Friday, 6 August 2010

British Library Preservation Lab 29 July 2010

Dr. Welch was able to secure three tickets for a tour of the Preservation Laboratory at the British Library. I attended this tour with Ann and Traci.

We arrived at the lobby and were directed to store our things in the locker room and head out to the back of the building. The main lab is located in its own purpose built area beyond a courtyard. The lobby of the lab has several interactive displays including several videos on restoring books and a sound restoring station.

Our tour led us through the studio were the actual conservation and preservation work is performed including the finishing studio where gold leaf and embossing are accomplished. The studio is a purpose-built facility which opened in 2007 (additional work space is on the ninth floor of the library proper and is generally dedicated to flat objects like maps). The studio space occupies the third floor of the structure and was designed with a special sawtooth roof that provides the space with north light year round which is best for conservation work. There are 3 spacious studios which contain specifically designed work benches. A wet area runs along the back of the studio for washing and other aqueous treatments. A fourth studio is a flexible use space that can support project work, workshops, demonstrations and training programs. In addition to the studio spaces, there is separate area for treating items with solvents, an area dedicated to archival box-making.

We were able to speak with two of the studio's workers including a gentleman who trained at the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert and a young woman who had been with the studio less than a year as part of her training for book conservation and preservation. Most of the tour consisted of tourists, not academics. There was a great deal of debate among the others on the tour over the merits of using goat skin over calf skin for recovering books. The consensus seemed to be that the tour participants felt the use of goat skin was simply not as good as calf skin.

Our tour was brief, but afterward, Ann and Traci and I were able to speak more in depth with Francis. Francis has been with the lab for quite some time and was trained there, on-site. While she was a great deal more open to questions following the official tour, I did not feel that I got all of the answers I was looking to obtain. Additionally, I was astonished at the almost flip way in which the materials were handled. I understand that if the staff was overly careful of their charges, no work would be accomplished. I was also surprised that the work performed on this materials was akin to what, in the states, would translate to more of a technical degree rather than something more academic. Altogether a very strange but educational experience. I appreciate the opportunity to have visited the studio.

Maughan Library, Kings College 29 July 2010

This morning we met for our last tour as a class. After a brief meeting in the courtyard, it was off to the Maughan Library on Chancery Lane which is the main library for Kings College.

The Maughan Library and Information Services Center (ISC) is housed in a 19th-century neo-Gothic building tucked in behind Fleet Street in the City of London. The building was originally home for the Public Record Office, but has been operating as the main branch library for Kings College since 2001 and is part of the Strand Campus. This building was designed by Sir James Pennthorne and built between 1851 and 1858; it is a purpose-built structure and was the first fire-proof building in London. Some of the fire-proof measures include slate shelving, zinc ceilings and compartmentalized storage. The library was named after Sir Deryck Maughan, a King's alumnus, who made a donation of 4 million pounds to the new College library. The Round Reading Room was inspired by the reading room at the British Museum and has been the location for several movies - when you think of a library reading room, this epitomizes the same.

We met our host, Sally Brook the Information Services Manager, in the Rolls Chapel which is of medieval origin but was restored in the 1770s and renamed the Weston Room after receipt of a donation from the Garfield Weston Foundation. The open room's acoustics were not the best for our large group, but the stained glass windows and memorial statuary offered a great deal to take in. Set up throughout the room were items from the Foyle Collection pertaining to the history of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Maughan's collection contains more than 750,000 items within this building (the entire collection approaches 1.7 million items college-die) including books, journals, CDs, records, DVDs, theses and exam papers. These items cover four of the college's Schools of Study: Arts and Humanities, Law, Physical Sciences & Engineering and Social Science & Public Policy; the Strand Campus is home to non-health related disciplines. Also included in the collection are the records of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, items from Sion College after 1850 and a large collection of vinyl LPs donated by the BBC.

Services available to the 11,000 Strand campus students (20,000 college-wide) include approximately 1000 reader places and 300 computer places. There are several PAWS labs and wireless internet access was recently made available. The library is also a member of a consortium including University of London and several other schools city-wide. New open floor plans were incorporated into the renovations and the staff has recently instituted roving as part of their reader services. In the weeks leading up to exams, the library is open 24 hours per day, seven days a week to accommodate students. This fall, some of the available space will used for teaching space on a trial basis. Recently, all items were RFID tagged making possible self-service stations throughout the library; some materials are available for short loans consisting of an hour or day. The collection (with the exception of medical texts) uses Library of Congress cataloging. Most of the collection is open and available with restricted access to the items in the rare and special collections.

The Foyle Special Collections Library is housed within a separate section of the building and comprises approximately 150,000 items of printed works, manuscripts, maps, slides, and sound recordings including the Carnegie Collection of British Music, a collection of original, signed manuscripts, many of them by notable composers made possible by funding by Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie UK Trust. We were able to view some of the items in the Special Collection including a manuscript on the study of urine, a first edition Vesalius from 1542, 1547 and 1597 which is a treatise on surgical techniques, a text on medical practices by Florence Nightingale and a rare pre-Reformation Bible in low German from 1520. The collection is available on an OPAC, but a card catalog is actively maintained as a back-up. LOC cataloging and subject headings are used in the Special Collections with notations on provenance, binding and other unique physical characteristics. While a great deal of information is taken from the LOC system, the unique characteristics of the items are all added in-house. The Special Collections are open to all users and is utilized by approximately one-third post-grads, one-third academics and the remaining one-third including general researchers and under-grads. Only a small portion of the special collections has been digitized consisting of those items unique to the collection.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

National Archives of Scotland 20 July 2010

Following our tour of the first Carnegie library in the morning, we all traipsed back to Edinburgh for an afternoon visit to the National Archives of Scotland. We were shown to a meeting room within the National Archives where we received an excellent presentation by Margaret McBride, the Education Officer for the Archives.

The National Archives of Scotland is a government agency charged to preserve and protect the records of the nation. The Archives is comprised of two divisions; Record Services which encompasses government records, court and legal documents and collection development and Corporate Services Division which covers accommodation services, Finance and Administration, Information and Communication technologies, Conservation services and Reader services. There are about 140 full time employees. The National Archives collection includes over 70 kilometers of records from the 12th to the 21st centuries, state and parliamentary records until 1707 and then from 1999 forward, the Register of Deeds and Sasines from the 16th century, church records, wills and testaments from 1601-1901, tax records, valuation rolls, family and estate papers, court and legal documents, business records, railway records, nationalized industrial records, maps and plans, private records and photographs. Additionally, the Archives houses many items for which it is responsible, but which they do not own.

Originally housed in the General Register House (ca 1774) the National Archives currently takes up three separate building sites in Edinburgh. The dome and first floor are dedicated to family history research (services and information are also available on-line). West Register House is about a 15 minute walk from the main archives and was renovated in the 1960's. Thomas Thomas House is the most recent of the three buildings and was completed in 1995.

Most of the items in the archives are searchable through the OPAC. The first big digitization project the Archives undertook was in cooperation with the University of Utah and made available digital access to the Wills and Testaments dated 1500-1901. Additionally, digitized records for the Church of Scotland and kirk court sessions are available as are the valuations scrolls and Register of Sasines. A catalog of the National Archives holdings is available as an OPAC, a catalog of those items housed (but not owned) in the National Archives is also available. Several helpful links to the Scottish Archives Network, genealogical research, paleographgy, commercial images sites, the tartan registry and university archives were provided as part of our presentation. Following our presentation, we were allowed some time to view some of the holdings in the archives including both original and digital copies of Wills, kirk records, town plans and a delightful cook book. We were then taken on a tour of the facility which included touring the reading rooms, stacks and even the underground areas. Dara posited that while the building was purpose built, it could be possible that the Archives is still able to house all its records due, in part, to the fact that a great deal of the parliamentary records for Scotland would be housed in England as that is where parliamentary action took place between 1707 and 1999.

This visit was our last as a group before departing on our mini-break. I hope everyone has a safe and fulfilling journey and I cannot wait to catch up with people upon our return to London. I hope that Dara and I do well on our travels and that I don't get us killed driving on the wrong side of the road.

Dunfermline Public Library 20 July 2010

After a supremely restful night at Brothaigh House B&B and a marvelous breakfast, Dara and Andrew and I departed for Dunfermline in County Fife to visit the first Carnegie library.

Established by a grant of 8,000 pounds (and three offers) this library opened on 29 August 1883 and was the first of the over 2,500 libraries that Carnegie would endow. The funds initially provided by Carnegie were to provide for both the building and stocking of the library shelves. The library ran out of books on the day it opened. By 1904 the original finding had run out and a deal between the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust and the Town Council was created to keep the library running. The first expansion of the original space was completed in 1922 which retained the Entrance Hall and Abbot Street frontage and added a large Lending Hall on the ground floor along with a staircase tower. This addition almost doubled the capacity of the space. A second large addition was opened in 1993 which included meeting and exhibition spaces and a new entrance with a lift making accessibility to all levels possible.

Today, the Dunfermline populace may not be all that conscious of being the first of the Carnegie libraries, but it is the county's largest and busiest. The collection includes around 64,000 items and issues between 20-27,000 books per month. Free internet access is also available with 23 public workstations available throughout the library. The lending library is currently on the ground floor, previously it was upstairs where the Reference Dept. currently resides. The lending collection includes selections in Chinese, Urdu and Polish. The catalog for the in-house collection is available on-line and also provides access to material available county-wide.

The Children's library was opened in the 1930's to offer services to young readers. Prior to this, reading groups were available through local community centers. The children's library was initially part of the main building, but was moved to the extension in 1993. Some of the programs offered by this library include story and rhymetime for 0-2 years, craft time, school and nursery school visits and internet access. The Abbey room which once housed the music collection (which has been discontinued in all libraries) is currently used for exhibition space.

The local history room offers a huge collection of information to local historians and geneologists alike. Resources available in this section include local newspapers, census returns, maps, photographs and information on local business. The Special collections room was opened in 1922 as part of the new addition and houses the Erskine Beveridge collections of books and a collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books donated by George Reid. Also housed with these items is the Murrison Burns Collection and Robert Henryson Collection.

We received a very informative and fairly easy-paced tour. The guides were very helpful and were more than happy to answer as many questions as we liked. I found it particularly interesting to speak to a younger librarian about her career choices and goals in the context of work in librarianship in the UK. I became fascinated by the Book Prescription program - a program in conjunction with NHS to provide additional health information in a non-threatening and safe space to community members. I found this idea so interesting, I determined to use it as the basis of my paper.

Following our delightful tour, many of us headed out into Dunfermline for lunch or sight-seeing. Many of us wandered the grounds of the Abbey. The ruins and churchyard were simply breathtaking and I know that I shot more pictures of the grounds and ruins than I ought. Even with the groundskeepers working away, it was a very restful place.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Edinburgh Central Library 19 July 2010

After the morning excursion to the National Library of Scotland, we adjourned for shopping/lunch/site-seeing in the city. We reconvened across the street from the National Library for a visit to the Edinburgh Central Library. We were warmly welcomed and provided some really nice library schwag - only library geeks could truly appreciate how cool that is.

The Edinburgh Central Library was established by a donation of 50,000 pounds from Andrew Carnegie in 1886. Prior to this, the city was flush with subscription libraries and saw no need to establish a free public library. Many citizen, however, could not afford the subscription libraries. Requests for a free public library had been previously rejected by the Edinburgh Town Council in both 1868 and 1881, but due to Carnegie's contribution, the foundation of the current building were laid within a year of his donation.

The building was designed by George Washington Browne and opened its doors in 1890 offering the services of three departments: the Reference Department, Lending Department and a News Room. Today, there are seven departments including the three original, a Scottish Room, children's room, music library and art library. In 1922, then head librarian Ernest Savage opened the library to allow patrons access to the collection. Prior to this, patrons would consult a board with the collections' titles listed in either blue (available) or red (unavailable). Today, the collection boasts more than 850,000 items, information and enquiry services, free access to the internet, free study space, periodicals and electronic information resources, CDs and DVDs and community meeting spaces.

We were given an informative presentation by several members of the staff including presentations on special collections and reader development. We split up after a small tea and toured the library. The reference reading room boasts a magnificent dome and original wrought iron gallery. The gallery is accessible through short spiral staircases hidden within the columns at the rear of the reading room. Within the reference reading room is an active card catalog that is still used by patrons. In the lending room, the shelving is also original to the building and sports marmosets throughout the space and some of the shelves host fanciful carved monkeys. The children's reading room is cozy and inviting and brightly colored. The music library houses an impressive collection and is also host to live performances ala coffee houses. The art library is literally stuffed with all things art and architecture light from above by skylights.

While researching this particular library, I happened upon a video tour of the library by one of the staff members. The video has been embedded in this blog or is accessible at YouTube through the following link: Tour video