there was an hour break while they set up the stage for McBusted.  I slowly wormed my way closer to the stage.  I didn’t make it very far, as it was extremely crowded.  I came to a standstill multiple times.

McBusted had a fabulous entrance and show.  They dropped onto the stage in the DeLorean.  They started playing a lot of Busted songs.  I’m not familiar with those, so it took a while for me to get into the groove.

The DeLorean

The DeLorean

The concert was so fun.  McBusted are such great performers.  At one point they went off stage and appeared on a UFO stage to play Star Girl.  I think that they invest a decent amount of time and effort into showmanship.

McBusted performing on a UFO

McBusted performing on a UFO

At other points there were fireworks, confetti, tshirt guns, fire, and inflatable triple breasts (I’m not sure what that was about).  They started to show an edited version of Tom’s wedding speech.  I will link the wedding speech because it’s actually quite good and worth a watch (over 13 million views), even if you are not a McFly/McBusted fan.  After that video clip, the band showed up wearing wedding dresses.  Dougie apparently could not get his off, so he spent the rest of the show wearing it.

Also during the show, I witnessed a fight between a middle aged woman and a young man.  There were a surprising number of young men at that concert – more than I thought there would be!  I do not know what they were fighting about, but it definitely got physical.  They were kicking each other.  I also saw the woman try to stub her cigarette in the back of her neck.  Not the classiest of scenes, but it broke up before it got too bad.  The guy walked away.

I never thought that I would have the opportunity to watch McFly in concert, so all in all, it was a great day!  Until next time, stay cool friends!

Serenaded at Waterloo and Seeing London from Above


Jubilee Gardens as seen from the London Eye

Jubilee Gardens as seen from the London Eye

We had a later start this morning.  At Waterloo, we noticed a new book bench, so of course we had to take our picture!  At one point, we stopped to ponder something and a young man began to serenade us with James Blunt’s Beautiful.  I suspect that he was quite drunk.  He belonged to a pack of other young men sniggering as he belted out his lyrics.  It was good fun.

Book Bench at Waterloo Station

Triplets sitting on a Book Bench at Waterloo Station

We took the tube to the National Portrait Gallery, which was amazing.  I never realized how much I adore portraits.  In my mind, they seemed so posed, formulaic, or boring, but seeing all the different styles, people, and media gave me a sense of depth, storytelling, and variety that portraits can assume. One of my favorites was of Fiona Shaw.  I just loved it!

Currently the BP Portrait Award 2014 is on display and it was an absolute madhouse in the gallery.  I was feeling quite claustrophobic trying to navigate my way around.  I definitely did not get to see as much as I desired and I believe that I must take another trip back, preferably not on a Saturday.  A Saturday in the summer in London?  It was quite crowded.

We stopped at EAT for a bite to eat.  Hah!  I got some chicken noodle soup because I was craving something hot.   After lunch, our group dispersed.  Jade and I headed back to Chinatown (we went for dinner on Wednesday).  I was really happy that we got to go back because the stores and business were closed by the time we made it there last time.  This time, I picked up a bag of prawn crackers to make back home.  I almost bought some tapioca balls to make boba, but the queue was quite long and I passed.  I’ll be back!  That’s guaranteed.  I need to go back to buy a bolo bao, some yau tiew (I never know how to spell that), and another milk tea.  The milk tea was the best I’ve ever had.  Better than Coffee or Tea and Taste Tea.  Quel scandale, I know!  The cheek of me to say such a bold statement, but yes, I stand by it.

We headed over to the Tate, which I also loved.  London really does have a great variety of fun, free, and interesting museums to explore.  I love the wide range of art the Tate offered.  From time periods and styles to media and themes, there was definitely something for everyone.  We did not have a lot of time, so we will definitely be back.  Jade and I stopped at Marks and Spencer at Waterloo to pick up dinner and we were shocked to find that the store is closing down.  Where will we shop?   It’s odd to find that we got so attached in such a small amount of time.  I suspect that we will get over it soon enough.

After dinner, Taylor, Laura Douglass, Jade, Paul and I headed down to the London Eye.  We started with the 4D Experience, which made me weary at one point.  I can only take some much light and sound.  Thankfully enough, it was not too bad.  Our ticket was for 9pm, but we are supposed to queue half an hour prior to our booking.  We made it onto the London Eye by 8:35pm, so there wasn’t much of a wait at all.  That was surprising for a Saturday in London during the Summer – to me at least!  It was probably just good timing and great luck!

London Eye

London Eye

We took a few (or many pictures), including a few meta-pictures.  That was fun!  After the London Eye, we strolled down the South Bank.  It was a nice ending to a busy day.  I think that Jade and I walked about 17,000 steps.  I just love exploring London!

I also want to point out that I finally caught up with blogging!   Yay!  I am current.  We’ll see how well I can keep this up and until next time, stay cool, friends!

Free weekend to frolick

Brick Lane

Brick Lane

In the morning, Jade and I headed out to Brick Lane.  I think that we were too excited because we arrived before most of the shops opened.  We did get to admire the street art.  There was so much, from posters to yarn bombing to graffiti.  It was fabulous!


This might be a cat. I think it is a cat.

We walked over to Petticoat Lane Market where people used to buy and sell fabrics and laces.  Such a pretty and apt name!  We saw a lot of fabric stores lining the lane, but many of the stalls were selling ready made clothes.  I contemplated getting some cotton fabric because it would be cool to incorporate that into a quilt one day, but I am not familiar with the prices and quality here.  Plus, I saw a lot of brocades and silks in the window shops, so I got a feeling that they might have different stock.

Next, we headed to Spitalfields Market.  We grabbed smoothies for lunch because we weren’t quite feeling up to eating anything heavy.  I’m not generally a smoothie person, but mine was delicious and really hit the spot.  I’ve noticed that foods and drinks are not as sweet here.  I really enjoy the sweetness levels here because it’s much more tame.  I will miss that.

Creepiness at Brick Lane

Creepiness at Brick Lane

We made our way back to Brick Lane where we popped into a few vintage stores in search of nothing in particular.  At one point, we noticed a South Asian grocery store, so of course we had to wander in and explore.  We saw some fruits and vegetables that are quite difficult to obtain in Columbia, so I pointed out the  rambutan, lychee, bittermelon, and durian to Jade.  The most amazing thing was that I could hardly smell the durian.  I was most puzzled.  I told Jade to go and sniff it, but oddly, she refused.  Don’t worry though, we got a whiff later.  I also bought a huge bag of PG Tips.  And when I say huge, let’s just say that the bag advertises it for caterers and it has its own handle for carrying.  I was happy walking out of that store with my big bag of PG Tips.  Yum!

At some point, we headed back to the dorms to drop off my purchases and freshen up.  It was hot that day and the tube was quite insufferable.  The air was stagnant and the breeze non-existent.  We made our way to Westminster to meet up with Taylor, Laura Douglass, and Paul for afternoon tea.  At this point, the breeze picked up and it was an unfortunate day to wear a dress with a full skirt.  Jade and I both struggled trying to hold down our skirts.

We had tea at the Cellarium.  Laura Douglass informed us that Jude Law has tea there on occasion.  Unfortunately, we had no sighting of him that day.  On the bright side, tea was quite wonderful and we had a great time.  We each received our own pot of tea and tiered stand of food.  For the sandwiches, there was cucumber, salmon, and a mystery one that might have had ham in it.  We also had scones with currants served with clotted cream and strawberry jam and a selection of desserts that were not to my taste.  The scones, sandwiches, and tea were more to my liking.  There was so much food!  I ordered the elderflower and lemon tea, which I highly recommend to anyone.  So yummy!

The National Gallery

The National Gallery

Next, we headed to the National Gallery where we poked around for a bit before heading home.  I got to see some world famous art such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Cézanne Bathers, among other works by famous artists such as Monet, Turner, Degas, Klimt, Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, Ingres, and Rousseau just to name a few.  I guess that you can probably tell that I like the Impressionists.  Because, yes, yes I do.

It was a great day roaming around London.  I believe that Jade and I walked over 20,000 steps (approximately 10 miles).  This was the second time we walked over 20,000 steps.  I strongly believe that we will walk that much a few more times before we depart this bustling city, but that’s just a guess on my part.

Touring the British Library

Note inside the British Library

Note inside the British Library

Third Class Blog Post:

Our plan for the day was to tour the British Library.  First, we took the tube to King’s Cross Station where we stopped to take a class photo at Platform 9 3/4.  We got there at a great time because we didn’t have to queue for long.  There’s a little gift shop adjacent to the platform, so I popped in to look.

Class photo at King's Cross

Thanks to Dr. Welsh for the photo of our class at King’s Cross

At the British Library, we visited the gift shop.  I’ve come to realize that there is probably always going to be a gift shop everywhere we visit and I must actively avoid buying all the things.  So far, so good.

Our tour guide, a librarian named Kevin, gave us some background information about the British Library.  Its American equivalent would be the Library of Congress.  I can hardly cope with the sheer amount of work they do at the British Library because it is a legal deposit library, meaning that this library receives a copy of every printed item in the UK and Ireland directly from the publisher.  Its three main obligations are to collect published output within three months, maintain said materials, and make those items available.  That is a lot of processing across multiple departments – acquisitions, technical services, and cataloguing come to mind first.

One of the most interesting aspects of the British Library was the storage and retrieval of items.  I have toured the University of South Carolina’s annex, where I first learned about shelving by size rather than traditional call numbers to maximize space, which is something they also do at the British Library.  Libraries almost don’t seem like libraries without a Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress call number (to me at least).  Since the British Library is a legal deposit library, storage is a vital.

Some people might be confused by the system at the British Library because the items are not browseable, that is if someone who is interested in researching the Monarch butterfly wants a book about Monarch butterflies, they cannot manually find and retrieve the book him- or herself.  They have off-site storage, but it does take an average of 48 hours to deliver the book.  Some of the books are stored underground, which is actually the largest subterranean facility in Europe.  Apparently the largest subterranean facility in the world is a prison in Colorado.  I definitely think that says something about differing social values in our respective countries.

I digress.  Since one cannot browse the shelf for 595.789 (the Dewey Decimal call number for Monarch butterflies), a reader may request items in the online catalogue.  An automated book retrieval system receives the information and then a mechanical book delivery system delivers the items.  This system makes for a relatively quick and easy retrieval system.  The order-to-pick up process must be under an hour and 10 minutes to maintain federal funding.  That is a lot of pressure to keep the system working properly.  Engineers check the systems every Sunday to ensure that things run smoothly.

This system somewhat reminds me of the BookBot at the Hunt Library because of its use of automation and storage.  The BookBot uses technology to better service and the Hunt Library also shelves items by size to save space.  I think that both libraries are quite innovative in the ways they solve problems of storage and service.  I love learning about ways libraries evolve to meet changing needs.  I think that ability to adapt is crucial to a library’s successful survival.

Since the readers/patrons/users cannot retrieve the books or other materials themselves, they must send their items to a reading room.  Though the books are not shelved by subject, the reading rooms are still categorized by subject matter (humanities, science, rare, etc.).  This system allows readers to have access to subject-appropriate reference librarians.  I never thought about structuring reference work this way because I have never witnessed it or worked in such a huge library before.

These types of services and setups are alternative systems that I do not recall reading about in any of our introductory and/or reference textbooks.  We read about single service points, roving, and reference work versus reference transactions, but I do not recall information about alternative shelving systems, automated book retrievals, and their subsequent effects on reference work.  This visit was most illuminating, as I learned about other ways libraries function.

Royal Geographical Society

Royal Geographical Society

After our trip to the British Library, the gals and I headed to an exhibit at the Royal Geographic Society.  I’m glad that we visited because it ended the next day.  The photographs highlighted a variety of environmental issues around the world such as pollution, infanticide, and climate change.  It is amazing how much a photograph can say about the topic at hand.  Much to consider, friends.

Wandering around Stowe House

Library Ceiling at Stowe House

Amazing ceiling on the library ceiling at Stowe House

Our third class trip was to Stowe House, home to Stowe School, which is an independent boarding school in Stowe, Buckinghamshire.  The house was in a gorgeous neo-classical style, with impressive columns, statues, and ceilings.

We entered the house from the Northern entrance where they traditionally welcome guests.  The visitors who pay to see the house and/or gardens generally enter from the South side.  Interestingly enough, the Southern entrance is much more elaborate and impressive.  We were kindly received with refreshments: tea, coffee, water, and biscuits, which were a pleasant and unexpected treat after a two hour journey.  School was out of session, so the house was relatively quiet.

The current Stowe School library is housed in the original library.  The room has been restored over the past eleven years and most evident restoration work was on the ceiling, which features beautiful rosettes in a gilt and white color scheme.  The rectangular room is anchored on each side with impressive, though not original fireplaces.  Windows cover the South wall of the room, providing any library visitor with a picturesque view of the gardens beyond.

The room is lined with mahogany bookcases on the first level, as well as the second floor gallery.  The second level is accessible through false panels.  I was quite excited about the false panels because I always think that old houses are meant to have secret passages and the false panel was good enough for me.

Library at Stowe School

Library at Stowe School – can you spot the false door?

Much of our tour was about the history of the estate, so we learned a lot about its varied history, the functions of the rooms, and restoration.  Touring the house really gave me a sense of of the upkeep, time, and money one must put into maintaining such a magnificent estate.

The most exciting thing about this trip was touring the grounds.  We only had an hour before we needed to meet back on the bus, so I didn’t get to walk around as much as I would like.  I did my best to hobble around the grounds with my sprained ankle.  I had to be extra mindful of the rocky ground.

As we roamed around, we found old temples and statues of Greek and Roman influence.  Overall, there are forty or more temples and monuments, but I would estimate that I only found about ten of them.  One of my favorites was the Grotto aka the Bat Cave, which felt like a beautiful, ancient, and abandoned place.  I really wished that I magically had a picnic with me, so I could lunch overlooking the water.  It was amazing.

 Grotto at Stowe School

Grotto at Stowe School

Grotto Interior

View from Inside the Grotto

While we were trying to find our way back to the bus, we stumbled upon a tree that Queen Victoria planted on her visit to Stowe House.  That was a fun and unexpected discovery.

Queen Victoria's Tree

Queen Victoria planted this tree!

To be honest, I’m not sure what we did after we got back from Stowe House because the days are blending together and I’m a bit behind on blogging.  It is always a tiny struggle to find the time and energy to blog, since I intend to keep track of every day we spend here (we’ll see how that goes).  For the assignment, I am supposed to blog about 10 of our class field trips and 2 separate library-related places of interest.  I will definitely do that.

Stay cool, friends!