Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Maughan Library, Strand Campus

The Maughan Library has 1.3 million items, 750,000 of which have been cataloged using Library of Congress classification. The library serves 11,000 students on Strand Campus, 20,000 in total. Formerly a public record house, the library has antique zinc shelves, though recently they have installed new computer labs for the students called PAWS or Public Access Work Stations. However, the library does have some rare materials as well, including Florence Nightingale's journal and a collection of surgical documents from the 15th century to present day that is free to access.

National Archive of Scotland

Our guide for this institution was Margaret McBride, education coordinator. The National Archives of Scotland is an agency of the Scottish government headed by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland, and answerable to the Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Parliament. Their mission statement is to preserve, protect and promote records. The organization has 3 buildings, 140 staff members and 8 websites. There are 2 basic divisions: Record Services which deals with government records, court and legal documents and collection development, and Corporate Services which handles accommodation services, finance/administration and information and communication. The archive has been open to inquires from the public since 1843.

The holdings of the NAS include 70 kilometers of shelving, from the 12th century onward including state and Parliament papers, the register of deeds and sasines, church records, wills and testaments, taxation records and much more. On the digital front, they have recently created an OPAC online catalog and created "virtual volumes" in-house, allowing patrons to access Scottish wills from 1500-1901. They also recently instituted a historical research room which deals with inquires, 80% to 90% of which are email based. They receive 10-12,000 inquires a year, most of them dealing with research on family history.

Dunfermline Carnagie Library

Our tour guide for this excursion was Stephanie Anderson. The Library in Dunfermline was the 1st Carnagie library in the world. Their collections include a Local Family and History Library which deals with genealogy, ordinance maps from 1856, a catalog of books and newspapers from 1859 and local counsel minutes from from 1893 onward. Patrons can search by author and subject, as well as review newspapers on microfilm from the 1830's onward. Data on the subject index is saved in both digital and hard copy versions. In addition, they are the only public library in the world to have a climate control room for rare materials. The main library is split between fiction and non-fiction, their classification system is Dewey and they own listed bookshelves from the 1920's.

The special collections room is dedicated to poet Robert Burns and the three main donators of the collection, Ersikine Beverage, George Reed and Rev. Robert Henryson. The public can access this collection, but only with supervision from a librarian. The collection includes Burns' poetry from all over the world in a variety of languages, as well as a great deal of realia, including a half-size statue of Burns made by Amelia Peyton.

Edinburgh Central Library

Our guides for the tour of this fascinating building were Anne Bell, Colm Linnanne and Karen O'Brien. This particular library uses Library of Congress classification system, and on an interesting note the main reading room was formerly divided by gender, and the library still uses a card catalog. However, they have been making advances on the digital front, such as having E-books for download as well as the Your Edinburgh website, which provides currently sought after information and allows information providers add and edit data, facilitates communication and focuses on the "neighborhood run system". They also have an e-newsletter and a blog called "Tales of One City." In addition, they have the Capital Collection, 3,000 images from the 16th century to today, allowing people to view and download said images for free. They also have a special collections department which ranges from the 15th century to today, including an impressive collection of broadsheets which were the forerunners of newspapers. One interesting fact is that red ink means a more valuable book, because red ink was the most expensive color in ancient scribing.

In addition to the main library, there is also the Fine Art Library, the Lending Library and the Music Library,each with its own budget, collection policies and priorities. However, one common requirement is that patrons must request non-public items.

National Library of Scotland

This institution seems more like a museum than a library, especially with their digital displays of famous Scots, including Darwin, Austen, Schliemann and more. However, as there was not a tour for this particular destination, my observations of this library are limited to my own experiences. The library's holdings include 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps and atlases, 300,000 music scores, 32,000 films and videos, 25,000 newspapers and magazines and 6000 new titles per week. Important dates for the library are as follows:

1689: Advocates of Library established
1710: 1st Copyright Act
1925: National Library of Scotland
1956: George IV Bridge building completed
1995: Causeway building completed
2009: Opening of Digital Info Center

They also have a walk-through exhibit on the history of golf, and an archive on John Murray (main creator of the Oxford English Dictionary). One fascinating item was an example of an early graphic version of an Arthur Conan Doyle story "Exploits of a Brigadier General" from 1852, which is the oldest comic strip I have encountered. Historical materials on comics in the U.S. would place the creation of the comic strip closer to the dawn of the 20th century, so it is most interesting to find evidence which contradicts this.

Bodlean Library

The Bodleian library is located in Oxford University, which is the oldest University in England and the 3rd oldest in the world. While Oxford's statutes and chancellor were founded in 1201, the first university was not built until the 15th century, and even then the project took 65 years to fund and build. The first building of Oxford's library was originally an exam hall, but thanks to the donation of books by Duke Humphrey in 1439, Oxford had the foundations of an academic collection, and in 1488 the first library opened. However, the Bodleian Library as we know it today did not begin until 1598 when Thomas Bodley, a fellow at Merton under Elizabeth I, donated his his fortune and collection to Oxford university and its library. In fact, the Bodleian has the 1st Mezzanine level ever built in England, and all the books from Bodley's time are shelved in their original order. Bodley insisted that the library be reference only and no one could borrow materials,so that even Charles I had to use a private reading room. He also said that all scholars should have access to the materials, not just those who attended Oxford. In addition, Bodley also organized the first copyright agreement for the library, which used to receive copies of everything but now only does so on request.

While there have been modern additions to the library, change has been slow in coming in some areas. For example, until 1928 only natural light was used in the library itself, and in 1980 Oxford sent their paper catalogs to an Ohio company to be digitized. In addition they have SOLO, the Search Oxford Library System, as well as glass slides, microfiche and an agreement with Google Books regarding the digitization of materials which has become public domain.

Victoria and Albert National Art Library

While knowledge in any form is always interesting to behold, it is always pleasant to visit an institution which combines the aesthetic with the intellectual. The National Art Gallery is certainly such a place, where works of art are displayed next to great works of literature, realia of all kinds and even graphic novels. There are over 2 million items in the gallery's collection which are classified under a unique system, and they have facsimile versions of famous works for displays and exhibitions, such as DaVinci's famous notebooks with mirror writing. In addition, their special collections also include a copy of Shakespeare's 1st foglio, a 1623 collection of Dickens' manuscript and his travel diaries, a collection of madrigals from 1588 and a number of rare Islamic book bindings, which are more valuable than the texts themselves. Reference materials are classified by Dewey, organized alphabetically and must be requested in advance. The library holds 8,000 periodicals, 2,000 of them current as well as extensive collections of microfilm and microfiche. They also possess historical National Art Gallery publications from 1837 to the present day. Furthermore, all items can be found in the online catalog

However, unlike the U.S. the National Art Library has an extensive collection of graphic novels which they use to supplement exhibits and displays, such as the display about "Alice in Wonderland" during our visit. The graphic novels included were "Little Nemo in Slumberland" (arguably the first graphic novel), as well as classic Spider-Man, Matrix-based materials and a number of Batman comics, including Grant Morrison's award-winning work "A Serious House" noted for it's Wonderland-themed imagery. The "Alice in Wonderland" display was supplemented from the Gallery's graphic novel collection which is cataloged with AACR II, and is mainly collected to display the artwork of the 20th century or to supplement other specific collections.