The Minecraft and the Divine-July 1

Central Library

Our first full day in Edinburgh was chock full of library visits. The first tour commenced at the Central Library-a public library founded in 1890. The library itself was beautiful and airy with high ceilings and plenty of light.


That ceiling!

I felt very much at home in this library because it so closely relates to my current library position. I once again marveled at the self-checkout machines and was completely surprised to learn that they still have a working card catalog!


So many little drawers, so little time


Hey! I’ve been there!

As we walked around the main building, I noticed that, like the Barbican Centre Library, the Central Library also has well-placed signage. It was incredibly easy to follow. I was intrigued to notice that this library uses the Library of Congress classification system. I personally had never seen this used in any public library before.

The Central Library also has a separate music library and children’s library. The children’s library was chaotic due to a program. It was very good to see that so many people wanted to participate in their programs. While we were waiting for our guide earlier in the day, I overheard several people asking to sign up for the program only to be told that it was already filled up. It’s very popular!

The music library reminded me very much of my local, laid-back record store. It honestly felt more like a place to hang and listen to music rather than a library. I was impressed by the fact that the library helps promote for local bands and shows. There were many posters hanging on the wall that advertised gigs, bands, as well as notices asking for new band members. It was a good reminder that the public library is here to serve to public and it can do so in a variety of ways. Sometimes you just need a new drummer and the library is here to help!

After our walking tour, we headed upstairs to a conference room to listen to a few speakers regarding various strategies they’ve used to reach out to their patrons. I was very interested to listen to all three, but was most interested in the Digital Toybox presentation. That is a big part of my current job and I was excited to learn that other libraries from all over the world are working on engaging youth in the same way.

The Digital Toybox consists of a variety of programs designed to encourage young people to participate in STEM/STEAM activities-this means that they are introduced to  computer programming, coding, engineering, electronics, and even art. Some of the programming highlights include Little Bits, Lego Mindstorm (robots!), Synth Kits, 3D printing, and, of course, Minecraft. Minecraft is a big part of the youth programming section of my library and I am proud to be a part. It is a great way to exercise your creativity and learn basic coding without realizing you are actually learning.

Youth Talk is a way to engage with young people and is a way to demonstrate how libraries can be hubs of community service. Its main focus is to help prevent anti-social behavior. Most teen crime stems from their boredom. If there is “nothing to do,” they will search out means of entertainment and it is not always legal. By creating events geared just for teens, and making sure the teens are involved in the planning process, libraries can help at-risk youth by giving them an outlet for their creativity and their energy. Teens like to feel like they have a voice and want to be included in the process. They want to create programs that they ACTUALLY like and don’t want someone to tell them what they SHOULD like. That is the key.

Our last presenter discussed the digital world of libraries. In order to compete with the rest of the online world, libraries must be available to patrons at all times. It is important for there to be 24/7 access. Not only does this provide a great service for patrons, it also can increase the use of the library in general. It also is not just limited to patron access of their accounts. The digital world includes a range of services, including a variety of e-resources (job searching, family history, local government information, etc…), e-magazines (Zinio), and e-books (OverDrive). Patrons like that they can access all of this information at home or on their tablet/smartphone. Even though they may not physically walk through the library’s door, these patrons are still using library services. That is what matters most.

New College Library

Next up, a


You guessed it…

Part of Edinburgh University, New College is its school of Divinity. Its library was once a church, as noted by the beautiful stained glass windows and general layout of the building. With over 250,000 items in its collection, the New College Library has one of the largest collections of a single subject. Its collections include rare books (over 90,000) and manuscripts.

One fun fact I learned was that its open access catalog was put together by its first female librarian. Girl power!

I enjoyed my tour of the New College Library. It was interesting to see so many ecclesial materials stored in one place and made me realize just how important it is to have a single subject library available for students. Divinity school students can find pretty much whatever they need within this collection without the burden of searching through several libraries.


Overall this trip was exciting, overwhelming, informative, and, of course, fun. I can honestly say that if someone had offered me the same program a few years ago, I probably would have been too scared to try, but I am so glad that I am the kind of person today who would jump into such an adventure both feet first. It was a month of discovery. I learned that I can visit a foreign country by myself (and live) and now I am already planning my next travel adventure (just need to pay this one off first…).

And now to sign off on this blog in the most “me” way as possible:

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”






Durham in a Day- June 30

Bill Bryson Library

Founded in 1832, Durham University is the third oldest university in Great Britain. It us one of the top ten universities in the U.K. It is a collegiate university, which means that there are 16 colleges in total within the parameters of one University.

Like most libraries, academic and public alike, the Bill Bryson Library is in constant need of more space. Space for books, space for staff, and space for students. The library building itself has been expanded several times to incorporate a growing student population, but in a few short years, another expansion will be required.


Expansion. All shiny and chrome. 

It was interesting to learn that another main issue stems from the purchase of books that are rarely if ever checked out. Our guide, Jon Purcell, mentioned that staff will request a specific book be added to the collection because it pertains to a class, yet many of those books are never taken out. There are currently over 137,000 books that fit this criteria. They fill up shelves that could be used for books that are more in demand. This is an issue that still needs to be addressed.

I was impressed about the lengths that the staff would go to accommodate  student needs. Mr. Purcell mentioned specifically the issue regarding separate study spaces for the post-graduate students. A survey revealed that the post-graduate students wanted a space that was just for them and completely separate from the undergraduate students. The library shuffled some rooms around and was able to afford the post-grads a whole room for them on the top floor. Although the room is not used as much as initially anticipated, the library still plans to accommodate their students’ wishes.

Palace Green Library

This library houses the University’s special collections, including the Bishop Cosin’s Library. Bishop Cosin’s houses mostly theology books and is styled in the French manner. This means that the book shelves are flush against the wall. It is also considered to be the second “public” library after the Bodleian. Of course, by public we really mean open to those who were well-educated and well-to-do.

The Sudan Archive was another point of interest. It is made of up official publications dating back to the late 19th century that details their independence, Within the archive one can find diaries, photos, maps, and the like.

One of the last stops at this library was the digitization room. Here, staff use a conservation-grade stand and specialized software to carefully scan and photograph large maps and books. These images are used for research and are made available through their online catalog.

Ushaw College

Our last library of this long day was at Ushaw College. Here there are five different libraries located on the site. We visited the “Big Library,” which is the main library, as well as the “Divines Library” which is mainly used by the undergraduate students. The Big Library has over 30,000 titles with 12,000 of these donated by the very first librarian. The entire collection is currently only available through a card catalog. Staff are currently in he process of cataloging every item in the library for online perusal. It is slow and steady work and they are about 1/3 of the way through. With items now available for an online search, more and more books are actually getting circulated.

I really enjoyed getting a chance to see a copy of Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America as well as the coded letter between King Charles and Catherine which essentially dictates the beginning of THE British Empire. In the letter, British rule over India is a main segment.

All in all, it was a busy day in Durham. I was glad we had the opportunity to visit and it was especially interesting to be on the University grounds during their graduation. I became very nostalgic for my past graduations and am already looking forward to my next (and hopefully last) graduation next Spring!

“But the mere truth won’t do. You must have a lawyer.”- June 24th

Middle Temple Law Library

Founded in 1641, the Middle Temple Law Library is one of 4 Inns that cover a wide range of topics and subjects including European Union and American law. The collection of books within the original Tudor library went missing over the years as patrons simply did not bring the books back so over 3700 books from Robert Ashley’s personal collection were donated to restart the library.

Fun fact: 5 members of the Middle Temple signed the Declaration of Independence.

As we entered the main library I was taken aback by two things. First, the large celestial globes that greeted us as at the door:


Now I know how Atlas felt…

Second, the cheery color of the library walls:


Such green. Much wow. So research.


It was interesting to learn a little more about English law, as well. It turns out that it is based on precedence. This means that if a crime is committed in 1965, even if it ends up going to trial in the present time, the court would have to judge based on the laws of 1965. This is the main reason why the library has so many older editions of books.

It was also quite interesting to learn that rose garden at the Middle Temple was referenced in a Shakespeare play. That really struck a chord and reminded me that this library really has been around for a long time!

The other Shakespeare connection has to do with the Hall. It was built in 1570 and is the largest of the Inn halls. It’s mainly used for dining, ceremonies, and revels. It also just happened to be the location for the very first performance of Twelfth Night.


Perfect place for a revel or two

Membership at the Middle Temple is a mark of honor. Several famous individuals joined with no intention of ever practicing law. These include Bram Stoker, Henry Fielding, and Charles Dickens.

I thought that the Middle Temple Law Library tour was a helpful look into an area of library science that may easily be overlooked. I myself had never really put much thought into the work that goes on behind the scenes of every court trial. Someone has to do the research somewhere and that somewhere is here.

I also left the tour wondering how I can get this job title:


I am the Pagemaster! Keeper of the Books! Guardian of the Written Word!


Common Sense, Charters, and Ginsberg- June 21

Maughan Library at Kings College

The Maughan Library is the repository for all special collections within the main library. There are over 200,000 items that range from the 15th Century to the present. The library is entirely research-focused, with academics from history, science, medical, and literary backgrounds using their facilities for their work. There are 7 full-time employees as well as several volunteers and they help run the special collections department. Duties include running operations, cataloging collections, working on preservation and conservation projects, as well as providing information.

One of the current projects that I found to be most interesting involves cataloging a collection of chapter books. These books were small enough to carry around in one’s pocket and were made available to a “lower class readership.” They were cheaply made and inexpensive to purchase.

The Maughan Library has some very interesting items in their special collections. I was impressed by the range of items, from the classic to the bizarre. The most intriguing item was the body bag covered in poems in response to the current refugee crisis. Right next to this very modern item was a bible written in the obscure Romanche language. This proves that an item does not have to be extremely old to be of historical value. The body bag is a piece of history just as much as the bible.

Other items included the Charters of Philadelphia which were signed by Benjamin Franklin, an edited copy of Common Sense by Thomas Paine with the redacted sections rewritten by hand, as well as a signed copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Collected Works. Every item on view had something special. The Ginsberg text, for example, was made out to a previous professor of Kings College so there was a much more personal connection for the library.


Franklin’s Signature


Personalized Signature by Ginsberg

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Bible in the obscure Romanche language

The library is also the host of an exhibit which celebrates the 400th anniversary of Williams Shakespeare. We were given a brief run-down of the steps to set up an exhibit. First, you need to decide on a topic and then the approach. You need to figure out how much space you have and make sure that it is sufficient enough to for your topic. Next, you should consult with experts of the topic to make sure that you have your information correct. The fun part is next in which you can then choose which items to include in the exhibit. The not-so-fun part is the physical mounting of the objects and the research and writing of the individual captions, as well as the completion of any loan agreements for items borrowed from other collections. I found this part of the tour very information as I have set up museum exhibits in the past for previous internships and volunteer work. It was nice to know that I was doing everything right!

Our last section of the tour involved a walk around the main library. Because school was not in normal session, the library was very quiet. Our guide assured us that this would not be the case come finals. The library has the same issues that many academic and public libraries experience. Students have specific needs from their library and if the library staff doesn’t work hard to understand these needs and make the necessary changes, students will choose to not use the library. An unused library is an unnecessary library in the eyes of board members come budget decision time.

There is always an amazing reading room to explore:

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Amazing Reading Room

I found this visit the the Maughan Library and Special Collections to be very informative. I enjoyed how the tour was broken up into several sections for different aspects of librarianship. I came away from this tour with some very helpful information that would be able to bring back and use in my day-to-day job responsibilities.

Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, and Beatrix Potter, oh my!- June 20th

Blythe House: the Beatrix Potter Archive

For our optional visits, I chose to check out the Beatrix Potter archive. It was a miserable, rainy Monday but I was cheered up by the prospect of cute bunny illustrations. Little did I expect to find there to be much, much more to Beatrix Potter than child

The collection is a part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s National Art Library’s children literature collection, though it is housed at Blythe House located in West London. It houses the world’s largest collection of Beatrix Potter drawings, manuscripts, photographs, and other related material.

I honestly had little knowledge about Beatrix Potter and her work aside from her beloved children’s book characters and stories. It was so interesting to hear about her life, her love of animals, and her own personal bunny pets including the original Peter Rabbit. I will admit I was a little disturbed that she did actually dissect and boil real animals, but she did so in order to learn about their anatomical structure.


A tranquil forest


The red squirrels!


Two Bad Mice?


An early Benjamin Bunny


What I found to be most interesting was that Potter did own a real rabbit named Peter. She used him as her model for all of the original Peter Rabbit illustrations. The archive did not have any Peter Rabbit illustrations available to view because they were out on exhibition , but the early Benjamin Bunny drawings were just as good. Potter also took great care in her landscapes as well. As seen in the picture above with the small red squirrel, the forest is just a vibrant and well drawn as the animal. She studied natural anatomy just as much as she studied animal anatomy.

All in all, the Beatrix Potter archive was a peaceful was to spend a rainy Monday. The skies outside may have gloomy, but inside we could bask in the glow of warm and wonderful illustrations.

Amsterdam Break-June 17th

Rijksmuseum Research Library

The class had a nice four day mini-break in which we could go pretty much wherever our hearts desired. Some classmates chose a stay-cation in London, others traveled to Paris, Dublin, or Rome, but I chose to head to the Netherlands. Amsterdam is an amazing city. It is full of history, art, culture, canals, and other…erm…things.

I wanted to see all that I could possibly see in the short time I had, so I woke up early on Friday and headed out towards Museumplein. Here, I could find several of the more famous museums as well as check out the beautiful Vondelpark.

The Rijksmuseum Research Library is the largest art and historical library in the Netherlands. Construction ended in 1881 and the library has pretty much looked the same ever since. The library itself holds over 1km of books while the underground storage units contain over 5km of books, as well as periodicals and catalogs.


4 stories of library

The Reading Room contains many of the art and history reference books used for research as well as the collection catalogues for visitors to peruse. Visitors are not allowed to remove any of the books from the library building, but may sit in the reading room to read their requested item.

Within the museum itself there is a small viewing area for the museum visitors to view the library and the reading room. I thought it was a great idea to display the library collection for all to see. I believe doing this makes the collection seem more “real” to visitors. Rather than just reading about the number of books within the library’s collection, visitors can see the books with their own eyes. I was not expecting to find a cool library to visit while in Amsterdam, but I was glad to have found this one!

I’m on a Boat- June 15

National Maritime Museum Library

A boating excursion brought us to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Their special collections library is both a library and an archive collection. We can thank the great Rudyard Kipling for making the suggestion that they establish a maritime museum.


Thanks Mr. Kipling for the Jungle Book and this museum!

The library itself is in a newly refurbished space. There are 749 different collections with about 60% stored off-site and about 40% located in-house. The main patronage consists of academics. The library uses AEON registration software for its readers. It is very easy to use and they are the only UK institution currently using the software. It stores readers’ records and provides quick access.

We were able to tour the on-site stores. All of the archival material is maritime-related and is divided by archival cataloging and description rules. One of the major areas of the collection concern the Admiralty. This includes captains logs and journals. One of the items we were able to view was The New Atlas. It is a depiction of the world in 1633. Although no longer useful for accurate navigation, the atlas is now a beautiful piece of artwork. The original, hand-colored maps are in surprisingly good condition.

One of the topics we discussed during our tour was the advent of digitization. This library is currently in the process of digitizing many of the crew lists held within its collection. This information is important for those working on family genealogy projects and is now easily accessible through the library catalog as well as online genealogy websites such as

It was wonderful to see such a specialized library in such a unique location. Greenwich is such a beautiful place and my only regret is that I didn’t have the time to explore more of the town itself.



From the Nile to Everest- June 14

Royal Geographic Society Library

Founded in 1830, this academic research library holds over 2 millions items. These include over 1 million maps, 4000 atlases, various paintings, 500 archive boxes of documents, over 250,000 volumes including books and bound periodicals, and a variety of 3D objects.


Livingstone, I presume?


The collections on display during our visit give a good idea of some of the areas in the world that have been of exploratory focus in the past. These include the Arctic, South Central Africa, the Antarctic, and Mount Everest. It was amazing that so many items, including food and intricate navigational equipment, made it back to the library archive in relatively good condition.

The Royal Geographic Society’s purpose was to encourage the exploration of the unknown world through funding and providing equipment for various expeditions. Explorers and researchers could write to the Society and request assistance. Interestingly enough, many of the navigational pieces were used for many different expeditions. The Society would lend out this equipment like library books!

In the 17th century, China was the desired destination for spices and trade. The only way to reach the country was by sailing all the way around Africa. This route was treacherous and long. The theory was that there was a shorter route. This led to the search for the Northwest Passage. Explorers combed various parts of the Arctic and North America to no avail, but the Society does now have various artifacts from these journeys, including a frozen bar of chocolate that is perfectly preserved–just don’t expect to use it for your summertime s’mores.

The Society also has items from the Livingstone and Stanley explorations  of South Central Africa in the 1850s, the Scott and Shackleton expeditions of the Antarctic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the various attempts to climb Mount Everest.


It’s a little chilly here in the Antarctic

One of the more fascinating stories garnered from this collection is the tale of George Mallory and his attempt to climb Mount Everest in the 1920s. Mallory died making the attempt to scale the infamous mountain and for years it was believed that he came close, but never actually made it to the top. His body was discovered nearly 75 years later. Certain clues lead researchers to believe that Mallory may have actually been the first person to reach the summit. Mallory is to have said that he planned on planting a photograph of his wife on the summit if he were to reach it and the photograph that he always carried on his person was missing when his body was discovered. He also had a pair of snow goggles in his pocket. This leads some to believe that he wore them on his descent down from the summit in order to stave off snow-blindness. This may be all speculation but it is interesting to think about. Did Mallory technically re-write history? Did the photograph fall out of his pocket when he fell? Did he simply have two pairs of snow goggles on his person? We don’t know, but it is fun to wonder.

A Library for the People- June 13

Barbican Centre Library

Although I am a big proponent for archives, academic libraries, and special collection libraries, I was happy to step into a more familiar setting: the public library. The Barbican Centre library is one of three lending libraries in London and was opened to the public in 1982. There are over 200,000 monographs in its collection. Because I work in a public library and my primary career focus is library programming, I was interested to compare and contrast my experience working in an American public library verses a British public library.


Welcome to…Jurassic Park…I mean the Barbican Library!

The first thing to peak my interest was a sign outside of the main entrance for an upcoming program:


I want to go to there.


Graphic novels are finally making their way into the literary world. No longer are they “kid stuff.” I was pleased to see the Barbican hosting such an event. I only wish I could have attended!

As we made our way inside, my group’s guide was Jonathan Gibbs, IT and Operations Librarian. It was refreshing to see a public librarian with so much enthusiasm for his job. I know first-hand how taxing it can be to work with the public on a daily basis, but Mr. Gibbs seemed to take it all in stride.

The library itself is split into three main sections: general library collections, a children’s library, and a separate music library. There is also a small exhibition space downstairs in the music library. The exhibit this month, as in many of Britain’s libraries and museums, was about the Battle of the Somme.

Anyone can join the Barbican. They can check out books for free and can borrow CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray for a small fee. I was fascinated by the self check-out/return machine, as my library system does not utilize that technology, and I took a moment to check out my competition.


Meeting one of our robot overlords

The general library is split between using the Dewey Decimal system and genre classification. To make it easier for patrons, the fiction is separated by genre (i.e. mystery, science-fiction, etc…). The signage is also quite obvious in order to make it as easy for patrons as possible. I fully support the use of the book-store model. Even the sections divided by Dewey are clearly labeled by subject. Public libraries should be designed with the public in mind and the Barbican is a great example.


Made a beeline to the graphic novel section!

The Barbican faces some of the same issues that many American public libraries also face. It was nice to know that we are not alone! One of the biggest issues that all public libraries must master is the placement of Young Adult books. Do they belong in the children’s library? Should they have their own library? Can they go in with the rest of Adult Fiction/Non-Fiction? The Barbican has a small YA collection that is currently in the main library but is adjacent to the entrance of the Children’s library. This helps address the placement issue and also considers patron needs. Those patrons looking for Young Adult books will more than likely not want to go into the Children’s library.

The Barbican, like many other public libraries, hosts a  yearly City Read. The idea is to garner community support and interest by creating events based around one particular book. The 2016 book choice is Ten Days by Gillian Slovo.

Another familiar issue I came across is how and when to weed the collection. Sometimes books need to be eliminated from a collection in order to make way for new and/or updated books. You do not want your patrons to have access to outdated material. Other factors used during the weeding process include the physical condition of the book (is it beyond repair?) and whether or not other libraries within the inter-library loan system also own a copy.

The Children’s Library is located in a separate room and many programs are held for the kids on an almost daily basis. There are multiple story times, a Monster Club, a STEM club, a coding club, a knitting club, a “secret” film club, as well as a graphic novel club. These events encourage library use as well as help increase book circulation. Every year the library also runs a Summer Reading Challenge to encourage the kids to read even if they are on summer break. What I found most interesting about our visit to the Children’s Library was learning about the BookStart program. Every child born in the City of London is entitled to 2 packs of free books in order to get them started in their reading journey. This type of program would be most welcome in the United States.

Our final stop within the Barbican was to the Music Library. It houses 16,000 CD, which is the largest collection in London, as well as over 16,000 musical scores. The practice pianos that are available to patrons seems like a great idea for those who don’t have access to a piano at home.

All in all, I was so pleased to have been given the opportunity to explore the Barbican Centre Library. This visit gave me a lot to think about regarding the current state of public libraries and also gave me some ideas to bring back to my job (:::cough:::graphic novel discussion group::::cough::::)

Genghis Khan and the Dirty Colors- June 10

British Library Conservation Centre

Today we are back at the British Library to see just how they preserve and protect their growing collection. The Conservation Centre itself has only been around for about 9 years, but its construction has lead to a vastly improved preservation and conservation program.


Hard at Work

The British Library’s collection consists of more than just books. It holds more paintings than the National Gallery and its textile collection includes many from Asia and Africa. Every year, the collection is accessed to prioritize which items need conservation the most. Several questions need to be asked for each item:

  • it is unique?
  • will it be used for an exhibit?
  • how bad is its condition?
  • is there a surrogate available?

If an item is deemed in dire need of conservation it is crucial that anything that is done to it is reversible. Only non-reactive material should be used. In the case of the scrolls that depict the last battle of Genghis Khan, previous conservation efforts may have actually caused damage. The conservator is trying their best to reverse the damage and has developed a customized plan for how to best conserve the scrolls. Every item that is set for conservation has its own customized protocol.



The restoration of the East India Company colors (or flags) was also very interesting to behold. The flags were in terrible shape when they arrived to the Centre and almost seemed impossible to repair. With some outside-the-box thinking and a much needed bath, the flags are well on their way to returning to their former glory. It is interesting to note that a creative mind is a great benefit for the field. Each and every object requires careful thought and attention in order to successful protect it for future generations.