National Library of Scotland

Thursday 16 July

Thanks to Dr. Welsh, it was brought to my attention that the National Library of Scotland possesses some of Jane Austen’s letters. Since the items are not under restricted access I was able to pre-register as a reader before arriving in Scotland and finish the process once I went to the library. Unlike the British Library, the National Library of Scotland only required one form of identification.

The collection at the library that has the Jane Austen letters is the John Murray archive. He was her publisher and he published four of her six novels: EmmaMansfield ParkPersuasion and Northanger Abbey. The two letters in the collection actually written by Austen are addressed to John Murray and talk about details regarding Emma.

The staff at the National Library of Scotland were very welcoming and helpful. Going upstairs to the help desk in the archives room I told the man that MaryRodgers and I were interested in seeing the Jane Austen letters in their possession. He took a moment to look up the information and asked that we please take a seat while he did. When he approached us he was very apologetic about the fact that they only had two letters but he’d request all the information regarding Austen.

With the two letters she wrote to John Murray about Emma there were also letters written to Murray after her death by her sibling discussing the publication of the rest of her novels. The letters regarding the publication of Emma were discussing the dedication of the book to the Prince Regent and hoping that since she agreed to this dedication that it was a good way to encourage the printers to move things along a bit more quickly. In addition to the letters there were copies of the checks written to Austen for her work. One of these checks was on display at the library and there is a picture of that exhibit below.

This was my first time going into a library to do serious research. The people at the library made it an easy experience. Everyone we encountered was very helpful and I had a great time going into this library and using the materials available to me as a registered reader.

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British Library

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The British Library owns several of Jane Austen’s manuscripts. One of these manuscripts is on display in the Treasures of the British Library exhibit in The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery. The Jane Austen items currently on display include her personal manuscript of Persuasion and her writing desk.

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The British Library also owns other manuscripts which can be accessed in the Western Manuscripts room of the library. This is the first library I became a registered user in during my time in the UK. The process of becoming a registered user at the British Library includes providing two forms of identification, one of which has to include your current address. Not being a resident of the UK or London will not prevent the issue of a reader’s card but these forms of ID are necessary to their process. I also had to provide information about the items I was planning to access before even becoming a reader. Since the items I wished to see are under restricted access I had to take an extra step to become a registered user. Jane Austen’s letters and other manuscripts require a letter of introduction. I had to have my professor write me this letter of introduction and then take it with me to the Manuscripts room when I went to request the items.

Requesting items also proved to be a bit tricky. Once I mastered the use of the catalog and found the items I wanted to see I had trouble actually requesting them. There is a link in the descriptions of items that says “I want this” but that link only works for items like books. When requesting items that are archives or special collections the reader has to go to “Request other items” and provide the shelf marks of the items for retrieval. I did not figure this out on my own. I learned how to do this once I was already in the Manuscripts room and had gone to the enquiry desk to ask for assistance.

After completing the steps I mentioned above I requested the items in question and began to read through all of Jane Austen’s manuscripts. It was a tiresome but rewarding time in the Manuscripts room. Austen’s handwriting can be incredibly difficult to read and I spent a great deal of time going over the letters and discerning what they said. All of the original manuscripts are under restricted access and pictures of the items are prohibited. The letters have been in the possession of the British Library since it was still part of the British Museum.

The person at the enquiry desk who helped me figure out how to actually request the items believed that even though I had a letter of introduction from my professor there was no guarantee that I would be allowed to look at and read the material. Thankfully, she was mistaken but her response to my request was amusing to me.

 

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Bletchley Park: The National Museum of Computing

Thursday July 23

Our last class visit was to Bletchley Park to visit The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC). We were off to a bit of a rough start because our bus driver was running a little late but we made it and it was a fun and  worthwhile visit. After we went through TNMOC we took a tour of the grounds. Both tours covered a great deal about the history of Bletchley Park and the role the people who worked there played in breaking the German Enigma codes during World War II.

What still strikes me as so amazing about this place is the fact that The National Museum of Computing is home to the oldest original digital computer, the Harwell Dekatron. This computer is also known as WITCH because it became known as the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computation from Harwell and was a key tool in computer education until the early 1970s. This computer dates back to the 1950s and the employees at TNMOC are responsible for restoring it to its original glory. It is one thing to be told how large computers used to be and quite another to see it up close and personal. Located next to the WITCH there is also a LEGO model of the computer. You can see a photograph of both the computer and the model below.

Our tour guide as TNMOC was great at not only showing us these items and talking about the history and development of computing but putting it all into context. Anytime he would show us something new he would discuss the prices of the items when they were first on the market and how much money that would mean now. He also had a way of really getting us to think about storage and retrieval. The amount of memory that can be stored on our phones, tablets and computers would have needed to be put on devices that could fill up entire rooms. The way technology has changed so has the understanding of information. Since our computers are now mobile devices we often expect that information should be just as mobile and easily accessible.

It was fun to be in a place where so much information was collected and used to aid in the efforts of World War II. That history is kept alive and well by The Museum of National Computing and the tours offered at Bletchley Park. It was a great end to our tours during our time in the UK and it was a wonderful way to think about information and how technology shapes the way we think about information storage, retrieval and dissemination.

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Oldest working digital computer

Oldest working digital computer

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Barbican Library

Today has been my favorite visit during the course of my studies in London. We have been to some pretty amazing libraries but public libraries hold a dear place in my heart and all of the people who spoke to our class today helped make this a truly memorable library visit/experience. We spent the morning touring the Barbican Library and talking to a few of the librarians on staff. My tour guide was Jonathan Gibbs and I absolutely loved his enthusiasm in showing us around and answering our questions.

To give you an idea of just how much fun this tour was there was a point in the tour that Jonathan called one of the self-service machines a “Sexy Darth Vader-like Wildebeest”. You can see a picture of the sexy wildebeest below. If that isn’t a quote of the day I don’t know what is, but I for one had a marvelous time at the Barbican Library today and the staff there had everything to do with it.

The library is located in the Barbican which is a multi-arts center. This location means that the library is not always the quiet space that people expect libraries to be and there was a point during our visit that we could hear a jazz band playing.

We took some time during our visit to sit and enjoy some refreshments and biscuits (cookies). I felt very welcome and it was fun to sit and discuss different library issues and pose questions about issues that interest us the most. One of the library assistants came and spoke to us about the Children’s Library and the services provided there. Today they were having their very first STEM workshop for the children so it was not possible to really tour the children’s space. I made it a point to return after the program was over and take a couple of photos as shown below.

What the staff accomplished with us, making us feel welcome, is what I look forward to providing others when they come into the public library I work in. It was so much fun learning about the Music Library, Children’s Library and the different collections at the Barbican Library. Just as many of the programs for the children are aimed at having fun, it was fun to visit the Barbican while still learning so much about the services and even discussing library associations and how well they represent the interest of public libraries. If I ever find myself back in London I know I will visit the Barbican Library again.

Courtyard of the Barbican Centre

Courtyard of the Barbican Centre

Barbican Library

Barbican Library

Barbican Library

Barbican Library

Barbican Library

Barbican Library

Part of a program called "Book Start" to give children an opportunity to start reading

Part of a program called “Book Start” to give children an opportunity to start reading

Items found in library books on display in the Barbican

A display of items found in Barbican library books

"Sexy Darth Vader-like Wildebeest" -Jonathan Gibbs

“Sexy Darth Vader-like Wildebeest” -Jonathan Gibbs

Teen Collection

Teen Collection

Summer Reading Challenge: Record Breakers

Summer Reading Challenge: Record Breakers

Children's Library

Children’s Library

Edinburgh Central Library

Wednesday July 15

I am interested in working in public libraries and this is the first public library visit we did as a class. (I stopped in at the public library in Stratford-Upon-Avon during a day trip because I was not going to pass up the opportunity to go into a public library that I happened upon while exploring.) I’m sure you’ve figured out that I was very excited about the visit to the Edinburgh Central Library and getting to hear about the services and history of this place. My favorite part of the visit was the Children’s Library.

The first room we stopped in during our tour happened to be the refurbished Children’s Library. It was adorable! I love what they did with the space and how they kept both children and parents in mind when considering how best to use the area. I wish I could have taken more pictures of it to show just how amazing a space it is and to have a picture of myself in one of those cute little seats that are incorporated into the bookshelves (see below). They even have a room that is designated for children age 5 and under. There were kids playing in it when we passed through on our tour. I would have included a picture of that room as well but it was a challenge to take a photo without the children in it. I meant to go back and take more photos but there was so much to do and see in Scotland I ran out of time. It was rewarding just to see how much the kids were enjoying themselves in the library.

I loved hearing that one of the programs they have for children is Lego workshops and that they are so popular that children can only participate by getting tickets in advance to reserve their spot. This is a problem we also have at one of the libraries I work at in Rhode Island, the North Kingstown Free Library. It’s nice to hear about programs that I know are offered in the libraries I work in and to hear how the Central Library manages this same workshop.

Trust that there was a lot more that I saw and learned about during this visit (just see some of the photos below), but the Children’s Library was my favorite part about this visit. The presentations that the librarians gave after our tour were another highlight and so much fun to listen to because they got me really excited about my future as a public librarian.

"LET THERE BE LIGHT"

“LET THERE BE LIGHT”

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It translates to “Be true to yourself”

Reference Library

Reference Library

Dome of the Reference Library

Dome of the Reference Library

Children's Library

Children’s Library

Lending Library

Lending Library

The staircase leading to the lobby of Central Library

The staircase leading to the lobby of Central Library

Staircase leading to the entrance of the Reference Library

Staircase leading to the entrance of the Reference Library

Bust of Andrew Carnegie

Bust of Andrew Carnegie

Leaving the Central Library

Leaving the Central Library

University of Edinburgh: New College Library

Tuesday July 14 we visited the New College Library at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity. The librarian prepared a packet of information for each one of us about the history of New College including information about the building and the collections. The information about the collections was broken down into two categories: books and manuscripts.

Walking into the library it is clear that the building was not always used as a library space. The stained glass windows indicate that the library was once a church. In fact, the building was originally the location for the Free Church of Scotland when members of the already established Church of Scotland decided to break from it and create a new one. The librarian informed us that this break is known as ‘the Disruption’.

I love how much history there is to many of the buildings we have visited and the impact that has on the libraries. The stained glass windows add a certain atmosphere to the reading room of New College Library. In some cases the age of the buildings does not add such atmosphere but creates problems instead. When buildings are not designed to be used as libraries or were in much earlier time it can create issues of space and preservation techniques.

The stacks at the New College Library for instance are underneath the reading room and space is becoming an issue. The stacks also happen to be fixed in which case hope of moving and rearranging to allow for better storage is out of the question. Stack 1 of the library is open access meaning readers can go in to the stacks and look for items themselves. Stack 2 contains older material and for that reason is closed. Readers requesting items located in Stacks 2 or 3 require staff to go and retrieve the item.

The special collections at New College Library is one of the leading theological libraries in the United Kingdom. Below are some pictures of items from their special collections that they were kind enough to share with our class and shots of the building.

School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh

School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh

Courtyard at the School of Divinity

Courtyard at the School of Divinity

Entrance to New College Library

Entrance to New College Library

Inside New College Library

David Welsh Reading Room

Notice the stained glass windows

Stained Glass Windows in David Welsh Reading Room

Funk Reading Room

Funk Reading Room

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National Maritime Museum: Caird Archive and Library

National Maritime Museum

Thursday 9 July

My tour guide at the National Maritime Museum: Caird Archive and Library was Michael Bevan who is one of the archivists. There are a total of fourteen people on staff at the library, two of which are librarians and another two are archivists. It is policy to always have two people at the “enquiry” desk to answer questions and assist patrons in their research needs.

The library is free to use and they issue one day tickets or three year tickets depending on the research needs of those who come in to use the library. If interested in using the library regularly then two forms of identification are needed in order to be issued a three year ticket.

Even after becoming a member of the library only about 6,000 items in the library are open access. There are an additional 25,000 items held in stores that remain closed to the public. Items can be requested and retrieved by staff. Users can request up to 6 items per retrieval period using the online catalog. Retrieval happens every hour at the National Maritime Museum library.

The collection is rather extensive and includes items that date back to the 15th century. Being part of the National Maritime Museum these items have a connection to maritime activity and history. It is the most extensive maritime collection in the world. It is organized using the Universal Decimal Collection (UCD) which uses more decimals than the Dewey Decimal System. According to our tour guide, Michael Belvan, it is a rather complicated system.

Items held in stores are organized by size for preservation purposes. These are also broken down into sections so like items are stored together. Our tour ended with some interesting items from the archive on display for us.

Click on the link to view a video made by the Caird Archive and Library about the users of their library and what keeps them coming back.

Library at the National Maritime Museum

guest pass for National Maritime Museum

NMM official
This last picture retrieved from official library website