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.

London Library

What is there to say about the London Library? Well, one could start with the fact that they have 15 miles of shelving, add 8,000 new books a year, is one of the only public libraries that receives no public funding and has gifts in the form of illustrations from Roald Dahl, Ralph Steadman and other artistic greats. However, this only scratches the surface of this amazing institution. Its history has strong literary roots, having started out in rented rooms and including members such as T.S. Elliot and Charles Darwin, and their current president is the noted playwright Tom Stoppard. The 7,500 current lifetime members include Members of Parliament and officers in major corporations. Starting out in rented rooms, the original founders tore down the town house in 1890 and installed one of the first steel structures to shelve their materials. In 1920, they added a seven floor extension to the building in order to shelve an additional 200,000 books. With a staff of 60 and many dedicated volunteers, the library is staffed by many dedicated individuals. The library has a unique classification system which was designed by Charles Wright, and divides materials by subject materials without spine labels, instead using shelf labels and organizing books alphabetically by author, or by title if the book has been edited. In addition, there is no distinction between languages in any subject, they must leave space for new materials, add titles as they come and collect materials in 50 different languages The advantages of this system versus Dewey's is their system is easy to browse, covers a wide variety of materials and each new member gets an hour long presentation on how to use it. The disadvantages are that this is not a familiar system for most library users, and the descriptions frequently use Victorian language.

The building housing the London Library is called the Labyrinth owing to its twisting and complex nature. An interesting note, the London Library only buys hardcover editions, only collects written materials and only throws a book away if they have an exact copy. However, they also have considerable resources, including an online catalog, databases and more. Their Arts and Humanities Library includes over 1,000,000 items, 90% of which are available for loan as all stacks are available to members. Subjects for this collection include Literature, Fiction, Art, Biographies, Religion and more. They also collect books about the history of science, but not scientific subjects themselves.

As someone with an interest in archives and special collections, I was particularly interested to see the London Library's conservation department, which started twelve years ago with a six-month contract which discovered a great many problems, including poor shelving and awful accommodations for materials. In response, they brought up all the materials, assessed their condition, assigned them "loan status" to determine whether they could be used (e.g. NFC = Not For Circulation) and created bibliographical entries. Nowadays, they have bookbinders and conservators on staff working in a full conservation studio, use a BASSAir system which cleans all particulates from a book, and have developed organic wheat paste and starch for use in book repairs. In addition, they use a technique called "fowling," which adds aluminum salts to vellum to make it more durable. While the building has no controlled climate, they try to control the atmosphere, but all the rare materials have full climate control with radio telemetry. This year alone, they have had to move 85,000 periodicals or 14 kilometers of shelving to check for errors or defects in the books.

National Maritime Museum

Open since 1937, the National Maritime Museum has been open to the public as one of the largest maritime museums in the world. The Caird Library was donated by Sir James Caird, and comprises the original collection of the museum, which includes manuscripts, ephemera, materials on piracy, navigation, astronomy, exploration, naval architecture and genealogy. In addition, that have paper and e-resources freely available to the public. The Caird Library is a joint library/archive, with 12 staff members and roughly 3-4,000 visitors a year who must request materials in advance. Unlike many libraries, for the NMM the word "modern" means post 1850's. Of their collection, they have over 100,000 modern items, 8,000 rare books, 24,000 periodicals and 20,000 pamphlets and over four miles of shelving. As for their archive, they have 70,000 records, and Maps and Charts are in a separate collection. Their cataloging system uses MARC and AACR II. Patrons must request materials in advance, and since the advent of email and the Caird library's new online system for ordering titles, the number of requests they receive has greatly increased. Patrons mainly consist of academic researchers and genealogists, and must be 18 years old to enter, though this may change upon completion of their new building.

While I was expecting to see rare materials, I had no idea how amazing the items would be until they were displayed. For example, there was the 6th edition of Domestic Medicine, a treatise written in 1779. Typically owned by surgeons, the binding was made out of sailcloth; while this book was fascinating in and of itself, this particular volume had been on the H.M.S. Bounty, and was taken by the sailors when they mutinied. Another amazing example was the Aurora Australis, which was the first book ever made in the Antarctic in 1908 on Ross Island. There were only 100-120 copies made, on a printing press which the authors owned, included poems, illustrations and seven fiction and non-fiction articles and was marked with a penguin stamp. Perhaps that's where Sir Allen Lane got the idea. In addition, there was an 1812 journal from a minister serving in the navy during the Napoleonic wars, the signal manual from the U.S. frigate Chesapeake which was weighted with grapeshot to sink quickly and some rather unflattering letters from Admiral Nelson to his wife while he was living with another woman.

British Library

The British Library is one of the premier libraries in the United Kingdom, but interestingly enough, from 1857 to 1998 was located in the British Museum. However, the collection had to be moved due to lack of adequate storage space and improper conditions for materials. As one of the UK's repository libraries, they collect a copy of everything published and must accept them, which accounts for their 200 million item collection, with 8,000 new items arriving every day. For example, IKEA advertisements are filed under Economic History. As such, the main purpose of the British Library is to collect items, preserve individual libraries in their collection (e.g. Kings Library, donated by George II and III) and note important events in the national biography, not provide information to the public. In fact, a "Keeper of the Books" named Anthony Panizzi sued publishers to insure that the library received the best copies of books published in the UK. This is not to say that that the public cannot access these materials, but they must have authorized passes for entry and a proven need for the information within the British Library.

The classification of the library is rather unique in that items are sorted by size rather than subject. In addition, the Humanities section deals with materials after 1850, while Rare Materials deals with pre-1850 materials. They also have a stamp collection totaling 8 million, which was established in 1891, as well as the King's Library. The four founders of the library are Joseph Banks (a botanist who traveled with Captain Cook), Robert Cotton (collected Parliamentary papers, the Magna Carta and the Gutenburg Bible), Thomas Orenville (collected classical manuscript, Shakespeare's 1st foglio) and Hans Sloan (physician to Charles II, founder of Cadbury Chocolate.)

For such a venerable institution, they are rather behind in terms of preservation and conservation. In fact, they have a 200 year backlog of materials, at a cost of 150 pounds a book. As such, the library uses student labor; nice to see that some things are the same the world over.

Sir Jon Soane's Museum

While visiting regular museums is always enjoyable, when one happens across an opportunity such as the chance to visit the home and personal museum of one of England's most famous architects, it was too good to pass up. Once the domicile of Sir John Soane, he later bought the adjacent buildings and created a living space/museum that is truly amazing to behold. Soane's designs led to remarkable evolutions in British Architecture and much more, considering that the classic "English telephone box" was based on one such design. as such, it is fitting that he possessed such an impressive collection of literature, including the works of Homer, Roussaeu, Tacitus, history of all kinds and several bibles as well. In addition, he had a great number of books on French architecture, which one of the museum workers explained that in Soane's time France possessed greater knowledge of that particular subject. In addition, the house was full of realia, including stonework, carvings, busts and vases, antique lamps and clocks, statuary, architectural models and a genuine Egyptian sarcophagus. Soane was also a collector of painting by Joseph Michael Ganny, including houses and designs, as well as displaying his own designs, including Triumph Bridge and the Bank of England. On a side note, Soane had an imaginary friend, a priest named Father John, and he purportedly built the Monks Parlor in the museum for him.

When we were leaving the museum, we happened to come across a historical contractor of sorts,who explained that they were restoring the rooms to more closely resemble their original appearance. In order to accomplish this, they were taking sample of the paint to analyze its age and chemical composition.

British Museum Archives

For anyone interested in archives, special collections or rare materials, the British Museum Archive is truly a shrine worthy of academic pilgrimage. Words fail when describing the depth and breadth of information contained in this repository, but I will try to do it justice. Our guide on this amazing experience Stephanie Clark, a museum archivist specializing in prints and fabrics and part of the British Museum's small archival team. The British museum has only had a full time archivist since 1973, and the archives themselves are split into eight collections: Coins and Metals, Prints and Drawings, Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Greek and Roman, Middle East, Prehistory in Europe, Africa and Asia. In addition, the archives also houses records of meeting minutes and trustee notes from 1753 to today and are organized by governance, including historical staff records, financial records, trustee documents, exhibition notes and reading room applications from 1842 to the 1970's (Including T.S. Elliot and Karl Marx). The archive receives approximately fifteen requests a month, mostly related to the trustee collections. Many of the older volumes were bound on-site when the museum had a book bindery, though now such duties are outsourced.

In addition, the archives also hold the Book of Presents, which is an extensive compilation of all gifts and donations that the British Museum has ever received, including the donator's name, address, copies of the letter of thanks sent to them by the museum and letter books of correspondence. Furthermore, all of these records are backed up on microfilm to ensure preservation. Requests for this collection are often for information regarding the reason behind an object's donation, or for information regarding the donor themselves. They also have an extensive photo collection, including objects, former staff members, buildings, galleries and exhibitions. An interesting point of fact, no object can be given away once it has been received by the British Museum. In terms of digitization, the archives has its own ongoing project called BMImage which deals with images and reproductions of objects, as well as with any potential copyright issues which may arise.

Guildhall Clock Museum

This museum is a truly fascinating building. Not more than ten paces long and perhaps six paces across, a person could spend all day in this room. Examples of watches, clockworks, celestial globes from the 16th century onwards (many of them still functioning) adorn the walls and fill case after case, reminding one of the phrase "they don't make things like they used to." Furthermore, the Museum also provides the history of English clock-making and The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, the oldest horological institution in the world, whose motto is Tempus Rerum Imperator or "Time is the commander of all things." Established in 1620, the Guild received an official Charter from Charles I, allowing them to regulate every clockmaker in London. Subsequent to the the civil war in 1642, the technological advances in 1657 and the return of the Court in 1660, the forty year span of the Golden Age of English Clockmaking flourished under royal patronage. Indeed, their work in the 18th century would help to provide the basis for the Industrial Revolution (to say nothing of John Harrison inventing an accurate method of determining longitude), but their unwillingness to lower the quality of their work along with international competition led to the destruction of the London clock trade.

As someone with a great personal interest in archives and special collections, to see so many timepieces which are works of art yet retain perfect functionality after centuries is nothing short of amazing. In addition, having read "Longitude" by Davel Sobel, it was particularly interesting to see genuine examples of John Harrison work in his amazing forty year struggle to determine longitude accurately.