The National Art Library at the V&A

The National Art Library located within the Victoria and Albert Museum

The National Art Library is free and open to the public providing reference on fine and decorative arts. The above picture illustrates the Reading Room, a quite space for research and study of any of the thousands of volumes. Any person is able to apply for a library card to use the library services and equipment, as over 30 thousand people have already done. The entire collection is “reference only” and can request eight items at a time.

Special Collection especially picked for our group! All deal with an aspect of art, design, and creation.

The special collections of the National Art Library were quite varied in their design and preservation needs. Several of the items displayed had archival quality boxes or covering created especially for them. Preservation is the most important consideration at each step of collection development and maintenance. If an item is going to potentially added to the collection (either by donation or purchase) and the quality is too poor this will effect the librarians decision in it’s acquisition.  While it might be difficult to refute adding an item to the collection it is the mission of the library to be sure that the item would be well taken care of. With limited budget and resources (including staff time) it is critical to set such priorities.

I’ve worked in libraries before where any donation was gladly accepted. While these items were not considered “special collection” worthy – items added up in stacks in room awaiting cataloging. This ends up being a disservice to both the items and the patrons. It was refreshing to learn about policies that libraries set to ensure this is not an issue and allocate resources reliably.

Intricately stitched and hand beaded book with paintings around the border of the pages.
I’m credibly jealous of her job. She is carefully cleaning and caring for the collection.
Oh to be “staff only” in such an amazing library…truly the dream.
The back stacks.
What?! Veggie fish and chips! Delightfully delicious.

On a side note – the food in London has been amazing. I am impressed by the quality and freshness of every meal. I don’t think I had a terrible meal during the whole trip. I also felt that as a vegetarian I had many more options than even Seattle can offer. Many of those options were composed of actual veggies and not just a soy -based substitute.


Edinburgh – Mini break edition

View of the Queensferry Bridge from the Fife Coastal trail.

Before leaving for British Studies one of my bucket list items was to spend a day hiking on the Fife Coastal Path. Solo hiking is a very great way to reflect on the greatest questions in life while enjoying the best nature has to offer.

The shore of Scotland – rocky and majestic.

I could not have asked for more perfect weather. Here I was hiking right along the shore on what the map deemed the “less kept trail”, which  turned out to not be the case and I had to turn back and climb through some bushes. A great example of “mis information”.

An abbey resting on the shoreline that was in fairly good condition with a very old graveyard.

Unlike living in the United States, while in the United Kingdom anyone at any moment can come across a piece of history. While hiking along the Fife Coastal Trail I came across this ruin of an Abbey dating back to the 1500’s. Gravestones scatter the green within the Abbey walls.

Love the contrast between the fields – during this hike I encountered many different terrains.

The terrain was incredible and varied greatly from the shoreline, to forests, to industrial landscape, to fields. The Fife Coastal Trail offers a comprehensive view of the Scottish landscape.

Aberdour Castle – one of the oldest castles in Scotland dating back to 1200.

I ended my day hike in Aberdour about 15 miles from where I began at the foot of Scotland’s oldest castle. I toured the ruins which included a quaint and still function church. One of the most interesting aspects of the castle was it giant dove/pigeon house. James Doulgas actually made sure to always keep the dove house fully stocked in case of times when food was scarce.

The highlands on the way to Loch Ness – definitely one of the most breathtaking place I have ever been.

On Sunday a small group of us felt adventurous enough to take a day trip to Loch Ness. It was definitely worth being confined to a bus for 9 hours. The tour guide was incredible and mixed music in with the stories (both mythical and historical) she told. She shared an immense amount of the history of Scotland, expertly weaving in relevant music to match the sites as we rode past.

Castle of Loch Ness

Loch Ness was an incredible experience nestled within the Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately, I did not see Nessie but I did learn much of the mythology. I did however, enjoy a beautiful break in the rain by taking a boat ride on Loch Ness.

View from the boat in Loch Ness. Look at how beautiful it is!!

Highgate Cemetery – Making 170K new friends

Highgate Cemetery – Entrance to the Circle of Lebanon

On a beautifully sunny afternoon Jenn and I ventured forth for a tour of Highgate Cemetery. The whole experience was fantastic and our tour guide was incredibly engaging and knowledgable. The key to a great tour guide lies in their passion for their knowledge-base and an enthusiasm for sharing this information setting with others. In many ways this perfectly describes a major portion of librarianship.

The torch motif signifies that the life of the individual has ended but the fire is not extinguished meaning the soul transcends.
One of my favorite grave sites.

The above is the final resting place of George Wombwell who owned a Victorian traveling menagerie. The most magnificent beast in his collection is currently depicted in statue – Nero the Lion. Interestingly enough, Wombwell had his coffin on display for the public to see before he needed to use it for all eternity.

So many people buried here were huge fans of reading. Horn had no affiliation with Penguin Publishing but loves their publications so much he was honor with a headstone depicting the company’s classic style.
Douglas Adams gravestone where dedicated fans leave pens in homage to the famous author at the base of his strikingly simplistic grave.
Another avid reader who is leaving their love of reading as their legacy in stone.

One of the most striking aspects of visiting Highgate is seeing the state and organization of the cemetery. The upkeep is completely managed by volunteers and donations. Clearly, with more funding gravestones that are in a disarray would be repaired and cleaned up. Also, the tour guide spoke of difficulties concerning the documentation of the location and names of gravestones. This is another example of a lack of documentation for archival purposes. For historians, family members, or general inquiries many graves are lots in the headstone masses.

Check out the website for the Friends of the Highgate Cemetery.

Barbican library

Entrance to the Barbican Library…or more aptly stated the “way in”.

The Barbican Library is part of a three branch system providing services to the whole of London. The building originally was not designed for a library’s needs but the space has been expertly utilized to showcase the services and collections for patron use.

On the lower floor patrons will find an extensive music library which boosts a large collection of literature, cd’s, and musical scores. Intermixed with the collection are study spaces, listening stations, and two practice piano’s. The exhibit space within this library is also a fantastic resource for the library’s and patrons alike. Librarians are currently working with outside partners to plan relevant exhibits. One successful partnership was with the BBC which garnered much attention that the library might not have had otherwise. This type of outreach is fantastic for drawing patrons into the library, giving library staff an opportunity to discover how the library can best serve them.

Having worked in a Media Center for the past several years I am always curious to see how other libraries handle their media collections and services. Although streaming services are on the rise I feel that physical resources as still very relevant. In the libraries where I have worked all library materials are available for check out free of charge, yet in the United Kingdom media materials are rented with a fee. While the funds help support library services I imagine that this leaves a portion of the patron population unable to afford using this collection.

This is one of my favorite sections- that is prominently located where all patrons are able to access these materials easily.

My research is focusing on the differences in services within a public library aimed towards accommodating patrons who benefit from the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

My Problem Statement is as follows:

An evaluative comparison of social justice services in three different public libraries (City of London – Barbican, Central Library in Edinburgh, and The Seattle Public Library) in the United Kingdom versus the United States focusing primarily on the disability services and technologies they provide for patrons. Disability covers impairments of either a physical or an mental nature.   

First, I am exploring the services that are available currently at each location.

Secondly, I am investigating the emerging concerns within the disability spectrum that libraries might be encountering. Often librarians are experiencing situations and accommodating patrons regularly and these impromptu services are not well documented or made into policy.

Lastly, I will investigate how librarians and library staff are doing to accommodate new found obstacles. I’m particularly interested in services for patrons who fall on the Autism Spectrum.

Finding information and library materials can be overwhelming for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and libraries and librarians should be well equipped to provide proper services. The Barbican library by means of it’s interesting set up and location can be quite loud if events are happening in other parts of the building.

This collection features a wide variety of materials for gaining skills to navigate life – there were even DVD or CD options for those unable to get the information they need in text form.

I was excited to see a section devoted to “Skills for Life” which includes a variety of materials to help support those with ASD. I have not seen other libraries in the United States highlight such materials in this fashion. This was one of the first displays you see when walking into the Barbican library, which makes it very accessible.

The awareness of dyslexia and other symptoms of ASD are well represented in this city public library.

Along with text materials, the collection also hosted a very large audiobook section. This is an ideal option for those site impaired or are unable/uncomfortable with reading.

Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant computer station.

Out of 26 public computer stations this station is designated as the DDA computer. With the current set up a patron might need help rearranging the equipment in order to use them.

DDA keyboard – assists with vision and ASD symptoms.
DDA compliant mouse for those with mobility and vision needs.

Jonathan Gibbs (IT and Operations Librarian) was kind enough to set aside time to speak with me concerning his experiences with patrons and their disability needs. The Barbican library is undergoing reconstruction in the future and hope to create a space that is more wheelchair accessible. He also reported experiences with patrons who might have been on the Autism Spectrum. Of course professionals should not diagnose their patrons but at the same time it is important to have the proper skill set to provide services tailored to the patrons needs. So while some patrons might be known or labeled as “difficult” maybe if the interactions had proceeded differently (more tailored towards their perspective) then the contention would dissipate. My goal is to see if proper training and awareness towards these issues would help create a stronger space for social services of this nature. I am working on obtaining current policies and procedures as well as first-hand accounts.

Library Enquiries within the Maughan Library

Entrance to the Maughan Library branch of King’s College.

Before Maughan Library housed an academic collection and research services for the students of King’s College it was the site of the National Archives. One room is still left in pristine condition for historical reference with the original shelving for the archives. Disability legislature required that these shelves be removed as they were not handicap accessible. This is a common theme with many locations and public service points in London as access is difficult for those with mobility issues.

Automatic Returns….whaaatttt?!?!?!

Several of the library locations we visited had an automatic return system. Most of the library systems I’ve worked in were unable to have an automatic check out system claiming either cost or the fear of machines replacing the need for staff. However, with cutbacks in staffing this is an ideal solution for making sure that patrons needs are met in a timely fashion. Items can come and go as needed and librarians/staff can focus on reference and technology services.

I wonder if there is any issue of theft with automatic returns. I know that the system should track most of this circulation information but I could see this being a concern.

The main reference desk is aptly named “Library Enquires” which I like much more than other variations seen in academic libraries. In fact one library in which I worked had quite the heated discussion concerning a name change as “reference desk” appears to be outdated. The goal was to pick a name that would be clear to all students of all demographics. These concepts are definitely something academic librarians have to deal with and they can be complicated by differences in generations.

Quiet reading room with diligent students studying.

The Maughan Library has a fantastic system for study rooms: Group, Training, and Silent study rooms. The Training Rooms are equipment with technology where students are able to host classes or use the computers for work. The Group rooms are collaborative spaces where noise is acceptable. Conversely, the silent study room is a space without any noise. In fact there is even a system for students to be able to report noise complaints anonymously. This provides students with the ability to find the ideal study space that fits their needs.

The librarians of tomorrow enjoying the relics of the past.

Above you see the group listening to the special collection librarians introducing us to treasures.

One of the first examples of the use of tabs/book darts?

The best ship is librarianship!

Courtyard of the British Library located near St. Pancreas station.

Upon entering the British Library you are instantly transported into another realm – a blend of museum, historical artifacts, community space and library materials.

In my experience of working in both academic and public libraries there is always the black cloud of budget hovering over every subject librarians head. How does one use their given budget in the most efficient way possible? Well, they could receive every copy of any book published. This is how the British Library grows their collection daily (over 3 million new items each year), as they are gifted a copy of items published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. This massive collection is used by other 16,000 patrons each day (in-person and online).  I wonder what would happen if this system were adopted by library systems in the United States? Also, are additionally copies purchased for high use items?

For more facts on the British Library visit this page.


George III Collection: the King’s Library

Feast your eyes upon the magnificent personal library of King George III, which sits on the shelves in it’s original intended classification system. While the books never see the light of day they are able to be utilized for research purposes. In fact the climate controlled shelving moves in an intricate way to provide access to materials.

Later during the trip, when visiting Kew Gardens, we were able to see where the library collection was originally housed before it was moved to Buckingham House.

For a delightfully detailed description of the library check out this page.

A 13 metre-long embroidery by British artist Cornelia Parker depicts the Wikipedia page for the Magna Carta. This in celebration of the 800th year since the documents signing. As someone who loves needlework this was an amazing thing to see.

The embroidery vision of Cornelia Parker is truly a project of love and dedication was hand stitched by over 200 carefully selected individuals. Many of whom possess a conntection to civil liberties and the law, including almost 40 prisoners. The artwork depicts the Magna Carta Wikipedia page as it appeared last year on the document’s 799th birthday and the level of details is just incredible.

This is an excellent example of how art, community and history can collate to create a legacy, while also informing others. Libraries should be able to facilitate these instillations more often, especially if they are able to highlight special parts of the collection.

The rest of the story about the embroidery is available here!

Model of the library and it’s intended visual charms.

Most of the materials are held below the public access floors. The building took over 35 years to finish, which makes me feel like greatness is always a work in progress.

Fish eye lens look at the library of King George III.
Beautiful and industrious reading room. I love to see how well used these spaces are by patrons.
Our fearless tour guide Andy MacDonald remembered for his great stories, in-depth knowledge of the British Library and love for American football.


Beautiful canal boat ride.

Today was spent exploring Stratford-upon-Avon, which boasts a rich literary culture in one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. Here you will find the birthplace and final resting place of William Shakespeare. The quaint canal ride provided an ideal way to experience the layout of Stratford, including a picturesque view of the Holy Trinity Church.

Communing with butterflies in an impressive and well-run butterfly farm on the outer edges of Stratford.

One of my favorite experiences was the Butterfly Farm which was a tropical expanse housing various species of butterflies from all over the world. Hundreds of butterflies fluttered lazily around the compound and many could be spotted eating fruit or enjoying the foliage.

Cool as a cucumber caterpillar munches on leaves to obtain energy to transform into a beautiful butterfly.

Two separate rooms branched off from the main building: the Caterpillar Room and Insect & Arachnid City. The caterpillar room was particularly of interest to me and reminded me of a catalog or library of sorts. Each species had their designated area and plant of choice for the caterpillar to feast on. Plants contained caterpillars, pupae, chrysalis, and freshly hatched butterflies.

The birthplace of Shakespeare as seen from Henley Street.

Startford-upon-Avon is renown for the birthplace of William Shakespeare and has been established as historical site created in his honor. A small Carnegie library is located right next door to this house, which is very appropriate for carrying on a literary legacy to the general public. Making Shakespeare’s works and countless others’ accessible to everyone who wishes to enjoy them.

For additional information on this idyllic library check out this website.

View of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from across the River Avon.

To perfectly conclude the day that group went to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to watch a production of The Merchant of Venice. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience – while I am unfamiliar with the play – and was captivated by the stage build and production. To me it was quite poetic to watch a play written by Shakespeare in the town where he was born and is now laid to rest.