Tuesday, June 14, 2016

June 8

  1. Finally getting my Hogwarts letter!
  2. Beautiful books at The British Library
  3. A wonderful guided library tour
  4. Shakespeare!
  5. Being my usual over-emotional self and happy-crying in the middle of the street
All the Details:

Platform 9 3/4, King’s Cross Station
Hogwarts is my home

I awoke Wednesday morning as an eleven-year-old version of myself. I was tired after so many days of non-stop walking, but I could not wait to get to King’s Cross Station and pretend that I was heading to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Our group took the tube to King’s Cross and made our way to the photo area and Platform 9 ¾ Shop. The two guys working the photo area were absolutely hilarious! You could tell that they were thoroughly enjoying their job of photographing the enthusiastic tourists. They had excellent one-liner references to all things Harry Potter and it made all of us adults obsessing over our childhood characters feel at home, just as J.K. Rowling would want. We all took pictures that included our choice of wand and house scarf. My choice of Ron Weasley’s wand was met with “Weasley is our King!” and my Hufflepuff scarf with a “Cheeky Badger” remark. There was even a Red Vines reference thrown in for fans of A Very Potter Musical. Which is fabulous, although not particularly kid-friendly. The pictures turned out great and we were able to look around the shop that sold everything from key chains to books and character themed wands. It was a wonderful way to spend the morning! We then set off to The British Library for a wonderful tour.

The British Library
When we arrived at The British Library we immediately found a beautiful bronze bench in the shape of a book, and all had to take pictures sitting on it. After a quick look through the shop filled with all things Shakespeare we met up with our tour guide, Mr. Kevin Mehmet. Mr. Mehmet was a wonderful British man with a great sense of humor and a monocle that showed us the reading rooms and book transporting machinery of the library. His refrain of “I’m a librarian, I know everything” was greatly appreciated by all of us aspiring librarians.

The lobby of The British Museum
As a legal deposit library, The British Library, like Oxford, has a huge and quickly growing collection. They have created miles of underground, temperature controlled storage for their books and manuscripts. This creates a building that looks more like a museum than a library because very few books are on display. We were taken through to the Registration Centre and shown how to sign up for a Readers Card. This requires identification and a reading list to prove that you will be utilizing resources that cannot be found anywhere else. It also maintains security for the collections. Readers can then enter a reading room where they request specific materials that are sent to them using the MBHS, or mechanical book handling system. This system usually means that a book is delivered to a reading room within an hour and ten minutes of request. This system for delivering books reminded me of the ways that libraries around the world are changing to accommodate their patrons. Mr. Mehmet explained that The British Library’s initial collection was gifted by Sir Hans Sloane to The British Museum before the library split from the museum. Sloane’s main belief was that his collection should be shared with the public because “humankind can only move forward if knowledge is shared”. This idea of sharing knowledge manifests in libraries that focus on becoming spaces for collaboration and study, rather than a storage center. The library’s use of underground storage and a mechanical delivery system show that they are changing with the times. The reading rooms are still silent places for individual study, but there were many other areas that could be utilized for collaboration. This allows for patrons to choose the space appropriate for their needs. 

Another part of the library that reflects its ability to change with the times, is its digitization of the collection. They have an entire section dedicated to capturing materials in a digital format so that they can be accessed from anywhere. Since it is not practical to digitize everything, they focus on small bits that are in high demand or will entice patrons to come to the library to find the rest of what they need.
King George III's Collection
I was most excited by the discussion of Sir Anthony Panizzi’s contributions to the library, since I recently wrote a paper about this topic, and how King George III’s collection inspired Panizzi’s work. Panizzi used King George’s collection to expand the international range of the library’s collection and helped to create the collection that exists today. He also revolutionized cataloging and the shelving of books by size to use space most efficiently. The international range of the collection is reflected by the large number of employees that specialize in languages and translation. When King George donated his collection, he stipulated that it must be on display and always remain a working collection. When the library moved into its new building, separate from The British Museum, a special glass tower was created to display the King’s collection. There are now library assistants that enter the tower to collect books requested by readers. At the end of our tour, I had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Mehmet about my research paper topic, which will focus on my genealogy on my mother’s side. Mr. Mehmet directed me to the proper reading room to look into my grandmother’s history growing up in London. He also declared that if I chose to make a move to England, they would make an English Rose of me!

Shakespeare in 10 Acts

After the tour we were given tickets to the exhibit honoring 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. The exhibit was a great way to get me excited about Shakespeare in a way that I never have been. I have read Shakespeare in the context of required readings for school, but seeing the exhibit that showcased his work in the way it was meant to be seen (on stage) showed me that it is so much more than my high school readings.

Covent Garden

After the British Library, I headed out to Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden with two other library students, India and Emily. When I was studying at Herstmonceux Castle four years ago, our usual meeting place was near the Embankment tube stop. The area between Embankment and Covent Garden was the place that embodied true London for me. It began to rain as we walked through Trafalgar, so we really got the full experience. We looked through some of the shops at Covent Garden and then had a late lunch or early dinner at a nearby pub. The three of us have a great deal in common and really enjoyed getting to know each other and explore the city. We then decided to walk back towards Trafalgar Square, stopping to look at clothing and book stores. As we were shopping we got a message from a friend that was back at the dorm about tickets to see Romeo & Juliet the next night. We were especially excited because this production would be performed with Richard Madden and Lily James!
Covent Garden
As we walked I had a distinct feeling of being at home in the London that was most familiar to me. I stopped on the street under a small tree and gushed emotionally to my friends that “This was London!”. We quickly decided that my emotional moment needed to be celebrated, so we found a small pub called the Garrick Arms and ordered a round of Pimm’s Cup. Coincidentally, the pub was directly next to the Garrick Theatre that we would be visiting the next night for Romeo & Juliet. This trip to familiar territory left my heart warm with the feeling of knowing that I was in exactly the right place.

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