Last Day in London...

Sunday August 9th- I’m tired, I don’t know what time it is, and I already miss the UK (okay, I might be a little bit cranky too). I’m back in the States facing a very large pile of dirty clothes and an equally large pile of souvenirs. Did I mention that I already miss the UK?

My trip was marvelous; I made fabulous friends, saw incredible things, learned more than I could have ever imagined, had the time of my life and to top it all off, I earned class credit! What more could a girl ask for? I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my travels as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about them. I can’t believe it’s already over.

Cheers until next time,



Saturday August 8th – Today a few of us went to see the musical Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theater. I had seen it before, but the others hadn’t. It was just as wonderful the second time around! Wicked is the story of the witches of OZ and presents a very different story than the one told in the Wizard of Oz. I suppose it’s true what they say…there are two sides to every story. Both Wicked and the Wizard of Oz were books before they were performances; while parts of each book may not be suitable for all ages, I think there is a lot than can be used in a library program for children. Not only are both stories fun and exciting with colorful characters (literally!), but they have great themes: acceptance, kindness and understanding, being different, and standing up for what you believe in; plus the music is pretty awesome!

It was a great way to spend my last afternoon in London…

image courtesy of

Peter Pan

Tuesday August 4th- Tonight we saw Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and it was wonderful! After a quick trip to see the statue of Peter Pan across The Serpentine, we made our way into the theater. As we took our seats and the play began, we knew we were in for a very special evening. It was a spectacular presentation of a beloved children’s story and I loved every minute of it.

I work with kids on a daily basis, fairy tales, story time and glitter crafts play a large role in my daily activities. Seeing classic tales interpreted through different mediums is always interesting as sometimes I find ideas for future programs. I’m very excited to share what I saw with the kids at the library, to describe what it was like to see Peter Pan fly across the stage and the Crocodile swim after Captain Hook. Sitting in the audience listening to hundreds of tiny voices whisper “I believe in fairies” when Tinkerbell needed help brought a smile to my face, not only because it made me think of the kids I work with back in the States, but because I was reminded what it’s like to be a kid. Observing, day in and day out the fierce belief and steadfast hope that exists in young children is always a joy- it makes my job incredibly worthwhile.


Thursday July 30th- Monday August 3rd
What can I say about Ireland, it was an amazing trip all around. I feel as though I’m using the word amazing in every other sentence I write, I’ll try to incorporate other words form now on, but sometimes I’m just at a loss for words, as my trip thus far has been truly…amazing.

Thursday we landed in Dublin early and took a much needed nap. In the afternoon however, we managed to sneak into the Trinity College library to look at the Book of Kells and the Library, such history and beauty, we were awestruck.

Friday we started our three day tour of the south of Ireland. We stopped at Clonmacnoise, an ancient monastery, and even though it was rainy and very, very windy we couldn’t help but feel the history that was laid out before us. That night we stopped in Galway which is a beautiful little town right on the ocean. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as the smell of the ocean air.

Saturday we ventured out to the Cliffs of Moher, truly one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen. We almost blew away when we reached the top, but the view was well worth it. The sun was bright and bounced off the water as the water crashed onto the cliffs; it was like a scene from a movie. It’s hard to pick a favorite sight from the trip but this might be it. We stayed the night in the quaint town of Tralee and enjoyed the local flavor.

Sunday, we made our way back to Dublin via the Blarney Castle. Yes, I did climb all the way to the top to kiss the stone; it was a long way up. The grounds were beautiful, Ireland truly is that green!

Hopefully we took a little bit of the luck ‘o’ the Irish with us when we left!

Highlands Tour and Ghost Walk

Wednesday July 29th- Today was a long, exhausting yet utterly fabulous day! A few of us decided to take a tour of the Scottish Highlands and I think I speak for the group when I say we saw some of the most amazing and beautiful sights that we had ever seen.

Where to begin… We started our morning with a visit to Hamish, the Heilan’ Coo (that’s Highland Cow for all you Americans). He was certainly a sight to behold, one of the many mascots of Scotland and the Highlands. We then began to make our way up into the Highland where we took in some breath-taking sights, check out the misty mountains.

By early afternoon we had made it to Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. It was raining when we got there but as we walked around the grounds the rain stopped, the fog lifted, and we were able to see the whole of Loch Ness (which stretches out over approximately 24 miles). So beautiful.

We also took a boat ride on Loch Ness and we kept a lookout for Nessie, unfortunately she was too crafty and evaded us. The tale of the Loch Ness Monster is a great one and I look forward to sharing my pictures and stories with the kids at the library when I return to the States.

As we made our way back down into Edinburgh, we were treated to even more wonderful sights; how the scenery became even more beautiful with each passing mile is beyond me, but it did. I am officially in love with Scotland!

Believe it or not, our day got even cooler once we arrived back in Edinburgh. A bunch of the group put on a brave face and decided to take a ghost tour. We were treated to spooky tales of ghosts and ghouls who apparently still haunt Edinburgh today. We were even taken down into “the Vault”, an area below South Bridge which at one time (almost 200 years ago) served as storage and work space for many merchants of Edinburgh. However, after flooding and a few too many unfortunate accidents, the Vault was closed although many a poor person found themselves lost down there, never to be found again…

The Vault under the South Bridge is said to be one of the most haunted places in all of Scotland and many a visitor has had a ghostly encounter…

A great end to another amazing day!

National Archives of Scotland

Tuesday July 28th- Today we visited the National Archives of Scotland. We were first provided with a presentation on the history and inner workings of the Archives. A few interesting facts we picked up were that the archives are broken up into two divisions, the Record Services Division and the Corporate Services Division, the documents in the archives span over 70 kms worth of space and the dates of the information held by the archives range from 12th century to the 21st century.(photo courtesy of the National Archives of Scotland)

We were later given the opportunity to look at a few examples of the types of documents that the Archive collects. There was a recipe book from the 19th century as well as documentation of the treatment of female suffragettes from the very early 20th century. We were also directed to a website that allowed many of us with Scottish ancestry to look up our clans tartans. Very Cool!

Scotland Libraries

Monday July 27th- This morning we visited the National Library of Scotland and were given the opportunity to learn a bit about how and when the library was founded. From 1689-1925 the National Library of Scotland was known as the Advocates Library and today it holds approximately 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps, 300,000 music scores, 32,000 films, 25,000 newspapers and magazines and on average it receives 6,000 new items a week. Pretty impressive!

We also walked through the exhibit on emigration from Scotland. The exhibit was a display of actual letters home from Scots who had emigrated to various places around the world, items they might have taken with them and statistics relating to how those who emigrated faired in their new homes. It was an amazing exhibit.

This afternoon, before we met up at the Edinburgh Public Library, we ventured over to the Elephant House which is know known throughout the world as “the birthplace of Harry Potter”. This cafĂ© was the place JK Rowling would sit in day after day, working away on the first Harry Potter book so as to save on her heating bill. Needless to saw we were in awe and many of us felt inspired by sitting in a place where such an amazing book was created!

Our final stop of the day was at the Edinburgh Public Library which was built by Andrew Carnegie between 1887 and 1890. He donated approximately £50,000 for the library to be built. The library was designed and built by George Washington Browne in the French Renaissance style. Above the entrance into the library is the inscription “let there be light”, it was put there at the request of Andrew Carnegie.

After our tour of the library, we had tea with a few of the librarians. We were introduced to Colm Linnane, a Children’s and Youth Librarian who provided us with several tricks of the trade as well as with the crafty analogy of “make reading seem more like cake than spinach”. His work with children from all ages, stages and backgrounds was inspiring to a lot of us and sounded challenging but very interesting. It was clear that he loved his job. We were so fortunate that he and a few other librarians gave up much of their afternoon to sit and talk with us. Overall it was a very inspiring day.

The Bodleian Library at Oxford University

Thursday July 23rd- Today we visited Oxford and were able to take a tour of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. All that history under one roof, it was remarkable! Oxford is the oldest university in England dating back to the 12th century, and the library itself contains some amazing treasures from centuries past. Among the many fascinating things in the Bodleian collection there is an original copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets, four original copies of the Magna Carta, as well as the oldest book ever written (dating back to the 4th century). Of course treasures such as these are not available to be viewed by most, however, the fact that they are there, under the same roof (and assumingly under lock and key) is quite amazing.

The Bodleian Library was founded by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1602. Bodley’s gift of both books and money allowed the library to be built up and become the respected academic institution that it is today. From the very beginning scholars have come from all over the world to study at Oxford University and the infamous Bodleian Library, just as Sir Thomas would have wanted.

Again, thanks to Sir Thomas, in 1610 the Bodleian became a copyright library which means that it will receive one copy of every book published in England. The Bodleian Library remains a copyright library to this day. As there are so many books (and treasures) in the Bodleian it is strictly a reference library, meaning no reader may check a book out (leave the library premises with a book). In fact until the early 18th century, books were chained to the shelves to prevent scholars and readers from removing the books.

As a librarian, one dreams of setting foot inside the prestigious Bodleian Library, I feel privileged (and a bit smarter) for having had such an amazing opportunity.

The National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Wednesday July 22nd – Today we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum to tour the National Art Library (which is actually an international library). A majority of the treasures that the library has do relate to art as the library an art library. They have both a general collection as well as a special collection and they do focus on understanding the art of the book as well as book design throughout the ages.

We were given the opportunity to look at a few of the many treasures that the library has, including a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, a Charles Dickens manuscript and an actual letter written by Charles I. It was an amazing assortment and we were dazzled by the display.

Once we peeled ourselves away from the treasures we were taken on a tour of the National Art Library we saw both reading rooms up close and were able to take a look behind the scenes. The National Art Library, like many others we’ve seen is not a lending library, which means readers cannot take a book away, and instead they must sit a table and read through the materials they request. It takes a bit of time to retrieve a book and it is recommended that readers make their requests ahead of time either via phone or email so they don’t have to wait upon arriving. Also, the library does not order more than one copy of any book and pre-requesting a book saves readers from being disappointed if their desired book is unavailable (although we were told that happens rarely). Another very interesting day!

The British Museum and Harry Potter

Tuesday July 21st- Today we ventured to King’s Cross to see if we couldn’t slip through the barrier on Platform 9 ¾. Unfortunately for us Muggles, nothing magical happened and we were not able to cross through to see the Hogwarts Express.

After our Harry Potter morning, we walked over to the British Museum where we were able to view its famous reading room from the outside. The British Museum is host to so many wonderful artifacts that we didn’t even know where to begin, of course we saw the Rosetta Stone and several of the giant sculptures from Ancient Egypt. Once we saw those two exhibits I allowed myself to be led into the Egypt: Life After Death exhibit, in hindsight, maybe not my best idea. A roomful of mummies is pretty much guaranteed to give a person nightmares…

The scariness of seeing the mummies was almost (but not quite) overshadowed by the amazing process of mummification, the time that went into the process, and how long ago the mummies were buried. All in all the British Museum was amazing, I wish I had time to go back!

This evening a small group of us went out to dinner and then to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and I, for one was not disappointed! There was something extra special about seeing it while I was in London. A fantastic night!

Greenwich and The Tower of London

Monday, July 20th- Today we took a boat to Greenwich to visit the library at the National Maritime Museum. It was so much fun to see London from the Thames. Once we arrived in Greenwich we walked past the spot where Henry the VIII, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I were all born. Unfortunately, the palace where they were born is no longer standing.

The Library at the National Maritime originally opened its doors in 1937 and is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment to be completed in 2012. The library contains approximately 100,000 modern books, 8,000 rare books and 20,000 pamphlets and is named in honor of Sir James Caird as his collection started the library.

Once inside the library, we were given access to some pretty amazing stuff, including a real map book used by a real pirate named Basil Ringrose! We were also able to view a copy of the Catalog of the Stars from 1712. The document was being prepared by a gentleman named John Flamsteed however it was published by Edmund Halley per the encouragement of the Royal Society as Flamsteed was taking too long to prepare his final draft. Needless to say Flamsteed was not pleased, and attempted to burn as many of the published copies as he could.

After the library a few of us hiked up the hill to the Royal Observatory to see the Prime Meridian. We saw the watches built by John Harrison that solved the Longitude problem and allowed sailors to accurately map and sail the open seas. We also waited in the queue and took our turn standing on the Prime Meridian Line, although some tourists though it was okay to line jump, needless to say we were not pleased!

After we soaked up all we could in Greenwich we hopped back on the boat and got off at the Tower of London. We saw the spot where Anne Boleyn died, the Tower where the two Princes were murdered (now named the Bloody Tower), the ravens that guard the tower (apparently there must always be at least six, or England will fall), the infamous Crown Jewels and the armor of Henry VIII (it changed quite a lot over his lifespan). Although the Tower wasn’t always used as a prison so many terrible things happened there, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than the place where Henry VIII (and others) sent so many to die.

What a day…

Stonehenge and Winchester

Sunday July 19th- Today we visited both Stonehenge and Winchester. To say that it was an awe inspiring trip would be an understatement! Stonehenge is so beautiful, so huge, and so mystical I don’t know how I could even begin to describe it. Everything from the position of the rocks, the design they create and the speculation around what the site was used for is amazing and unbelievable.

After Stonehenge we took a short ride over to Winchester which has a beautiful Cathedral and is also the place where Jane Austen lived her last days. She is buried in the Cathedral. As an English major, librarian, and overall lover of literature this was a special trip for me, Jane Austen holds a special place in the history of literature, and has always been a favorite of mine. We stood by her grave, read the dedication, a then walked around the corner to see the house she lived in. Overall, another fantastic day.


Friday July 17th- Another fantastic day! We drove two hours outside London to visit Stratford-upon-Avon (see photo), otherwise known as the home of Shakespeare! The town is quaint and beautiful, our spirits weren’t even dampened by the rain that wouldn’t seem to go away. We walked around the town and had lunch at a picturesque inn called The Falcon.

In the afternoon we were able to tour the Shakespeare Library and even take a peek into the stacks. After our tour we were given the opportunity to view some truly amazing artifacts the library has collected since it’s inception in 1864.

We were able to see a copy of Shakespeare’s first folio from 1623 (see photo), several playbills from throughout the decades as well as photos of some truly great actors playing Shakepeare’s characters. To name a few, we saw photos of Ian McKellen, Judy Dench and Vanessa Redgrave, all (and more) have graced the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Company over the years. After our tour we walked through the town for a bit longer and made stops at Shakespeare’s house (see photo) and the church where he is buried.

The most special part of the evening came when it was time to sit down at the Courtyard Theater (a larger theater is currently under construction) and watch the Royal Shakespeare Company put on As You Like It (see photo). It was a brilliant production, I only wish I had more time to spend in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The British Library

Thursday July 16th - Today was amazing! We visited the British Library and I have officially found my happy place. We began our day with a tour of the library. We were guided around by a lovely gentleman named Stephen Sandford who provided us with an incredible amount of valuable information regarding the library. After our tour we were able to spend some time exploring the library and we then ended our day with a walk around the Conservation Center.

A few interesting facts we picked up:

  • The library has four basements to house all of its books
  • The basements are each so wide and so deep that they had to be constructed around the Tube.
  • It took £500 million to create the British Library
  • The library has a diverse collection of over 150 million books
  • A vast majority of books are stored in the basement and readers must make a request when they desire a book.
  • The British Library is not a lending library, therefore books may not be taken outside of its doors.

Of the many wonderful things I saw in the British Library, my two favorites would have to be the tower in the center of the library (see photo above) and the Treasures Gallery. The tower holds the collection of King George III (1738-1820), the entire collection can be see by the public as the walls are made of glass. If one were to be a member of the British Library (as I now am!), he or she could even request to look at a book from the King’s collection.

My other favorite part of the British Library was the literature display in the Treasures Gallery (more formally known as the Sir John Ritblat Gallery). I was able to view manuscripts, journals, and first editions of Thomas Hardy, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Joseph Conrad, just to name a few. I was in paradise! I will certainly be making another trip (or several) back to the British Library.

The London Eye

Wednesday July 15th- This evening we rode the London Eye. It was equal parts fun and frightening! It was so great to see London from a different vantage point, just as long as we didn’t look down! The ride didn’t last nearly as long as I though it would, just about 30 minutes, nor did I really feel as though I was moving (again, as long as I didn’t look down!).

Words can’t really do the experience justice quite like pictures can so please enjoy the images I’ve posted here as I thoroughly enjoyed taking them!

The Museum of London

July 15th- Today we visited the Museum of London. The goal of the Museum of London is to provide visitors information about London before it actually became the London that we all know and love. The new Museum of London was opened in 1976 by the Queen and is a combination of the Old Guild Hall Museum and the London Museum and provides an overview of the archaeology of greater London.

The Museum of London receives approximately 400,000 visitors annually, half of those visitors are from London and/or the surrounding counties and the other half are tourists and/or visiting scholars, like yours truly! The Museum of London takes it education of the public seriously as the school curriculum in greater Britain begins with the Roman invasion of Britain and not include prehistoric London (and no, I don’t mean dinosaurs!). Starting with the formation of the Thames Valley in 450,000 BC and moving on to about 50AD (the founding of Roman Londinium), the focus of the Museum of London is to note changes in the early Landscape of London (before it became London), the legacy the early years have left, the people who lived there during prehistoric times, and the importance of the River Thames. Essentially, if there was no river, there would be no London.

The exhibits we walked through after first discussing their set-up with the Prehistory Curator, Jon Cotton, showed changes in landscape as well as the home life experienced by prehistoric people living in the Thames Valley region. Not only were we able to see the last standing portion of the centuries-old Roman Wall, located outside the Museum (pictured above) but we saw amazing artifacts like the remains of a prehistoric woman, the jewelry she might have worn ad the animals she might have encountered. All in all our experience at the Museum of London gave us a lot to think about.

The Barbican

Tuesday July 14th- Today we ventured into London Proper to visit the Library at the Barbican. The Barbican is Europe's largest multi-arts venue, it holds a conference center, several apartment complexes, a library, movie theaters and various restaurants. It is also the home to the London Symphony Orchestra. For a majority of its long life, the Barbican was not been a place one wished to associate him/herself with, recently, however, that has all changed. Originally built by the Romans to protect their land, it was home to many thieves in the 16th century, and after that was designated a place for "non-conformists". Over the centuries the Barbican saw thousands of deaths due to plague and the Great Fire of London, and during WWII much of the Barbican was destroyed during the bombings.

Over the past few decades, the Barbican has been built up to be the beautiful cultural center it is today. In the summer rooftops and balconies of the flats host beautiful flowers and music can often be heard throughout the grounds.

Of course the aspect of the Barbican that I found most interesting was the Children's Services section of the Library. Upon arrival readers are greeted by a colorful bulletin board full of information and familiar picturebook characters (pictured above). During our visit we caught the librarian and her assistants fervently preparing for the national summer reading program. This years theme centers around fantasy and is titled "Quest Seekers", the program sounded fascinating, and quite similar to programs I've encountered in the States. The students receive a kit when they sign up to participate in the program and are rewarded with small prizes and stickers as they progress through their reading. The Barbican expects at least 350 participants this year. With all of the festive decorations around the room it seems impossible not to be excited about this program and subsequently, summer reading. Once inside patrons encounter a large dragon painted on the window of the children's room, throughout the summer children will notate their completed summer reading on the dragon's "scales". It looks like it will be a fun and exciting summer for the patrons of the Barbican Children's Library. Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable visit.

St. Paul's

Monday July 13th- Today, we library students were given the opportunity to walk through sections of St. Paul's Cathedral that are not usually open to the public, a privilege that few people are granted. Not only did we have the chance to see the spiral staircase used in many Harry Potter scenes, but we also viewed several designs by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who constructed St. Paul's during the 17th and 18th Centuries.

After marveling at Wren's genius we were then taken into the library which housed many centuries worth of books from all over the world. Many thanks to Joe Wisdom (yes, that is his real name!), the head librarian at St. Paul's for granting us such a rare peek.

(photo courtesy of St. Paul's Cathedral)

Pub Walk

On Saturday July 11th my professor, Dr. Welch lead a group of us on a tour of London's most notable Pubs. For those of you who don't know, the word "pub" is actually an abbreviation for Public House. Way back when, Pubs were meeting places for some of London's greatest minds...

We saw a lot of interesting places on our walk but my favorite had to be the Blackfriars Pub (pictured to the left), it was built into the side of a monastery. Monks used to brew and sell ale and it was simply easier for all involved if the pub was close the the brewing location, in this case the monastery.


Welcome to my very exciting, much anticipated British Studies blog! I'm thrilled to be able to continue my study of library science here in London and all across the UK. I'll be posting pictures, insights, and anecdotes from my travels, I hope you're excited to learn a lot about libraries and museums, I know I am!

This is a class project and therefore I'll be focusing on the many exciting academic activities that I will have the pleasure of experiencing while I'm across the pond.

Thanks for reading!