Total Pageviews

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Books in Palaces

On Friday before leaving London, I was able to visit the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, The Queen's Art Gallery, and the Royal Mews. Upon my visit to the art gallery, I saw several books that were on display from the library at Buckingham Palace. This sparked my curiosity into the library at Buckingham Palace. During my tour of the state rooms, I did not see a library so I decided to ask an individual who worked there a few questions. I was able to find out that there is a large library located inside of the Palace however it is not included in a tourist area.

Not only are books collected, but music is also a large part of the library. Manuscripts and books from composers and other musical artists are collected and stored inside of the Palace. According to the Royal Palace website, there are over 125,000 books and manuscripts in the collection. Most of the books have been given to the British Library, but a small amount are still housed inside of Buckingham Palace today.

When I was thinking about this topic I remembered that on my trip to Paris I visited the Palace of Versailles, where on the tour, we are taken through what used to be the library of the Palace. There are still some books on the shelves in there today, but I am not sure if those are originals to the collection or where the collection is today.

The British Library Conservation Studio

For our last class we visited the Conservation Studio at the British Library. After a review of the history of the library and some interesting facts, we were taken on a tour of the studio and observed two different workers working on two different restoration projects. Employees work on many different types of items, everything from stamps to palm leaves, which is what we watched an employee restore. After that, we watched an employee place the gold lettering on the outside of a leather bound book. Both techniques were very interesting to watch; both employees explained the techniques they were using to our class and answered all our questions thoroughly.

The purpose of conservation studio is not to restore items. They work on them to restore them with reversible techniques. Employees take detailed pictures of items before and after they complete their work. Five teams of curators deal with specific items such as maps, miniatures, wall hangings, etc. They bid for the time of the conservators, who have time allotments for working with each curator.

Currently, palm leaves are being restored. They were created in the 17th century in Asia. Text was placed on them, creating a book. The leaves were tied together with strings however today those strings are no longer there. The text placed on the leaves was originally from 13th or 14th century. Watching such work taking place was extremely interesting and I am not only fortunate to have observed, but very grateful. I think visiting the conservation studio was the perfect ending to such a fantastic semester in the UK.

Middle Temple Library

One of our last class visits was to the Middle Temple Library located in London. While on our visit we learned about the great connection between their library and the United States of America. One of the first things pointed out to us was an authorized 1st copy of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by multiple members of Middle Temple.

One of the largest collections of United States legal books and documents is inside of the Middle Temple Library. Since it is a law library, most users prefer hard copies of books and resources rather than online versions, making printed materials more valued. Recent budget cuts have lead to a decrease in subscriptions to journals because of their cost. Many lawyers in the UK reference books about U.S. law to help them with cases and for research on topics such as international law. Many researchers also refer to United States laws because they were some of the first laws put in place on environmental and copyright topics.

Much of the collection has been acquired through private donations from judges, lawyers, and professors. The collection began when the library's founder, Robert Ashley donated 4,000 books from his private collection at the time of his death. His collection consisted of mainly science, medical, and exploration books. Today, the library is full of many different types of books, including law books from Ireland, Scotland, and the European Union.

Another interesting aspect of Middle Temple Library is that they store and keep old textbooks from English law since new laws are always based on old laws. This makes it necessary to store the old books for research. Middle Temple was the only law library we visited and it was different in some aspects from the other libraries we visited, but it also shared many commonalities with other libraries we visited. I found it very interesting to hear about the connection between the United States and Middle Temple.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Maughan Library-King's College

The Maughan Library is one of the libraries of King's College London. Founded in 1829, King's College was known as the "Godly" institute. It was established by many benefactors who had large religious believes. During our visit we saw a large display of old bibles which included a second edition King James bible from 1613.

Maughan Library's current location is newer; it was opened in the old public records office of England, which used to house important old documents such as the Magna Carta. King's College moved in in 2001. The building was built as the first fire proof building in London; there was no wood inside. The building is still owned by the crown and is leased to King's College.

Currently the collection houses over 3/4 of a million items. There are 300 computers, 1,000 reader places, and 11,000 students from the campus who use the library. The collection houses mostly works based on the humanities, law, social sciences, and engineering. They do not have many science or medical works because there are other libraries throughout King's College who specialize in those types of works.  Maughan Library is open to visitors; they have over 1,000 registered visitors. They are mostly known for their large and historical collection of works on theology.

Wireless access is available to all users throughout the building. Self-service is also in place so that books can be checked out by individual patrons without the need for having a library employee do it. Employees also explained to our class that traditional reference practices are not in place; roaming is the method of choice here.

Maughan Library also contains a decent size special collections. Mostly containing books and not manuscripts, the collection has a large amount of early medical books such as Garden of Health from 1491. Special collections puts on three exhibits per year. Once these exhibits have closed, the entire exhibit is digitized and placed online for users to look at. An interesting item that was shared with our class was a coronation album from 1953 of Queen Elizabeth II. It included photographs, reports, letters, and brochures from places across the globe, all of which were part of the British empire at the time, celebrating the coronation of the new queen.

Carnegie Public Library

Built in 1883, the Carnegie Public Library in Dunfermline, Scotland was the first public library established by Andrew Carnegie in his home town. Still located in its original building, the library has had two editions to make sure there is enough room to house all the materials. The first expansion took place in 1922 and the second in 1992. Carnegie originally donated 8,000 pounds for the building, which was not enough.

Today, the library is still a lending library with a learning center, 22 computers with free internet access to patrons, and a collections of over 59,700 books which includes fiction, nonfiction, audio, and large print books. There is also a children's section along with a teen/young adult section as well. The children's library area promotes a rhythm time for young children, craft sessions, and toddler sessions as well. "Circus Stars" is another program the library takes part of in the summer time. Currently this summer there are 139 children signed up. They are to read six books over their summer holiday.

There is also a large local history collection included in the library as well. Displays of local collections are always out in the room. There is a large collection of records and data compiled all the way from 1561, including birth and death records, and marriage records as well. A lot of photographs are also available in the library, usually donated by community members. Copies of the Dunfermline Journal dating from 1851-1950 are also available for patrons to look at. Local Council meeting minutes are also stored here. Maps of the town are also stored in the local history collection as well.

This was the last library we visited in Scotland. Again, just like in the other libraries here, the employees and staff were all very friendly and welcoming. Each and every place on this trip was very interested in local history and family history. It was an interesting contrast to see compared to the libraries and museums we visited in England. Seeing what is emphasized in each different place is interesting and made me think about the things libraries in the United States focus on.

Edinburgh Central Library

At the Edinburgh Central Library, our class met with several librarians who all had different areas of focus. The digital librarian talked with us about how the Central Library makes their collection available to their patrons online. There is a 24/7 virtual library for customers. Patrons are able to get service information, join the library, and even check out books online. There are a lot of visitors to the website; making it one of the top 10 websites. The library even has a mobile app for Android and iPhone users which gives the location of the library and in the near future will contain a blog and borrowing capabilities. The library also has a large touch screen in the lobby which gives patrons information such as maps of the library, collection information, and neighborhood information about Edinburgh and local authors and historical places.

The library adopted social media early on. They use Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr to promote the library and its events. Their blog gets around 5,000-6,000 visits per month. The library has seen a large increase in turnout since the use of these outlets. E-books are also available online for patrons to use and newsletters are emailed to patrons giving them more specified information than in the blog. The library also promotes a community information website which promotes organizations and businesses in the community who do not have websites.

While the library places a lot of importance on digitalization and the website, there is also a lot of importance on the traditional services as well. Traditional reference services are also given. All users have free access to things like help with driving tests, family research, language, and business resources. Author events are also largely promoted throughout the library. With the help of the Scottish Book Trust, a theme is picked by the library, and authors will come in and visit and usually read or discuss their books. These events are usually held monthly. Events such as "City of Literature" are also promoted through the library which promote literature throughout the city by the ways of posters, bookmarks, and pamphlets.

The library also feels that training of staff is a vital part of the success of their library. Staff and employees must be trained and complete online modules, a series of seven. These modules teach skills and customer service techniques.

Along with promoting good customer service, the library also works alongside of many other organizations such as the Scottish Poetry Library, Story Telling Center, Book Festival, and the Library Information Council.

In our visit, we learned that the Central Library largely promotes the access to the library, whether it is through traditional means or online. They are very interested in customer service and promoting library services for everyone in the community. The staff was extremely helpful and friendly and I really wish I could work in this library myself!

Photograph courtesy of

National Records of Scotland

Our class took a small trip to Scotland while we were in London to visit a few different libraries. The first place we went to was the National Records of Scotland. This government agency is headed by the Registrar General, a government agency with which it just recently merged with. Prior to this merge, the National Records were known as the Scottish National Archives.

With records dating back to the 12th century, the National Records holds birth records, marriage records, and death records. They also have census records from 1841 until the present. There are six buildings in Edinburgh with 450 employees. There are six public search rooms for the public to use to search for their family history and there are also nine websites that the National Records are in charge of up keeping. Along with delivering national records, they are also responsible for the Scottish Register of Tartans.

In recent years, a large increase of interest in family trees and genealogy has lead to an increase in use and popularity of the National Records. People come from all over to use their research rooms and access their records to find out more about their family history. The National Records offers two free hours of access to a computer for individuals to search for their family history. There are also professional genealogists to work with the public as well. Most of the records are digitized, especially the most popular resources.

Along with the items mentioned previously, the National Records of Scotland also hold state and parliament papers, deeds, church records, wills and testaments, taxation records, family estate papers, court and legal documents, railway records, maps and plans, and photos as well.

The National Records of Scotland is a huge building located in the center of Edinburgh which offers great access and resources to its users. I think it is fabulous that this type of information is made available to the public; it is a great resource. Their openness and value of these documents in commendable. The fact they are working on making even more of their records available online is a huge benefit to the people not only of Scotland, but of other nations across the globe.

Photo courtesy of