My day involved a lot of travelling, but I stopped in Cardiff to visit the Doctor Who Experience!
Today Kim and I set about exploring the quaint town of Bangor! Initially we found the “castle”, although I found it a bit disappointing. To me, it was the size of a large estate, not a castle in the sense that I imagine. But nevertheless, we walked the grounds and admired the view from the hill top, hoping to catch a glimpse of a movie set or famous actors. No such luck! So after tackling our disappointment, we headed back through town to find the next best thing: the library! Like Dunfermline and so many other communities throughout this trip, Bangor’s citizens are served through a Carnegie Library. Based on the 2009 renovations, and the fact that this is the busiest library in Northern Ireland (as we were told when we visited with the librarian), it is clear that this library is a hub, a community center, much like the original Carnegie Library will soon be.
The original Carnegie Library was built in 1909 by E. L. Wood, though it did not open until 1910. The city council at the time insisted on incorporating a technical school into the library, so the library itself was limited to only one of the two floors of the original building. Though one whole floor sounds spacious, considering the size of the original building, it’s actually quite small. Currently, the children’s library is housed in the same area that once held the entire collection! The current library was not open to the public until 2009, when renovations and additions were finished. A three-story extension was added to the back of the original building, and based on physical size, it is the majority of the library. The two floors of the original building currently hold the children’s library and a room for study and local research. Also, many of the offices and conference rooms are in the original building or split between the old and new.
The new area of the library was very technologically advanced. There were computers in every sitting area, with a completely separate computer lab. The bottom floor held the main desk, where items could be checked in or out using RFID technology and simple questions could be answered. Just past the desk was a gallery, built specifically for the community’s use and enjoyment. Currently there is a photography contest displayed in the gallery, but we were told the gallery is changed every month at least. The second floor consisted of the computer lab, and then the Young Adult library directly past the lab. The third floor held the fiction and nonfiction collection, along with audio books, CDs, and DVDs. One thing about the design of the library I noticed was the large open area in the middle of all the floors, which enables patrons to look up or down at all three floors. While the open design is beautiful and convenient, I wonder if the library has any problems with sound carrying throughout the floors and disturbing patrons? Nevertheless, the library is breathtaking, inside and out. What really struck me is the fact that there are reference or help desks in every room or area of the library. Specifically, there is a desk in the computer lab, which is rather rare in the libraries I’m used to! I can only imagine how beneficial it must be to have a reference librarian or staff member that’s main duty is to provide technological and digital assistance to those who need it, rather than trying to train everyone on staff to do or fix as much as possible, resulting in knowledge gaps and missed opportunities. this concept of specialized reference aid is important and should be implemented as much as possible in my opinion.
Bangor Carnegie Library:
Today Kim and I hopped on a small plane and headed to Belfast!
As our last full day in Edinburgh, our class had a free and empty schedule. Several of us decided to join Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis on their visit to Dunfermline, Scotland. This is the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish American who led the America’s steel industry during the 19th century. As influential as he was in America, and the world, we were interested in something more specific: his libraries. During the last half of his life, Carnegie funded the building of thousands of libraries throughout the world, and today, we had the privilege of visiting his very first. Also, as I previously stated, this is the city Carnegie was born in, so after our library visit we got to see the house his family lived in, which is now a museum.
We had a brief bus ride from Edinburgh to Dunfermline, grabbed some coffee and breakfast, then explored Dunfermline Abbey. The Abbey, which opened in 1250, is the burial place of Robert I, or as he is commonly known, Robert the Bruce. A popular Scottish hero, Robert fought against the English during his life and helped Scotland regain its independence, eventually taking the Scottish throne. After the Abbey and a quick lunch, we headed towards the library. We were told prior to our trip that the library was actually closed and currently being emptied. In fact, it will be closed for at least two years for renovations; the newly modeled building will serve as a community hub, and play host to many activities and audiences. In a way, it will be more like a community center, where members of the community can enjoy library services, and in the case of Dunfermline, a museum and culturally educational experience too.
This was my first visit to an empty library, and I found it eerie and heartbreaking. What can I say, I’m a bibliophile at heart! But luckily in this case, the books had not been destroyed or permanently removed, only temporarily stored. The exciting part of a visit to an empty library is how much attention you can give the actual physical space. We took our time as a group looking through every room, hallway, door, nook, cranny, and everything in between, and it was all so wonderful! Our guides Janice, Sharron, and Anne knew anything and everything we could possibly want to know about the building, its history, and its future! The library first opened in 1883, so seeing the antique and historical features of the building intermixed with the modern and renovated was very neat. I really enjoyed spending time speaking with the current caretaker of the building; it was quite obvious that he truly cared for the building, and despite the upcoming inevitable changes and progress, I believe he will miss the old. In this aspect, I think I agree with him. But how are libraries to survive if they do not progress? I believe Carnegie would insist upon progress!
Our group was featured in the local news!:
After a break for afternoon tea with our lovely guides, we bid them farewell and visited Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace. I stayed with some friends in Dunfermline to do some shopping before we caught the bus back to Edinburgh for our last night. Tonight is the last night our group will be together in the same place until next week. As we all prepare for our mini-breaks, I’m realizing just how hard it will be to say our (somewhat) final goodbyes at the end of the month!
For our second full day in Scotland we again, had a packed schedule! The day started at the New College Library, then our afternoon was spent visiting the Edinburgh Central Library, which is ironically just across the street from the National Library of Scotland which we visited yesterday. The view from New College Library was amazing, as it is in a very high spot in the city. But if I am completely honest, everything about New College Library is beautiful! It is the library for the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity, though the building was originally a church. The library has gorgeous stained glass windows that allow a substantial amount of natural light to shine through. The library is open to all University of Edinburgh students, though it is mostly used by students within the School of Divinity. For this reason, the majority of the almost two hundred and fifty thousand works in the collection are focused on religious studies, though not all. During our tour we were given access to the rare books collection, which consists of a variety of religious books that date from as early as the 16th century.
After a nice lunch break at the famous Greyfriar’s Bobby pub (whose back story can be read here: http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/Greyfriars-Bobby/ ) our class met back up on the steps of the Edinburgh Central Library. The historic building was beautiful, and our physical tour held a surprise around every corner: their recently redecorated children’s library was fun and inviting, their main study area is located in a section of the library that has been best preserved, they have a completely separate library for art and design. And my awe and inspiration only grew the longer we stayed. We were treated to afternoon tea and snacks while the staff spoke to us about what the library is currently involved in and working towards. My jaw still drops thinking about it. As the Central Library, they provide for over seventy book clubs throughout the city. Their program Libraries 4U is aimed at helping troubled young adults, aged up to 25, hopefully aiding them with life skills and eventually job acquirement. They have a prison library program. They have a program aimed at helping displaced children called Reading Champion. They currently partner with Dyslexia of Scotland, and are working on creating more programs that aid dyslexic people find better jobs and more understanding and educated supervisors. They already host dyslexic educational groups to spread knowledge on dyslexia to employers, employees, teachers, dyslexic individuals, and their families. With around four hundred thousand visitors per year, this library has both amazed and inspired me.
I finished the day by spending time with my friends Stephanie and Jessica. We started out with some souvenir shopping, then headed to The Witchery, a very nice restaurant just down the street from Edinburgh Castle. After a lovely meal we walked through the city, rode the Ferris wheel, and admired Sir Walter Scott’s magnificent monument and statue before heading back to the dorms for the night.
New College Library:
Edinburgh Central Library:
For our first full day in beautiful Edinburgh, our class visited two very important institutions: the National Library of Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland. We took a bus from the University of Edinburgh, where we are staying, into the main area of the city. Our bus passes were scratch-offs, like lotto tickets! Walking along the Royal Mile was so neat; the city’s history seemed to seep out of the sides of the buildings, the bricks in the roads, the statues along the streets and churches. But the environment was much different than London. There were street performers every where, whereas in London that seemed to only be the case along the bank of the Thames rather than up and down major streets throughout the city.
The main entrance of the National Library seemed to carry us into a small, modern space that was hardly recognizable as a library. But looks can be deceiving; we later learned that the entrance is on the eleventh of fifteen floors! As it turns out, the National Library was built on a bridge, so the entrance is also on the bridge, yet there are ten floors that extend all the way to the bottom of the bridge! The library has about sixteen million items in its collection, and like the British Library, is a legal deposits library. This means that they have the opportunity to hold a copy of every single book published in the UK. The difference between the British Library and the National Library of Scotland is that the latter does not receive a copy of everything published. Instead, they claim a copy from the publisher if they want one, rather than it automatically being sent to them without question. Their offsite storage facility is not too far away, so anything may be seen within only an hour or two, if need be. I found it very interesting that they will produce anything for a researcher, while only charging him or her if copies need to be made.
For lunch, a large group of students joined our professors and headed to the Elephant House, a local cafe. The food and ambience was great, but we really visited for the literary significance. This is the birthplace of Harry Potter; J. K. Rowling ate there while beginning and developing the story of her famous boy wizard. And after eating there and enjoying the view of Edinburgh Castle right out the back window, I can understand why she chose the place!
After lunch our class visited the National Archives of Scotland, which was established in 1774. Also known as the National Records of Scotland, this is the government’s official archive. The institution holds countless records and materials pertaining to Scottish genealogy and history, such as birth, marriage, and death records, tax records, government documents, maps, and church registers. Currently there are 78 kilometers of historical records from the 12th to 21st centuries in the National Archive. The oldest document is a brieve (a writ ordering trial by jury under specified conditions) from King David I from the 1120’s! To finish our evening some friends and I walked up and down the Royal Mile, taking in the city. We then grabbed a bite to eat at the Deacon Brodie Pub. Deacon Brodie was the notorious furniture maker and nighttime thief that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!
National Library of Scotland:
National Archives of Scotland:
Saturday was a nice, relaxing day. I slept in (hooray!), ran a couple of errands, and then had a nice lunch. After lunch my friend Stephanie and I caught the tube over to Trafalgar Square to see a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Now, this has never been my favorite Shakespeare play. I really did not like studying it during my undergrad class. But I was completely blown away at the theatre! Martin Freeman played Richard (of course!), and successfully brought his own charm, humor, and manipulation to the already despicable character. Despite being overwhelmed by the fact that Martin Freeman was standing only a few rows away from me for three hours straight, and already disliking the play, I got into it immediately. Within minutes Martin’s Richard had captivated me, and by the end I was wondering if I shouldn’t be supporting his heinous acts. That’s the difference in reading a play and watching it be performed. Everything comes alive, the audience is part of the plot, and the characters speak directly to me. This particular adaptation of Richard was set in England in 1979. Every detail was thought out and planned; the set, wardrobes, even hairstyles were all perfect. The cast was phenomenal, I could watch this performance everyday! It was obvious by Martin’s playfulness in certain scenes (like when he paused between lines to stick his tongue out at his character’s mother) that he was having a good time and enjoying himself and his work. And why shouldn’t he?
Sunday was mostly spent on a coach bus en route to Edinburgh, Scotland. While the landscape was beautiful, it was a long trip! Plus, the coach was two hours late, and most of the students were tired and a bit cranky. Thankfully we all arrived safely, just in time to catch the FIFA World Cup final match! After checking into our rooms at the dorms in Edinburgh, we all promptly filled the local pub and crowded around the TVs, which will be a great memory for years to come, I’m sure.