Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 31: The last bits

Saturday morning, I woke up to some true London weather: drizzly and looking to be overcast for much of the day. After some housekeeping things with my library course, and I headed out for a last day of things about London.

On a recommendation from a very good authority, I walked over to Borough Market to take in the foodie stalls and get some lunch. The variety of foods available was great! I tried a number of good cheeses and sausages, all some degree of organic, homemade, &c. I wish I had gone to the market earlier in my trip; I would have had a much more diverse pick of fruit! I decided on a fresh baguette and some comte cheese for my lunch. Perfection!

I then went to my last museum of the trip: the Tate Britain. I really enjoyed this art museum so much more than the Tate Modern, mostly because at least half of the art was more traditional and less abstract. I spent a good deal of time looking at the portraits of society daughters from around 1900--seeing how portraiture progressed was very fascinating to me. I also spent a while in the room dedicated to the sublime; some of those paintings were horrifying, and some were just so layered and beautiful. By the end of my visit, I had discovered a specific thing about my tastes in art: I like the Pre-Raphaelites. Who knew?

A few of us met up at the flats before going out for our last real meal in the UK. Wanting to keep things British, we decided to go to a pub; where else? I thoroughly enjoyed my last fish and chips of the trip, and the ice cream that followed it.


The general mood of packing all of my things for my return home has made me reflective about this month-long experience. The whole point was libraries, and I really did get to do a lot with libraries. In the interests of wrapping things up as far as my trip and this blog are concerned, I shall end with a recap of my favourite libraries from the past month.

5) The Paul Hamlyn and Central Libraries at the British Museum - Despite any previous exposure I've had to big museums and their libraries, I hadn't ever really considered the logistics of how vast a collection a museum should hold, and who should have access to the materials. The duality of the libraries at the British Museum--a public reference room supplemented by a rather huge collection to which staff have full access--seemed to satisfy most potential library needs quite well. And, who are we kidding; the secret door to get into the library was pretty awesome, too.

4) The Dunfermline Carnegie Library - This first on Andrew Carnegie's libraries, located in my beloved Scotland, offers a variety of really interesting services as far as public libraries are concerned. What with their special Burns collections, their local and family history room, their impressive reference reading room, and pretty substantial general collections room, this library provides a whole lot of great material. The children's department, too, was very impressive, both in terms of collections and design. I like that the children's non-fiction was not arranged specifically by Dewey, but instead by topics that seem better suited to the way children browse for books.

3) The London Library - Admittedly, my interest in the London Library has less to do with my personal library academic interests and more to do with my general love of libraries--I would love to be a subscribing member of the library! Intellectually, I was also really intrigued by their unique classification system, which seems to work extremely efficiently both for the staff and library patrons. The number of libraries that opt not to use Dewey or Library of Congress has got me thinking: are we too complacent with our classification schemes? are there better ways, depending upon the collections? At any rate, the London Library's scheme afforded us a number of "File that under Science & Miscellaneous" jokes throughout the month.

2) Edinburgh Central Library - What I loved most about the main public library in Edinburgh was their Reader Development department. That's a whole staff department dedicated to getting more people of all ages and literary persuasions interested in and enjoying reading. Some of their ideas for developing reluctant patrons into readers are definitely worth further thought: for example, using author talks to get at-risk teens interested in reading is a really great idea, and seems to work quite well. The idea of facilitating book groups through the library is also really interesting to me.

1) Winchester Discovery Centre - It should be no surprise that the Winchester Discovery Centre was my favourite library of all during the course of this month. To say I loved it would almost be an understatement; I was enchanted by it. I talked a bit about the fabulous decor in the library, both in the children's department and in the library as a whole, and I still think the idea of injecting a bit of interest into the library space is a great idea for any public library. The Winchester Discovery Centre's inclusion of exhibition spaces, an art gallery, and a cafe, however, really piqued my interest in the whole Discovery Centre phenomenon. I'll be writing my course paper on Discovery Centres, delving into when and to what purpose they started appearing, what actually constitutes one, and how the UK is embracing the idea. I have some hunches about where my research will take me, but I have one definite gut feeling: if more public libraries transformed themselves like the Winchester Discovery Centre, we'd find ourselves being relevant to our patrons and community members in a variety of new ways. And that is always a good thing.


I have been so fortunate to experience 19 different libraries throughout my month here in the UK. Now, I cannot wait to get home to figure out how I can use the best of what I saw in my own library career. Cheers!

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