Friday, June 10, 2016

June 6

  1. St. Paul's Cathedral is gorgeous!
  2. Our librarian/tour guide was the most adorable British man, named Joseph Wisdom.
  3. Saw lots of REALLY old books
  4. Ate Mediterranean food really fast at lunch time to be back in time for our next tour
  5. The National Art Library has pop-up books and Shakespeare's first folio.
  6. Old books fall apart and there are really cool inventions to keep them in good shape or repair them!
  7. There were tons of beautiful books that I wasn't allowed to touch or read, which was extremely difficult.

All the Details:
St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral
Our first real school day started on a high note! We jumped on the tube and headed to the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral. Our professor took a few photos of our class on the front steps and many of us enjoyed a cup of tea at the underground cafĂ©. We then entered the cathedral and took in the beautiful views. Our group met up with the amazing librarian of St. Paul’s, Joseph Wisdom, who took us up a winding staircase and through historic chambers to a breathtaking library. Mr. Wisdom talked to us about the theological collection and the construction of the room itself. It was interesting to know that because the cathedral was built in a symmetrical fashion, there was another similar room built on the other side of the building, but it is not used as a library. He also told us that this theological collection, mostly utilized by the men and women of the church, was acquired in much the same way all library materials are collected; beg, borrow, steal, or buy. The main purpose of the library was to provide materials for those studying theology.
Although not usually allowed, Mr. Wisdom let us take pictures in the library, but made an interesting statement about his opinion of using photos as a memory aide. He encouraged us to truly live in the moment and absorb what we were seeing, rather than use photos to preserve the experience. This struck me as an extremely important reminder for my trip as a whole. I want pictures that could help me tell my story to others, but I want to focus my energy on enjoying every second of my time in the UK. I believe that Mr. Wisdom’s advice will have a huge impact on the way I experience this trip.
In addition to spreading wisdom and knowledge about life and the library, Mr. Wisdom spoke to us about the proper ways to handle ancient texts. He allowed our teaching assistant, Mary, to show us the proper way to remove books from the shelf to ensure that we are not putting pressure on the spine of the book that will cause damage. While taking about preservation, he also showed us phase boxes that protect fragile books and discussed the idea that anything done to preserve a collection should always be reversible, so that the books can revert to its original condition.
St. Paul's Cathedral Library, Photo retrieved from:

Mr. Wisdom also told us that the oldest item in the collection is a book of Psalms from the 12th or 13th century, and the most expensive is one of the three surviving copies of Tindale’s New Testament that was brought in by the Bishop of London. Before we left I snapped two quick pictures. The first of the pictures and crest over the mantle, the second of some of the wonderful shelves of old books. Although I do not see myself working in a theological library, it was an amazing and historical library to visit.

National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Our group took the tube to the V&A Museum and a group of us set off for the quickest lunch of my life! We wolfed down our food, which was awesome Mediterranean cuisine, and almost ran back to the museum for our library tour. By this part of the day, the jet-lag and extended walking were really starting to wear me down. I had to make a conscious effort to stay attentive during the Art Library tour. We were shown magnificent manuscripts from Charles Dickens, descriptions from a World’s Fair, examples of fine bindings, historical book art, and even a pop-up book about geometry. The highlight of the display was Shakespeare’s first folio that was taken out especially for one of the Shakespeare lovers in our class. It was very touching to see her emotional response to the manuscript.
Shakespeare's First Folio
We were also shown how the library preserves its materials. As materials are used, librarians note any deterioration in an Excel spreadsheet and sometimes tie cloth around a book to keep it together. The preservation team can then prioritize the actions needed to keep the books in top condition. Each book that needs a box to protect it is specially measured so that a one-of-a-kind box can be fitted to its dimensions. Envelopes can also be used for other materials that are not bound. Stickers are then placed on the box or envelope to make it simple for the librarians to identify each one without opening the protective case. A melanex machine can also be used to wrap materials in clear, removable plastic. When materials are on display specialized supports are used to hold the material open to the correct page or location. The plastic supports are so individualized, that they can often only be used once. The library is equipped with machines that allow librarians and users to capture images from any of the materials and save them to a memory stick. The preservation information was all new to me, so I loved seeing how they keep the books in good condition. I had no idea that there were so many ways to care for these books.

We went on a brief tour of the library to see where the librarians work and where the books are stored. While walking through some of the book storage I had to resist picking up the books that looked interesting. There was one book about ballet that I desperately wanted to look through, but I had to keep walking and ignore it.

National Art Library display room and book shelves
This library is mostly used by academics researching specific topics related to art and design. Readers must fill out an online request for the items they would like to see from the catalog. The materials are then collected by librarians and taken directly to the reader. Many of the resources are now also available for readers to view online. One thing that I thought particularly interesting was that the children’s books, which tend to include amazing elements of art and design are actually housed at a separate archive. I also liked the concept that borrowers pay for the expensive of conservation for the materials they borrow. I feel like this keeps the borrowers responsible for how they treat the materials. This trust between reader and librarian is especially important when dealing with such amazing materials.

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