Thursday, 4 July 2013

From the Barbican to St. Paul's

Day 5:

We started the day at the Barbican, a public library in the Barbican Centre in London.  The Barbican librarians greeted us outside to give us a little background information about the library and what we would see today.  The library began on Cannon Street and moved to its current location in 1982.  The Barbican area was bombed flat during World War II and rebuilt afterwards.  It was originally social housing (lower-income), but it is mostly higher-income housing how.  The Barbican Center includes theaters, cinemas, culture and heritage centers, the library, concerts, etc.  Nearby, there are churches (including St. Giles Church where Milton is buried and Shakespeare was a congregant), schools, and housing.
View of St. Giles Church from the Barbican lobby

The two main groups that make up the constituency of the Barbican Library are people who live in London and people who work in London.  The residents generally come into the library on the weekend, while the workers generally come in between 12 and 2 during the week.  Because the Barbican serves so many workers, the demographics of their average patron is not the same as most public libraries.  Instead, they serve more men than women, and their average age range is between 25 and 45 instead of much older or much younger.  Self-service opportunities are important for busy working adults, so they offer self-checkout, self-return, online access for renewal and for use of many of the resources, and they have strict guidelines about computer usage within the library.  In fact, 14-15% of materials checked out are self-issues.

They use RFID technology to keep track of their books and other materials.  Because they were an early-adopter of the technology, much of it is outdated now.  However, it is useful and still in working order.  Each item has a date label and a bar code.  They have materials that date back to 1738 that can still be checked out to patrons.  In addition to the two layers of rolling stacks (which is their method of storing their items that are not available for display, but are still usable), they offer online catalog resources such as ebooks, audio ebooks, Ancestry website access in the library, and music or art websites.

Some of the rare books on display that are available for check-out.
Audio books on display that are available for check-out.

In order to reach all patrons, the Barbican Library partners with an adult education program to offer ESL classes a few times each week and maintains a Skills for Life collection available for check-out and patron use.  Additionally, they offer books on CD and large-print versions of many books.  These are mainly used by a population of homebound individuals who are visited by library staff on a regular basis.  The library offers a variety of reading groups, including staff-led reading groups and patron-led groups that are simply monitored or facilitated by staff members.

The library has a specific Arts Library which includes DVDs and a small number of bluray discs.  The feature films and television shows are available to rent, but the instructional DVDs are available to borrow for free.

The award-winning Music Library is in a separate section, as well.  The exhibit leading to the Music Library was particularly interesting to me, but I wasn't allowed to take pictures of it.  It was called "Trees and Their Music" by Caroline Tate.  The artist had incorporated pieces of music into her paintings of various trees, whether by using the music as aural inspiration or as part of the painting itself.  Some of the pieces had pieces of sheet music embedded into the painting of the tree.  They were beautiful!  The library partners with nearby music schools because it is one of the two largest music schools in London (the other is Westminster).  The two share books and other printed music, but not CDs.  Westminster focuses on the older music, while Barbican focuses on more contemporary, modern music, CDs, scores of musical theater, and popular music.  Their CD collection is extensive at at least 15,000 CDss and covers a wide spectrum of musical genres.  They have also begun offering a music streaming service that is available from their website and offers access to the equivalent of 70,000 CDs.  This service is one of the most-used electronic resources that the City of London Library Services subscribes to.  One unique aspect of the music library is the digital piano available for patrons to use to test out music or to practice.

Music Library Shelves

The Barbican's children's section is one of the largest children's libraries in the city.  They have at least 24,000 items (including books, ebooks, audiobooks on CD, playaways, etc.) available to children from birth to age 14.  Schools and nurseries use the library's services by either bringing students to the library or by bringing the librarians to the schools on a regular basis.


Displays in the children's section of the library:

Librarians also offer reading groups that are divided by age, Book Start programs (in which parents get a pack that includes a book), storytimes three times each week, Saturday events with crafts or guest visitors, and Summer Reading Challenge (a national program that challenges kids to read at least six books in order to receive a prize).  They also participate in the Read to Succeed volunteer program, which partners kids with adults to help improve the reading skills of the child and allows the adult to help encourage the child to read more.

The Young Adult section is located just outside of the Children's Section and is quite small.  This picture encompasses about a third of it:

From the Barbican Library, we headed to a visit with a former BSP student before we continued on to St. Paul's Cathedral to visit their library and collections.  Unless you have been to a major cathedral before, you cannot fully grasp the feeling of walking into one.  I went to St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City when I was 14, so I thought I was prepared for heading into St. Paul's Cathedral.  I wasn't.  The main area of the cathedral is amazing, breathtaking, stunning, and monumental.  Yes.  However, we were able to go into the gallery area and the library, and we saw things that most people don't even realize exist in that same building.  THAT was amazing, breathtaking, stunning, and monumental!  To begin this journey, we ascended 141 steps to the triforium level (this comes from the Latin for three arches).  We exited the stairway through a door into the gallery area between the outer and inner walls.  The dome space was just to the west of us, and we could see William Blake Richmond's tessurae mosaics on the ceiling.  We quickly learned that renowned English architect Christopher Wren had designed the building, and that there had been four or five cathedrals on this same site over the centuries. 

Exterior of St. Paul's Cathedral (Photo Credit:
One of the first pieces in the gallery was an instructional tool used to teach kids about architecture and design.  There is an arch that has been created using the inverted chain method to make it stable and safe.  Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren's assistant and a scientist of his own right, figured out how to use this method to create the curved arches found in the cathedral.  This particular part of the exhibit reminds us that cathedrals are not always only about religious education, but they are often about science, mathematics, architecture, history, culture, and literature as well.

As we made our way through the gallery space, we saw a Latin inscription above a door.  "Faciendi plures libros nullus est finis." This translates to "Of making many books, there is no end."  It is a quotation from Eccelesiastes 12:12 (which continues, "and much study wearies the body.") that had been added recently in the terms of the age of the cathedral. 

Christopher Wren's design of the cathedral is similar to the design of Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, and to the design of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.  The model of the cathedral allows visitors to see the entire building at once and admire the architecture.  Surrounding the model, the drawings of the various plans that Wren and the church leaders decided against show other design styles considered.  The model looks small in this picture, but it is actually a 1:25 scale model of the actual proposed building.  The model does not represent the final design of the cathedral, because Wren changed his mind after completing the model.

Model of St. Paul's Cathedral (Photo Credit:
The final place our guide showed our group was the library, itself.  The library is small, and has numbered shelves surrounding a center area.  We were not allowed to roam around or browse, but we could see quite a bit from where we stood.  The "yummy book smell" (or leather disintegrating) overpowered us as soon as we entered what felt like hallowed space.  He showed us a volume of St. Paul's epistles from 1515.  It had been rebound and was missing the clasps.  It was leather-bound and had bore-holes from an insect trying to reach the wood inside.  The leather cover had portcullises impressed into it.  As he showed us the book, he told us that it cost approximately 300 GBP to reback a book (300 GBP = $452).  He also shared that the Victorians often rebound books, and that any books in this library that had a white stripe had been rebound during Victorian times. 

The Library at St Paul's Cathedral
The Library at St. Paul's Cathedral  (Photo Credit:
The original cathedral and library burned in the Great Fire of London in 1616, so the church had to beg for donations to restock their library shelves.  The Bishop of London donated 2,000 books.  Because the library lost its collection in the fire, the current collection is mostly 17th century materials, with some 16th century items, and 9 incunables (books that date from 1501 and before).  They have a psalter on display that may be (no one knows for sure) one of only three books that escaped destruction in the Great Fire of London.  A psalter is listed, but there is no way of knowing whether this particular psalter is the same one.  Once we had finished looking at the delightful collection in the library, we trekked back down 141 steps to the cathedral floor.  I will never look at churches like St. Paul's Cathedral the same way again.

*   *   *

After our library visits had been completed for the day, a few of us decided to head to Kensington Gardens near Hyde Park to visit the Peter Pan statue that resides there.  After a few wrong turns and a walk through very posh streets past the Embassies of Oman and Bulgaria (both are very fancy, by the way!), we found Kensington Gardens.  However, we had inadvertently found the opposite side of the park, so we began our walk through the park to see what other things we could find.  We passed a very ornate monument to King Albert, walked past the bench Johnny Depp sat on in the movie Finding Neverland, and passed the Italian Gardens.  

King Albert's statue

Italian Gardens

Finally, we located Peter, and there may or may not have been squealing.  The statue is fenced in, and we didn't enter the gates until two little girls broke the ice and just walked right in!  Then we decided that we needed our pictures taken with Peter and Tinkerbell, too! 

Peter Pan

I believe in fairies!!


 On our walk back to the bus stop, we saw some wildlife and a few interesting sights:

Swan by the water

Isis (sculpture by Simon Gudgeon)
Once we made it back to our street, we got take-away fish and chips for dinner and returned to our rooms.  I was a wimp and did not order my fish and chips with vinegar as is traditional here in the UK, but I enjoyed them, nonetheless. 

Crossing the Line

Day 4:

Today we went to Greenwich, which is where the Royal Museums of Greenwich are located.  The museums include the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory, and the Queen's House.  Additionally, the Caird Library is part of the museum, and we visited the library and spoke with two of the people who work there.  We then had time to spend in Greenwich at the other parts of the museum or in the town.  Of course, we also saw the Prime Meridian and spent some time standing in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres!  Once we returned home from Greenwich, we had a welcome celebration at the King's College Chapel complete with a reception that followed.

Anchor at the National Maritime Museum Entrance

At the National Maritime Museum, we saw the museum and the Caird Library.  The librarians at Caird Library were kind enough to explain not only how the library worked as far as setting up the catalog using the Universal Decimal Classification system, which is similar to the Dewey Decimal system except it also uses symbols and punctuation in its call numbers.  The library is a special collection focusing on maritime subjects and has been compiled from a variety of sources including Sir James Caird, the library's benefactor and namesake.  Items include things such as journals, crew lists for passenger ships or navy vessels, letters, newspapers, online resources, Lloyd's List, Captain's Registers, maps, ship's plans, etc.  Patrons can use items one at a time for a total of three items per hour or access some digitized material via the library's website.

The Caird Library
The library's archives are arranged by size to make conservation easier.  Like-sized items are placed on the large movable shelving units.  Then, within the size constraints, the items are arranged by sections. Public records such as dockyard records and personal papers from naval officers like Lord Horatio Nelson are placed together.  The library also has collections based on each collector's individual interests, whether it was pirates, maps, signal books, etc.  Single items that have been donated and that do not fit into another category have their own section in the archives, as well.  Our guide showed us an example of one of these single items that had been donated.  It was a green, leather-bound book of hand-drawn maps.  The maps were colorful, beautiful, and quite inaccurate, because it was created when people had little knowledge of the world.

Following our tour of the library itself, our guide showed us some of the pieces in the Caird Library's collection.  This part was absolutely amazing!!  He showed us a book about pirates, highwaymen, murderers, etc. that consisted of 26 pictures, called Prints of 26 Malefactors. One of the pirates pictured was Blackbeard, or Edward Teach.  Our guide shared a story about Blackbeard putting fuses in his beard to make it emit smoke in an effort to be more intimidating and fierce.  He was eventually captured by the British Royal Navy.

The Cover of Prints of 26 Malefactors
Page about Blackbeard, or Edward Teach

We also were able to learn about the Spanish Armada, and a British spy named William Littleton.  He went to Spain and reported back to Queen Elizabeth I.  He was able to send information about the number of men they had available and port locations.  He kept records in a book, and the library has this book in their collection.  His handwriting is small, and he kept the information in charts.

William Littleton's record book

The final set of materials we viewed from the library's special collections came from a collection about Lord Horatio Nelson.  Nelson's collection included letters and journals from other seamen, such as Edward Mangen.  Mangen was a surgeon who joined the navy during the Napoleonic wars at a later age than most enlisted men.  He was only in the navy for approximately nine months, because he could not handle being at sea and the activities of the other seamen.    He kept a journal that included detailed, colorful pictures in addition to his written accounts of his daily life and that of his colleagues.  He eventually resigned and returned to being a chaplain at home. 

The many papers we were able to see spread across the table.

Also in the Nelson collection, was a boatswain's whistle.  It has initials inscribed on it, but no one knows who it originally belonged to.  If you notice, on the sides on the box in which the whistle is stored, there are two white ribbons.  These are used to make it easier to pull out of the main archival display storage box.  (If you look closely, you can also see my reflection in the clear box, too.  Oops!)  By looking at the second picture, you can see that each piece has its particular place and the ribbons help the user remove the item without damaging it.   

Boatswain's Whistle

Complete Archival Display Box for the Nelson Collection

The Caird Library guides were very helpful and informative.  It was interesting to see how a special collection worked and to visit their storage area.  To be allowed to handle such old material was amazing, and I learned a lot about maritime history and conservation in general that I had never known. 

*   *   *

Following our time at the library, we had free time to explore the rest of Greenwich.  My little group decided to take a quick trip around the Museum and hit the highlights.  Here is a photo array of what we saw:

    Baltic Exchange Stained Glass:

After the museum, we raced up the hill to see the ball on top of the Royal Observatory drop exactly at 1:00pm.  We made it just in time to see the red ball's rapid descent and then make the extremely rigorous climb to the observatory to visit the Prime Meridian and Harrison's Clocks.  Here are the pictures from outside the Naval College, the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian, where I did stand in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres simultaneously!

Every good naval college needs a ship in a bottle!

You know it's 1 o'clock when this red ball drops!

Armillary Dial

Prime Meridian--Eastern and Western Hemispheres

I'm in two places at once!
Here are the pictures I took when we looked at the exhibit about time:

Harrison's first timekeeper (1736)

I didn't tour the Cutty Sark, but I did get to see it as we were walking by. Go to the Royal Museums Greenwich website about the Cutty Sark and find out more information.

Cutty Sark
We also walked around the Old Royal Naval College, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.  The Naval College used to be the site of a home belonging to Henry VIII and his daughters.

Gates at the Royal Naval College--Greenwich
Once we returned to London, we went to the welcome reception at the King's College Chapel in Somerset Hall.  Here are a few pictures of the chapel.