Friday, August 3, 2007 Guildhall Library

The Guildhall Library was an interesting facility to visit in that it is a reference, not a lending library, and it focuses mainly, but not exclusively on the history of the City of London. It houses printed books, manuscripts, maps, prints and drawings, and proves very useful to genealogists and other researchers. I really enjoyed going into the bookshop and had a really hard time not spending a lot of money on London maps, London puzzles, and London books. I did buy one book that is full of London trivia, but refrained from buying anything else. This was the last tour that we did as a group.

Thursday, August 2, 2007 Barbican Library

The thing that I will remember most about our trip to the Barbican Library is that John Lake came out to the lobby where we were waiting for the rest of our group and asked us if we had heard about the collapse of the bridge over the Mississippi River and none of us had, so he brought out a piece that he had printed from the Web for us to look at. We were stunned when we saw what had happened.

When we began our tour, we were shown around the marvelous music library that happened to be featuring a display on Punk Rock. One of the groups featured in the display was the 80's punk band The Stranglers, of whom I am a fan. When we were taken back into the music area, there was a man sitting at a piano with headphones who was playing a piece that he had chosen from the library collection. What an exciting way to make use of a public library!

My very favorite part of the whole tour was the children's library, and I loved the picture book section. The books were stored in divided bins on wheels much like the old upright bins that were once used to store phonograph records. The books were down low on the children's level and they would not fall over, or out on the floor when children were looking at them. I want those rolling divided bins in my library.

The services that the children's library provide make it seem like an outstanding facility for children, especially when they provide collections of books for schools that have no libraries of their own in addition to serving the general public. I do think its a shame that schools in the City of London don't have good libraries of their own though. The librarian was also able to explain to us the difference between public, private and council schools. Public schools are schools that anyone with money can attend. Private schools are schools that anyone with money and status can attend, and council schools are publicly funded government schools for everyone else.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007 National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory

We took an early boat from Savoy Pier to get to the National Maritime Museum and then went on to the Royal Observatory. Tonya Kirk greeted us at the Caird Library in the National Maritime Museum and gave us a little background before passing us on to the next speakers. The main library is open only to those who are sixteen or older, but any age can do research at E-Library on the computers. The library offers weekend story times to children and there are also some children's books in the E-Library area. When I looked through the collection, I was thrilled to find a copy of Susan Cooper's Victory, a fantasy that steps back in time and features a young man who served with Admiral Lord Nelson on the Victory. It made me wonder if Susan Cooper had actually visited the National Maritime Museum when doing research for Victory.

We got to see several interesting items including an Atlas owned by British pirate Basil Ringrose, Royal Naval Ship The Pearl's log which recounts the capture of Blackbeard, and the merchant log from a slaving vessel whose captain, John Newton, had a religious experience and became anti-slavery and ended up writing the hymn "Amazing Grace." We saw letters signed by Charles II and written by Samuel Pepys, as well as letters from Admiral Lord Nelson to his wife and to his mistress, and quite a few items about the Titanic.

Our afternoon visit to The Royal Observatory was equally impressive, but the thing that I liked most about the whole day was finding a copy of Louise Borden's Sea Clocks in the gift shop at the National Maritime Museum. Louise Borden is a terrific author of children' books who does lots of research and travel to gather primary source materials when she gets an idea for a book. She lives in Terrace Park, (Cincinnati) Ohio and does wonderful presentations for school children. The discovery of her visit to the National Maritime Museum was just as exciting for me as seeing the marker for the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 Victoria and Albert Museum: National Art Library

Jen and Jenna were our guides at the National Art Library. They showed us some special items in the collection as well as giving us a tour of the stacks area. The art library collects everything from pieces of art to books that are themselves pieces of art or examples of design principles. The book Five Empty Bookcases was just one of the examples of paper engineering that we saw. Drawings in a Nutshell was actually a tiny accordion-fold book whose covers were actual nutshells. Aunt Sally's Lament was another example of paper engineering which started out as quilt designs and ended as a chair.

On the tour, we learned a new term: invigilation. We found that the term describes the supervision of readers when requested items from the collection are brought out for viewing. We got to walk through an invigilation area as we started our tour.

We were also reminded that the art library prefers to do preservation rather than conservation and that there is a preservation and conservation department within the library. If an item is going out on loan to another facility, it is made to look its best before being sent (under security of course). Storage is customized based on the type of item being stored. Phase boxes are custom made for the books that they contain. Dust jackets with ties are used to protect some books, and special red boxes are used to store items that need to be inside an acid free envelope. Special arrangements are made to assure that items which need to lie flat are stored that way.

As with many of the libraries and archives that we have visited, items are arranged by size, shape and acquisition date. Staff members fill reader requests and bring items to the desk where readers pick them up. One thing that I liked about the inquiry or reference desk was that patrons who are physically in front of the desk are dealt with before people who are calling on the phone. I have never understood why it is acceptable for some institutions to make patrons who have waited in line wait even longer when their request is interrupted by a phone caller who is then taken care of first! The books that are stored in the reference section are arranged in Dewey Decimal order and patrons may actually go and pick those off the shelf if they want to use them. Finally, the collection is enlarged in three ways, with purchases, gifts, or exchanges.

Monday, July 30, 2007 Back to London

The trip back to London started early when Graeme drove me to the train station at Tywyn .
Once I was on the Tywyn-to-Macchynlleth train, it was nice to pass around the Dovey estuary and through Aberdovey and see the boats out in the bay, and the large pastel-painted houses along the cliffs on the other side of the tracks. Aberdovey is where Susan Cooper’s grandmother lived when she was growing up, and where her parents moved when she was 21.

On the way from Macchynlleth to Birmingham, I tried to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I had to stop because I came to the part about Dobbie, and about Fred. First I put on my sunglasses to try to hide the fact that I was crying my eyes out, and then I just had to stop reading because I didn’t have enough tissues with me. Eventually I got out 84 Charing Cross Road and read it. A young woman across the aisle was also reading a copy of it. She told me that her husband had recommended it to her and that it had been on television the previous evening.
On the train trip from Birmingham to Oxford, I saw quite a few flooded fields. One could see some of the effects of the flooding that had started the previous week, but nowhere was the water near the train tracks, so we had no difficulty getting back to London. I had hoped to meet a lady in Oxford to discuss the Kids Lit Quiz International, but wasn't able to work it out. When I finally arrived at Paddington station, it was nice to be back in London for our last week of activities and to see everyone after the break.

Sunday, July 27, 2007 Hiking up to Tal y Llyn Lake and back

I took the Sunday morning Tal y Llyn steam train as far north as Abergynolwyn and then started my hike up to Tal y Llyn Lake, which features prominently in Susan Cooper's Grey King. The hike was fairly long and the weather was the warmest that I had experienced while in Wales, but altogether, it was a beautiful day and a terrific hike. Tal y Llyn is considered to be the loveliest lake in Wales, and I would have to agree, and the mountains leading up to and around it are breathtaking as well. I had so many good shots of the lake that it was hard to pick just a couple to show here. The photo to the left is looking off toward Cadir Idris, which is also very significant in The Gray King.

Once I made it to the lake, I had to get back to Abergynolwyn by 2:15 so I could catch the Tal y Llyn Railway back down to Dolgoch Falls, so I headed back after getting all of the photos that I wanted. On the way up, there had been several places where I had to walk right on the road, with no place to get out of the way of cars. On the way back down to Abergynolwyn, I planned on looking for some sort of shortcut that would take me off the worst stretches of the road.

Another oops!

I swear that Graeme's name appeared all on one line when I published the July 26 post!

Saturday, July 26, 2007 Aberystwyth and The National Library of Wales (Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru)

Graeme dropped me off in town and I took the train from Tywyn to Machynlleth and from there to Aberystwyth to see the National Library of Wales, which sits high atop a hill overlooking the city and the ocean beyond. I went in and got a reader's card and took a tour of some of the library's displays, one of which was a video production on binding books by hand. I stood and watched it with interest, and was interested to see that it had been created by the British Library. The film just increased my interest in preservation and conservation and archiving. This year was the National Library's centenial, as reflected by the floral tribute above.
The library houses the National Screen and Sound Archives and hosts a number of spectacular exhibits, including one on photographer Geoff Charles's work and a John Donne and Robert Owen exhibit as well. The library is in the process of digitizing much of the Geoff Charles collection at this time.
The library is a legal deposit library and it holds the world's largest collection on Wales and other Celtic nations. I found it interesting that the National Library of Wales has also begun a partnership with the state of Ohio to gather and preserve information about Welsh Americans.
The Welsh National Library handles reader requests much like the British Library in London does, but on a somewhat smaller scale. There was only one young lady taking care of reader registration when I went in to get my card. Once I had my card, I was free to request and read any items of interest found in their collection.
The website for the library is An interesting fact that I learned while there was that there had been a huge argument between Aberystwyth and Cardiff about which City should be allowed to have the National Library locate there. In the end, Aberystwyth won the library, and Cardiff got the National Museum Wales, which is also celebrating its centenary this year.
The National Library collection holds several items by and about Susan Cooper, but unfortunately I did not have enough time to request and view them and to make the last train back to Tywyn via Machynlleth. The trip was worthwhile anyhow because I did get the opportunity to take a brief tour of the building and to see some of the exhibits. I also found it interesting that the Univeristy of Wales, Aberystwyth offers an information studies postgraduate degree, including a doctoral program. I'll file that information away for future reference.

Saturday evening I was able to get on a special excursion of the local steam train line, Tal y Llyn Railway up past my hotel at Dolgoch Falls and on the Abergynolwyn and then back down to the hotel. On the trip up to Abergynolwyn and back down to Dolgoch Falls, I had a lot of fun listening to the people in my coach talk about their experiences as Tal y Llyn railway volunteers over the past several years. They swapped stories and laughed about jokes they'd played on each other and were quite happy to include me in the fun as they reminisced.

I spent the rest of the evening in the pub talking with Sarah, the local historian. We discussed the background of Susan Cooper’s books and how she used Tywyn as the setting. No one there had read the books, but Ron, an elderly gentleman who was spending the weekend and had heard me talking about Susan Cooper the previous night, found a paperback copy of The Dark is Rising and brought it around for everyone to see.

Dolgch Falls

Friday, July 25, 2007 Wales at Last!

I am finally getting the hang of this blog thing! It has been difficult to figure out how to add and correctly place pictures, video clips, and so on, but I think it is finally coming together, just in time for the best part of the whole British experience, Wales.

I took Arriva Trains from Manchester, England to Tywyn, Wales with several train changes along the way. Everything went smoothly, and the train trip was comfortable and uneventful. I knew that I was headed for an isolated area that was accessible by limited bus service, by car (which I wasn't brave enough to try), on foot, or by steam railway. I ended up using a combination to get around the area.

I arrived at Tywyn Station via Arriva Trains Wales on Friday afternoon, a cool, blustery, cloudy afternoon. The gray ocean lay to the east, and to the west was a magnificent valley that was bordered on the north by the distant mountains of Snowdonia and to the south by the Cambrian Mountain Range.

I felt the way I'm sure Will Stanton must have felt when he arrived at Tywyn in Susan Cooper's Grey King, a stranger in a strange land. The thing that made me feel a little like I was a foreigner was that all signs were posted in Welsh as well as English, and I was very glad that I had practiced saying many of the place names with the help of a Welsh friend from home because to the American eye, they looked totally unpronounceable and I was afraid that I would be unable to correctly enunciate the names of places that I wanted to go when asking for train tickets, etc. Will would probably have felt the same way, having been an English boy raised near London.

The Welsh language seems to be short on vowels, and favors lots of Y's. Welsh puts one in mind of the Germanic languages because of all the sharp consonants and sibilant sounds that are involved. The double L, which makes a sound that we don't use in English, was especially challenging. One must place the tip of the tongue lightly behind the teeth barely touching the roof of the mouth and blow out to create the sound of those two letters when they are found together in Welsh words.

Anyway, once off the train, I pulled my heavy suitcase down the northbound platform and across the tracks at the crossing and along the southbound platform next to the station and out to the car park area. Out on High Street, I strolled through the center of Tywn, found something to eat at a small diner, and located the Tourist Information Center. The lady who worked there gave me maps and brochures and we talked a little about the area. An elderly British bicyclist came in to get information on some local attractions and he told me that he had come to Tywyn on holiday years before and when his wife passed away last year, he had moved to Tywyn from California.

After leaving the tourist center, I began looking for the bus stop. In the process of walking on down High Street, I spotted beds and breakfasts, just as Will mentions seeing on his first trip through town with his grownup cousin Rees. In addition, there was a news agent's shop right across the street, perhaps the same one that Susan Cooper describes Will later entering to get stamps to send a card home to his family. Once I found the bus stop, I discovered that there was only one other bus out of town to Dolgoch Falls were I was staying, and it would arrive shortly.

When I got on the bus, I just sat and stared at the scenery. The narrow roads had thick, shrubby fence rows that grew to within inches of the road. Many of the fence rows grew on waist-high banks that one could reach out and touch from a vehicle window they were so close. It was clear that there were few road shoulders upon which a pedestrian might walk, so I had a better understanding of why hikers are permitted to pass through farm fields without being accused of trespassing. The only thing that farmers ask is that they don't make too much noise and that they close all farm gates as they pass through. Many farmers have build stiles right over the fences so they don't have to worry about anyone leaving gates open.

The view of the Fathew Valley that led up toward Tal y Llyn was beautiful, bordered on both sides with steep mountains dotted with white sheep, stone fences, heather, and shoulder-high fern. There were many farms along the way, any one of which might have been that of Will's uncle in the stories. When the bus did let me off at Dolgoch Falls Hotel, the place was quaint and charming.

After meeting Graeme and Allyson, the young couple who own Dolgoch Falls Hotel, and checking into my room, I took a walk up the valley for a short distance. It was beautiful! I was right about the roads; there were many places where the roads were closely edged by fence rows and I had to keep a careful watch for cars to keep from being hit. Since I knew I was going to be walking a lot, I realized I'd definitely have to use farm fields to get where I wanted to go.
When I got back from my walk further up the valley, I strolled up behind the hotel to Dolgoch Falls. As I climbed the mountain, I came to one waterfall after another. They were magnificent and the sound was almost deafening at times.
I had a lovely dinner of leek and potato soup with crusty rolls, chicken breast with whole grain mustard, and vegetables on the side, along with a nice cup of tea at the end. I was seated in the dining room at a small table with another guest eating at another small table nearby. We exchanged small talk as Graeme served our food, and not for the last time while there, I felt as though I was stepping straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. The only thing missing from the scene was a murder or two, and thankfully, that remained the case during my stay.

I spent the rest of the evening in the hotel’s tiny pub taking advantage of their wireless Internet service. It was quite enjoyable to sit and talk with the hosts and their guests as they had drinks and chatted. Two elderly gentlemen were discussing the unwelcome effects of computerization upon the train system and I couldn't help think that had it not been for computers and the railway system, Tywyn or Dolgoch Falls.

Thursday, July 24 Minibreak Begins With Sidetrip to Dublin

Libby, Edie, Nancy and I left Mary at Pollack Hall in Edinburgh and headed to the airport bright and early on Thursday morning to catch a RyanAir flight to Dublin. Libby and I checked into a hotel near the airport and then we all took a whirlwind tour of Dublin. One of the first landmarks that we spotted was the Millennium Spire or Dublin Spire, renamed "The Spike" by locals. It was rather awe-inspiring, especially up close. To read more about the spire, visit :

After a quick lunch in a Dublin pub, we found a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that would take us past popular tourist spots in Dublin, including Guinness Warehouse (we did not stop), the National Library and the National Museum, Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the National Gallery, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others. Unfortunately, we were pressed for time and too worn out at that point to actually get off the bus and visit the sites. I have to confess that I (among others) fell asleep on the tour and missed one or two of the landmarks. Actually, we would have needed several days in Dublin to see everything, but at least we did get a brief overview. Perhaps Dublin could be another London Away site visit for future British Studies/British Libraries and Archives classes.

In the late afternoon, Libby and I parted ways with Edie and Nancy and struck off on our own. We passed a movie theatre where Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was showing and decided that seeing the movie in Dublin would be a fun way to remember our short visit there. Due to our exhausted state, there was a real danger that we might fall asleep once the lights dimmed, but we decided to take a chance. After Libby and I went inside, bought our tickets, and headed toward the entrance to the theatre where our movie was showing, Libby stopped me and pointed toward a poster for an upcoming movie feature. I was thrilled to see a movie poster for The Dark is Rising! I had already researched the movie, and knew that it departed quite a bit from Susan Cooper's original stories, but it was rather exciting to see the poster there in the theatre. For the movie trailer, visit
We made an early evening of it and headed back to our hotel via bus. The highlight (for me) of the hotel was a very clean, spacious bathroom with a large elegant shower! In the wee hours of the morning of July 25, I took a taxi back to the airport and headed for Wales via Manchester, England, leaving Libby in Dublin to start her mini break plans. I cannot describe the excitement that I felt about beginning the next part of my adventure.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 Edinburgh Writer's Museum

The Edinburgh Writer's Museum is located off the Royal Mile in Lady Stair's House. It features the lives and work of Scottish authors Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. The museum offers self-guided tours and features photos, paintings, memorabilia, and other items related to the lives of these three famous Scots.
The author with whom I related most was Robert Louis Stevenson because I have always enjoyed the adventures that he wrote so well. It was interesting to see the photographs and other pieces of memorabilia related to his life and times, and to see pictures of his family, and to realize that he had spent quite a bit of time in the United States before his death. The collection consists of some very personal items belonging to the authors, and based on the displays, it seems that Burns was quite the lady's man. It was also interesting to note that Stevenson married a divorced woman with two children. That fact is rather reminiscent of C.S. Lewis, who also married a divorcee with two children. I suppose that fact was significant to me because of the way divorcees were looked down upon by society, especially during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth one.
One of the neat things about the place is the engraved cobblestones out in the courtyard that commemorate the lives of several Scottish authors, including some from modern times. The museum tour was free of charge, and proved to be quite interesting. I have an new appreciation for Stevenson, Burns and Scott.

Monday evening, July 23, 2007-A new job, maybe?

I had the most unique job interview ever! While still in London, I found an opening in Jefferson County, Kentucky and submitted an online application for the elementary library position that was being offered. The school principal got in touch with me to ask if I would be interested in interviewing via telephone from Scotland, and of course I was. At the appointed time, I called the school and was interviewed by the site based council. They took turns asking me questions, and when I asked questions, they took turns answering them as well. Their questions were to-the-point and showed that they had the same vision for a good library program as me, and when I asked questions of them, their answers satisfied my need to know that they were interested in collaborating. The principal was supportive in every way, and after the interview was over, I decided that I would probably take the position if it was offered, even though it would mean an immediate move once I got home from Britain.

Monday, July 23 National Library of Scotland and National Archives

During our first full day in Edinburgh, we visited both the National Library of Scotland and the National Archives. On Monday morning, we took a bus to the downtown area and then walked over to the National Library of Scotland where we were met by Emma Faragher and Senior Curator David McClay who talked about the library, its history, and its function.

The National Library of Scotland began in the 1690's as an advocate's library, or a legal library and it contained books and manuscripts. The library began to grow and evolve in 1710. It is now one of the top ten libraries in the world, based on size and usage. The library contains over 3,000,000 maps, gazetteers, atlases and so on. In addition to books, the collection contains music, all types of print publications, film archives, and electronic publications. Thousands of items are sent to the library each week from publishers, and since it is a "bibliographic" library, every item that is contributed is kept forever. The library's collection is valued anywhere from forty-five to seventy-five million British Pounds Sterling.
The library is trying to put on a more public and welcoming face and in order to do that, funding needs have change. The organization depends upon trust funds, heritage lottery funds, and government funds to keep the library running. Since the library uses public funds, it has to report how the money is being used to the Scottish Executive, which in turn, makes suggestions about how to spend the money. Some of the suggestions that have been made include spending more on services to under served populations and digitization of over 15,000 entities in the collection. The new vision for the library requires added funding, so there are now four library staff who work on fundraising. McClay credits the example of "the Americans" as their inspiration because they have looked to American fundraising methods to help the library move forward. The library staff is said to be very excited about the change in focus over the past several years.
David McClay talked at length about the John Murray Archive, how it was acquired, and how it is being displayed. It is very evident that the library staff is very proud of the John Murray Archive and that the three years that have been invested in the project and ended with a positive result.
The goal of the library is to be more open and accessible, and the John Murray Archive is just one way of accomplishing that goal, not only for serious researchers, but also for the ordinary man off the street.
I found the library to be open and welcoming. The presentation was informative and interesting, and the people were very hospitable. They won us over right away by serving tea and refreshments midway through the program. When we went into the John Murray Archive, I found it to be imaginative, attractive, engaging, and informative. The brochures and marketing materials were attractive and well designed, and the colorful banners hung on the front of the library building all worked together to make the library a more welcoming place.
When we visited the National Archive of Scotland in the afternoon, I was immediately impressed by the security. We were buzzed through locked doors and taken to a large room that had security locks that were set once we were all inside and seated. Margaret MacBryde, the Education Officer told us that the aim of the archive is to provide access and outreach to all ages. She also told us that the archive is made up of three buildings which include the General Register House, St. George's Church, and the Thomas Thompson House. The archive is funded by the central government, so the staff are all considered government employees, and all services are provided to users free-of-charge, except for photocopies.
The archive has items ranging from the Twelfth Century to the present, including state and parliamentary papers, church records, wills, register of deeds, tax records, valuation roles, and family and estate papers. They have DVDs and CDs in their collection as well. Access to the archive is available via paper and electronic catalogs.
After the lecture, we were served tea and biscuits, and once we were done, actual items were brought from the collection for us to view. Some of the things that we saw included an actual letter written from Marie Antoinette to her mother, a scrapbook about a suffragette who was jailed and mistreated prior to her release, a highly touted document mentioning a whiskey transaction, and a letter that was written across the page and then up and down to conserve paper. Viewing these items was the highlight of our visit to the archive.

Sunday, July 22, 2007 Leaving London for Edinburgh

The bus trip from London to Edinburgh was long, but not too tiring because we had a really nice coach to ride in. It was interesting to see the scenery change as we headed further and further north. We got to see Antony Gormley's gigantic sculpture, "The Angel of the North", and he related to us the fact that the statue was accidentally turned in the wrong direction when it was erected.

Our driver pulled off the motorway when we got to the Scottish border and allowed us take a few minutes to get photos there. We continued north and could eventually see the ocean off to the right of the bus, and mountains off to the left. When we arrived in Edinburgh that evening, we were taken to Pollack Hall where we would be staying for several days. The dorm rooms were modern, spacious, and clean, but we did not have private bathrooms as we had done in London. The view from my window showed the huge outcropping nearby that was called Seat of Arthur, which is a very popular climbing destination.

Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21 London

Before leaving London for Edinburgh, we had two free days in London to work on research and sight-see. Because of the unfortunate news that I received on Monday, July 16, (no job) I spent a great deal of time on the phone or online looking for library openings and filling out online job applications. I did manage to spend some time working in the computer lab looking for other sources of information on Susan Cooper. Mary and I also returned to the British Library to do a little more research for our papers. I found that the British Library owns several of Cooper's works, and that many of them are stored on-site. I discovered a copy of Susan Cooper's adult sci-fi novel, Mandrake, and got to read a little bit of it, including some biographical information on the flyleaf. I also got to look at Behind the Golden Curtain: A View of the U.S.A. in which Cooper portrays Americans in a less than flattering light. Our visit to the library was all too short, but we did get to read some of the items that we had hoped to see before heading back to Stamford Street.

Thursday, July 19 Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Our group took a train out to Oxford for a very special day. We spent the morning touring the Bodleain Library at Oxford University, and in the afternoon some of us accompanied Mike on a C.S. Lewis tour that he had discovered on our previous visit.

At the Bodleian Library, we discovered that it dates back to the 13th century. An interesting story that our guide shared was about the grand opening of the newest part of the library. King George V was invited to the grand opening and a large silver key was made for the occasion, but when it was placed in the lock, the key snapped and the main doors could not be opened. As a result, everyone, including the king, had to enter the new library through the rear.

The new library is made up of eight floors of stacks, four below ground level, and four above. The library collection consists of books, very old bound newspapers, microfilm, a million maps, greeting cards, calendars, and even bits of wood. The stacks are specially designed to fit whatever is being stored there and they are climate controlled to maintain proper temperature and humidity levels.

Once the guide took us into the stacks, we noticed two things; first that there was a yellow stripe painted on the floor so that anyone who got lost in the stacks could follow it to find the exit. The other funny thing was that there was a sign posted on the door leading into the stacks that said, "Going into the stacks after 5:00 p.m.? Have you told a colleague where you are going?" That sign inspired all kinds of imaginings about what might happen if one got lost in the Bodleian Library stacks. The fact that many of the shelves can be moved together and apart with a crank handle makes one wonder how many careless librarians have been lost due to compression. Who knew library work could be so treacherous?

Our guide explained that "troglodytes" work down in the stacks to retrieve requested items for readers and that no one else really understands how materials are arranged. Many books are stored according to size in order to maximize use of space. When we followed the narrow passages and stairways to the lower levels, we saw the locked cages full of archival boxes which were used for maximum security storage of rare items.

There is so much to say about the Bodleian Library, but some of the most important points are that the library holds twelve million items, there is no subject catalog for the library collection, no books leave the library, but are taken to users in one of the fifteen reading rooms, and two million small-sized books are stored in stacks that are located under the quadrangle area.

Another interesting note is that the scenes from the Harry Potter movies that feature infirmary and dancing scenes were actually filmed in the Divinity Room of the library.

July 18 Windsor, Dorney, and Eaton

Libby Grimm and I decided to take a train out to Windsor in order to tour the castle and to give me the opportunity to visit the area where Susan Cooper was raised. She used Slough, Windsor, and Maidenhead as part of the setting for The Dark is Rising and Silver on the Tree.

She also took Dorney, the village where she was raised and turned it into the fictional village where Will Stanton and his family live in both books. In an interview, Susan Cooper mentions being able to see Windsor Castle from her bedroom window. It was thrilling to be walking through a field of wheat stubble, to turn around and get the magnificent view of the castle from that perspective. Breathtaking!

The small church of St. James the Less plays a significant role in the story of the Walker in The Dark is Rising. Will finds the old man in an alleyway outside the church almost frozen to death right after a fierce battle with the dark.

July 17 St. Paul's Cathedral Library

St. Paul’s Cathedral Library-Joseph Wisdom
• Everything is locked up tight and kept secure
• The library is located behind a huge wooden door that leads to an huge “attic” under the eaves of the cathedral
• There is only librarian and one volunteer helper
• A conservation group was getting ready to start working with the collection
• Books with taped spines are no longer useable because text blocks have separated from spines
• The circular stone stairway leading up to the library was used in Harry Potter movies
• Ornate decorative work is mostly absent from the actual library; very minimal there; two levels of shelving; wooden shelves and tall library tables; shelving sections labeled with numbers
• Many, many rare old books, but most of the original library was destroyed by The Great Fire of 1666.
• The current collection is made up of several smaller collections; there are some duplicate or triplicate copies
• Preservation/conservation/restoration differ greatly
• The library is a closed area; people my come if they have legitimate reasons for visiting
o Only three items are allowed at a time per reader
o No pens allowed, just pencils

July 16 Museum of London

Jon Cotton, a curator at the Museum of London, provided a very interesting tour. He told us that the museum was established in 1976, and that it was an amalgamation of the Guildhall Museum and the London Museum. I believe he told us that the archaeological staff alone numbers 300, and that they work from two sites.

The Museum of London is organized in three strands, the London Wall, the Archaeological Archive and Museum Documents. He mentioned a publicity campaign that the Museum of London had done in recent years whose theme had been, "London only has one museum-The Museum of London" that did not get rave reviews from other museums located in London. He also told us that the Museum of London has a unique selling point, it's the largest urban history museum in the world. Another point he made was about archeology. He said that archeology is about digging up people, not things. Mr. Cotton also told us that the museum had gone through some changes and updates from 1994 to 2000, and that it is now a "people-centered" museum and that intellectual and physical access are key.

The museum really is user friendly and accessible. One of the things that I appreciated was that there were folding camp stools that visitors could use as they viewed the interactive displays. I left most of the museums and libraries feeling worn out from all the standing, but the Museum of London was a refreshing change.

Oxford and Straton-Upon-Avon

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Everyone met in the courtyard at 6:40 a.m. to go by motor coach to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the day. Our tour included a brief stop in Oxford for a quick look around. The cool, damp weather inspired several of us to purchase Oxford University hoodies as we made a quick tour of the shops. Some of the more mature library ladies also found a tea house and enjoyed a light meal there. We then boarded the coach and proceeded on to Stratford-Upon-Avon.

The places we visited in Stratford-Upon-Avon included Shakespeare’s birthplace with its house and workshop, the beautiful gardens, Hall’s Croft, and New Place/Nash’s House.

As one of the three extra site visits that we were to make, Libby, Edie, Nancy, Mary, and I were lucky enough to visit the Shakespeare Centre Library. The librarians there seemed quite pleased to give us a brief overview and tour of the reading room and to answer our questions about the facility, its collections, and the services provided.

The Shakespeare Centre Library is a reference only collection that deals with Shakespeare’s life, work and times. The reading room itself includes books and periodicals, but the vaults house a wide selection of items including the production and administrative archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company, collections of pictures and images, videos, prompt books for productions since 1980, online databases, and finding aides for the various collections, and much more.

To find items in the collection, there is a card catalog that has not been updated since 2001 and an online catalog of items acquired since 2001. Readers may make viewing requests in person, or they may do so in advance of a visit to the library by accessing the online catalog. Since the stacks are closed, all items are retrieved from the vaults by staff members and must be viewed in the reading room under supervision.

Researchers may find the following URLs helpful:

Shakespeare Centre Library Homepage and Online Catalog
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Image collection from Windows on Warwickshire
Royal Shakespeare Company Pictures and Exhibitions

In addition, The Shakespeare Bibliography database and the Dictionary of National Biography are available free of charge at the Shakespeare Centre Library.

We had a nice dinner at the Dirty Duck/White Swan Pub, and ended the evening by seeing a very unique production of Macbeth at the Swan Theatre. The first half of the production was lost on me because I had the unfortunate luck to be seated behind a support beam. After intermission, I was able to locate a better spot to enjoy the remainder of the play. I must say that the costumes and props were reminiscent of “Matrix meets Pirates of the Caribbean” and not quite what I had expected. Someone was definitely thinking outside the box.