LIS British Studies – Kew Gardens

Our visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew included a presentation by our gracious guide, Mr. Andrew Wiltshire. He has a book being published soon on how Leslie Linder broke the code of Beatrix Potter’s journal. She had written over 200,000 words over many years, most likely from ages 5 – 30. She used the journal to find her voice. The journal stops abruptly in 1887. She then became interested in fungi and began her connection to Kew Gardens. She made very accurate plant drawings that became guides for others to identify in nature. Her journal stopped because she was conducting research on fungi and was frustrated that her work was not being taken seriously because she was a woman.  She then had Peter Rabbit privately published and used the royalties to buy properties with many acres of land. She specifically wanted her book published so that small children could access it easily and that it would last for a long time.

The library and archives portion of our visit was nice because we could actually see items in their collection. The library was founded in 1862 and was founded by a vicar. A letter paying someone for planting is the start of the collection. The whole gardens used to be two separate ones. There are over 200.000 pieces of art, 300,000 books and pamphlets, and 5,000 periodicals in the botany collections.  This is the depository for illustrations and botany books. There are 200,000 papers, photos, and portraits included. Plant illustrations are on white backgrounds for the most clear displays. The earliest piece in the collection is from the 16th century. Beatrix Potter used to visit this library and archive to research for her own works within the botanical field.

The pieces we were shown were nice because they had to have all the colors found in nature included within the illustrations. These items have been well taken care of and are still in good condition and will be for years to come.

IMG_2257 IMG_2251 IMG_2225 IMG_2241 IMG_2246


LIS British Studies – Central Library, Edinburgh

The visit to the Central Library in Edinburgh was pretty neat. This is Edinburgh’s main and first public library. It is a Carnegie funded library which means that Andrew Carnegie donated funds to build this library through his mission to create libraries. There is a bust of him inside as well as a phrase outside the main door that says “Let There Be Light”. I feel as though this means that books are the light to spread knowledge so this is very necessary outside of a place that holds these items of knowledge.

This library has a special children’s area that was established in 2014. There are activities for children ages 5 – 11 such as a craft room and events. There are circles built into the bookshelves that are there to let children grab a book and have a comfortable spot to sit and read. There is also a specific area for children under five. These spaces are designed brilliantly so to draw a child’s attention towards books and activities related to reading.

The building itself was built in the French Chateau style. In the 1930s, the library acquired the Henderson building next door and renovated it to connect with the library.

This library uses a modified Library of Congress classification system so that it works best for them and their patrons. The lending library includes all but art, music, Scottish texts, and certain other specialties. The books were available as closed access shelves when the library was first opened. Our guide said that the lending library room looked more like a store with the books and the librarians all behind counters serving customers. The reference section includes materials that are still organized using a physical card catalog.

The music library houses music of all genres. It was included in the main building in 2014. There are books about music and bands, CDs, and DVDs also included. This part of the library is predominantly lending to people outside the library instead of people coming and listening while they are inside the building.

I thought it was neat that this library has an entire section on Scotland and the city of Edinburgh. There is an entire floor dedicated to materials on the location. Someone could even borrow materials to teach themselves the Gaelic language.

IMG_2111 IMG_2115 IMG_2117

LIS British Studies – New College Library

When I visited Scotland, we visited the New College Library in Edinburgh. This library was founded after the Church of Scotland dismantled. The founders were Thomas Chalmers and Thomas Guthry. Thomas Guthry and his wife ran the library together as some of the first librarians. The building where the library is currently was first built as a church. This is evident in the high vaulted ceilings and the stained glass windows. It is now the library for the School of Divinity.

The founders asked for donations at first to fill the shelves. They asked private citizens and women instead of ministers or students because it was believed that the ministers and students should not have to part with their private collections.

The collection consists of a quarter of a million items including 90,000 special collections and rare books, such as the first donations. This includes texts from all religions, while also having texts that explore no religion at all, so to fit anything a scholar of the School of Divinity might need. The original purpose for the library was to prepare students for the ministry.

There is an ongoing cataloging process but is extensive. There are at least 30,000 items already cataloged with many more to be included. There is still a large percentage that is not included in the current online catalog but these items are included in the physical catalog housed within the library.

The furniture still in the library is original from the 1930s but has been refurbished. There are still copies of both online and physical journals that are currently being published. This library uses the Library of Congress way of classification. The stacks within the storage space are structural so they are literally helping to hold up the building. The stacks are mainly open access for the students but the items that date pre-1936 have to be retrieved by a staff member, though the librarian could deny a request if they wanted.

IMG_2079 IMG_2087 IMG_2094 IMG_2095 IMG_2099

LIS British Studies – National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Our visit to the National Maritime Museum Caird Library and Archive was interesting. The collection is used to research families who could have been involved in maritime activities, maritime historical exploration, and texts related to the Royal Navy.

The library and archive are named after Sir James Caird. He spent his wealth building a museum collection.

The library is free to use but registration is required. They have over 6,000 open access books and 2,600 in their storage. They hold prints, chart material, atlases, drawings, and other texts that would be useful for maritime adventure. These range from the administration of the Navy to food and clothes for Navy members. The collection holds rare books that date to the pre-1800s. There are officer and sailor’s papers including some from survivors of the Lusitania.

Their cataloging system is the Universal Decimal Classification. These are broken down into piracy, shipping, slavery, biographies, admiralty administration, naval history, navigation, astronomy, journals, architecture, and social classes. The sections that are open access for patrons are quite easy to find within the shelves. Items that have to be retrieved by staff have to be ordered by a certain time so that a user can get their materials as soon as possible.

The archive is made of three different parts. Manuscripts are bound, boxes are laid horizontally flat, and folios sorted. There are maps in the archive that date back to the 15th century. Also, this collection holds pirate maps.

The library and archive within the National Maritime Museum is necessary because if something is not on display within the museum, there needs to be trained workers to keep the materials safe and preserved. This means that the artifacts and manuscripts will be able to be used for years to come. This repository will continue to serve those that are doing familial research as well as those with a great interest in maritime activities.

IMG_1956 IMG_1964 IMG_1967

LIS British Studies – Bath

I was so excited to visit the city of Bath. This city was one of the most influential places on Jane Austen’s writing of a few of her novels. Austen herself was able to visit and enjoy the society as a young lady. She then moved there with her family but living there did not seem to match up to the memories of her prior visits.

While in Bath, I visited the Jane Austen Centre. This museum is very informative on Jane Austen’s life as well as what was going on in Bath and England when she was living and writing. First, visitors are given a brief presentation on Austen and her many siblings. Her parents had multiple sons but only two daughters, Cassandra and Jane. The two sisters were the best of friends. After the presentation, we were able to walk through the exhibits. These exhibits were educational and also interactive. We could dress up in regency attire, try out a quill and ink, and also taste tea biscuits while reading about tea time in Jane Austen’s era.

There were many objects from Jane Austen’s time on display. These objects are predecessors to what we use in the modern day. The objects included are ones that Austen would have used on a daily basis, thus providing an effect no matter how small.

The clothing on display must have also had an effect on Jane Austen. If someone is wearing something that he or she does not like, it would change his or her attitude towards other things. I feel as though attire would directly affect Austen’s attitude while writing about society within this time frame.

There is a wax model of what historians believe most closely resembles what Jane Austen looked like. This is unsure because there is no definitive proof or picture of Austen herself.

IMG_2396 IMG_2313 IMG_2335

LIS British Studies – St. Paul’s Cathedral Library

St. Paul’s Cathedral library is located within the beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral itself is beautiful and the library was everything I wanted it to be by its beauty and charm. Wren designed a building of great beauty and a wooden model is on display for visitors to tour. Some changes were made in between Wren’s design and the way St. Paul’s currently looks.

The items in this library contain religious texts, such as Bibles and works related to theology within the church. Most of the books in this collection were printed before industrialization so the fact that they are handcrafted will mean that they will last longer. Larger books are stored towards the bottom as smaller books are stored above so as to not damage the smaller books between the larger ones. Our guide demonstrated the proper way to retrieve a book; one should gently slide the two books on either side of the one you want, then firmly grab the one you need while also taking care not to be too rough. They also suggest that you never carry more books than you can hold between your fingers and thumbs if the book is an early print.

Our guide stated that we, as librarians, should always consider the envelope of a collection and space so to be able to maintain a repository’s longevity as long as it is needed. This is a paraphrase of course but I feel like it will stick with me. No one wants to have their workplace become unneeded so the ones who will be using a space should always be in consideration.

During World War II, the library materials were transferred to caves in Wales to protect them. St. Paul’s suffered direct hits during the war so it was of great importance that these materials were transported before any damage could occur.

It is neat that a library within a cathedral with such history is tied to the present day with a much updated Twitter account. Here they share updates of the collections as well as ways that the public can be more involved with learning the history of this library.

Photo provided by St. Paul’s Cathedral –

LIS British Studies – Winchester

On my visit to Winchester, I was able to visit the house where Jane Austen lived for a few weeks before she died. I was also able to visit her actual grave within the cathedral in town.

There is a plaque outside of Jane Austen’s last house which marks that that is indeed her old house. Being there made me feel more connected with one of my favorite authors. We went to stand in a green space that is right across the street to get better pictures and a nice breeze blew by along with the smell of honeysuckle. I want to believe in a way that instance meant it was a good sign that I chose Jane Austen as my research paper topic. I felt at ease in that moment and enjoyed being there.

A visit to Jane Austen’s grave within the cathedral was nice. There was detailed information displayed on boards within cabinets. This information told of Jane and her family life. It was nice to have this information about Jane Austen’s life in her final resting place. It is obviously a grave that is often visited because the staff of the cathedral include her grave on their brochure’s map.

I feel as though a lot of my research was done while actually being in places that meant a lot to Jane Austen. Seeing what she might have seen and being able to imagine that puts another view on primary research. Seeing her grave and how ornate the plaques and the window above it was nice because it showed that those that paid for these niceties understood the impact she would have on the literary world. She might have only spent a few weeks in Winchester, but she definitely made an impact on the area as well as the world.

IMG_1793 IMG_1804 IMG_1814

LIS British Studies – Barbican Library

The Barbican Library is the City of London’s main public library. When I say the City of London, that is in reference to the one square mile that was the original city run by Roman rule. It is the City’s main lending library that lends books, CDs, DVDs,  music scores, and more to citizens that live or work within the square mile. There are three lending libraries in the City of London; the Barbican, Shoe Lane, and Artizan Street. The Barbican is included within a community centre that focuses on the arts.

There are approximately 23,000 items in the Barbican library. This library uses a Dewey system that is customized to fit its needs. The large music library uses its own form for classification. There is separate exhibition space right inside the doors. This library issues more nonfiction than others, primarily to the male and young adult demographic. They do accept volunteers for special events such as summer reading and other children’s events. Children are allowed to have their own cards and can utilize the library along with an adult.

The music library was founded in 1983 and is one of the leading sources for arts. It was the first dedicated music library within the square mile of the City. This music library and one other in the city of Westminster are the only two in the area. There are over 9,000 books for the academic and public use related to music. Musical periodicals are provided free from societies for this music library. There are over 16,000 scores available to musicians. They now have to send scores for binding so that users will not damage them. This portion of the library has survived because a large part of its users are older city workers who visit the physical library. This helps to encourage others to take advantage of a wonderful library.

The Barbican Library, London

Photo credit:

LIS British Studies – Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society visit included hearing about explorers and being able to view some interesting artifacts. The Royal Geographical Society was founded around 1830. There are approximately 2 million items in the society. This breaks down into one million maps, 1/2 million images, 500 boxes of archival material, and 500 artifacts. Members of the Royal Geographical Society can be from all over the world. This helps the society to benefit members in many ways.

The items we saw included maps from the search for the Northwest Passage through north Canada. There were many British explorers who searched for this quicker route through the Americas. Seeing these items helped to put in perspective that these people knew how to survive in exploration and knew what they wanted to find and how to make sure they would persevere.

We were then shown items from explorers’ climbs of Mount Everest, including boots and other supplies. We could not touch these items but just being in near proximity of these items was interesting because not many people get a chance like this. The extremely dangerous conditions of climbing Mount Everest were well known to anyone who dared to climb it. The fact that there are survivors to bring back items is also interesting because things could have always turned out differently.

Then we were told about how explorers competed to find the start of the Nile River in Africa. There were many that thought they were the ones to find the smaller river that feeds into the larger one but each explorer faced obstacles. One explorer thought he found the start of the Nile River but instead found the beginning of the Congo River. These explorers in Africa were able to explore there because the British had colonies there and were able to provide supplies for the explorers and their crews.

photo provided by The Royal Geographical Society –

LIS British Studies – British Museum

The British Museum’s central archives was a neat visit. It was interesting to see the behind the scenes of how an archive of a museum is run. The British Museum’s archives hold many records and help to establish the museum’s holding. The archivist shared a story of how someone tried to claim an item on display in the museum actually belonged to their family. The archivist found records that stated the item was already in the museum’s holdings before the person claiming it thought it would have been in their family.

This archive is the oldest administrative archive. The earliest records kept here are from trustee meetings from 1754. These were bound up until 1914. There are more papers belonging to the board of trustees than actual correspondence. There are some letter books which give the museum’s view on correspondence.

This archive is still archiving things of importance in today’s world. Finances in this archive go back to 1754, Excavation records are kept here from 1877 through 1900s.

The British Museum was set up in 1747 by an act of Parliament. Books that were sold as tour guides are held in this archive and show how the museum was throughout the years it has been open.

The museum took a direct bomb hit during World War II. The museum kept its treasures safe by hiding the items. The museum itself was proposed to be used as a shelter but those who visited were wary of letting commoners come in from the street to use the museum as a bomb shelter.

This archive holds records of reading room applicants, such as Bram Stoker.

The catalog is not completely online. The archivist has the goal to put the entire catalog together and let it be electronically accessible but there are many items that need to be cataloged.