Thursday, 22 November 2012

My 'A Moment in Time' Library Visits

In December 2010, I decided that I wanted to visit as many libraries as I could - as part of every day life. I started this blog to record details of my visits. I wanted to visit libraries for a number of reasons
1. Political reasons - libraries closing due to public sector cuts and the need for all those who value libraries to publicise their importance.
2. The increase in use of digital resources does not mean libraries are not needed, they are needed more than ever.
3. Libraries are fantastic and interesting - escapism, peace and quiet, historical, useful and fun.
4. I like visiting libraries - I think all libraries should be open to all and people should make the effort to visit them and if you work in a library you should promote and advocate libraries.

Since Dec 2010 I've visited 39 libraries (plus 5 almosts i.e.ones that I've got to the door but no further due to access restrictions).
They have been mainly a mixture of public libraries and academic libraries.
I'm not sure what I've achieved.
Hopefully it has had a positive effect on the libraries that I've visited - one more user who has appreciated the space, resources and library assistant/librarian.
I've blogged about them which may help raise awareness (every little helps). I've done my bit to promote and advocate the use of libraries and explain that they are essential.
I feel very fortunate that I have always been able to visit libraries since I was about 5 and in which ever area of the country I've lived in. I realize that I'm probably not very important as a reason to keep public libraries open as I have access to other libraries, to online resources and have the means to buy and borrow books from friends or shops. But I do feel it is, and should be, a right for everyone to have access to libraries especially young people and children.
One important point it has made me realize is that I have a different view of libraries from a professional point of view than I do from a personal point of view and it is the professional part that is important. Libraries need to be relevant, they need to provide access to books but also access to a wide variety of electronic resources. They need to provide space, space to learn. They need to provide expertise and the people to facilitate the search for information and knowledge. Most of the libraries that I've visited do provide these crucial elements.
From a personal point of view I'm glad I can visit libraries because I want to look at the books and be in the space to stand and stare and feel the history and the mixture between purposefulness and escapism.

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Wellcome Library

Last week when I was in London for a conference, I was walking back along Euston Road and passed the Wellcome Collection building and remembered that I had read about the library so decided to go in and visit.  It is a impressive and interesting building with a very nice cafe and shop although I didn't have time to stop for tea. The library is on the 3rd floor but you have to leave your bags and coats in the cloakroom.

The library was much more beautiful than I had imagined with an impressive central area and staircase. It is one of those libraries where you just want to stand and stare and take in the awesomeness of it. There were study tables in the main central part and then lots of books and shelving.

I was expecting the books to be all medical and science but they weren't - there was lots of philosophy and history and books about books (we could come on a family trip here as there would be plenty of stuff for T1 and T2 as well as me). I liked the names of the philosophers, scientists etc. that were displayed around the edges of the mezzanine level. It gave a sense of history but in a modern way showing that they are still relevant today.
It was a brilliant mix of old and new - lots of new shelving too and a viewing room to watch videos etc.  There were some little kiosk pedastel things for listening / watching YouTube clips with headphones.
I very much enjoyed my visit, it's free admission so if you're passing then go in.

Art and Architecture Library

One Monday morning recently I had finance training for three hours. I appreciate that finance training is essential in order to use the systems correctly but it is so boring. Anyhow when I came out of the building on Chamber Street and started to walk back to work I noticed through a window that there was a library. I went to investigate and discovered it was Edinburgh University Art and Architecture Library. I went in for a quick look round - quite a small library with study tables and chairs in the centre of the room and shelving with books round the edges.  Lots of great books and I found a whole section of marvellous gardening books so spent my lunch hour looking through them. I'm not sure whether there was any computers for students to use but there were quite a few people in there working and using the books and study spaces.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

New College Library, Edinburgh

New College Library is the
University of Edinburgh's School of Divinity Library. It is on Mound Place and was founded in 1843. It is a beautiful old building accessed through a courtyard behind a statue of John Knox.

It is not a big library and is one big room really with tables and chairs in the middle and shelves of books around the edge. I think there is a further reading room and stacks on another floor.
I'm particularly interested in theology libraries as my first degree was religious studies. I was pleased to see that the students studying in the library were much more 'cool and trendy' than in the past although maybe all students are.
I read a theology journal, a couple of sermons and sat and looked at the windows.

One thing that really struck me was this plaque.

I don't know anything about Adam Mitchell Hunter so will have to find out about him but how wonderful that a plaque was created and displayed to celebrate that he 're-arranged' the library.
In today's world he would have had to transform or totally rebuild the library to be of note but it is probably just a matter of the language used for the same level of achievement. A glorious understatement.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Baltic Library

I've visited the Baltic Mill Art Gallery at Gateshead many times. I very much like the building but sometimes struggle with the exhibitions. The views are brilliant of the Tyne and bridges. I like the fact that it is free admission and I think this is very important - if you want to show modern art and make it accessible to all then it will have to be free. This is particularly relevant in areas like the North East because people have less money but should have the same opportunities to participate in culture. Also because frankly some of it is an acquired taste and I would be disgruntled if not downright indignant if I'd had to pay to see it. ( as T1 has pointed out on a few occasions the best bit about the Baltic is the stairs.....especially when you're going out)
Anyhow Geoff and Kate both like going and I do really but like to wander aimlessly. Last weekend I discovered that there is a small library - how have I not seen this before? Is it new? It was very nice with an extensive collection of art books and some Macs. I'm not sure how you get to use any of the resources as there were no staff present but I'll remember it for next time.

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Friday, 12 October 2012

Edinburgh College of Art

Edinburgh College of Art is on my route home during the week and it's been on my list of places to go into to look round the library. You can see the library from the outside at the back on West Port. It is very modern and appealing. To get in you need your University ID card and it is swipe access. On an evening you have to go on the side entrance which takes you through an outer metal door and then through a metal inner door. After that you are into the corridor and into the library. It is a beautiful library in a bright, modern and minimalist way. There are lots of magazines and I spotted a jewellery one that might be good for ideas. There is a good collection of DVDs and also large books with pictures and illustrations. There are two floors with seating areas and computers and books. I will definitely call in again on my way home and it might be a useful place to do work on an evening. There were quite a few students about but not too many which may be unsurprising as it was a very rainy evening at 7.00pm.

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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Moray House Library

Moray House Library is the School of Education library at Edinburgh University. Moray House is based near Holyrood Road and approx a 15 min walk from George Square. Last week one of the Student Information Point assistants and I went there for a liaison meeting with one of the Student Support Officers based there. After the meeting we decided to have a look in the library, along with other buildings to see if there would be a suitable place for us to have a temporary SIP for a day. We are aiming to have a flexible mobile presence at different parts of the university campus.
The library is very nice and modern. It's quite small with about 40 computers I think and stocks books for education and sport and recreation.  They have recently had a flood which caused some disruption but are offering the usual good service ( we saw a library assistant wearing wellies and carrying books but hopefully it wasn't too bad).

Monday, 8 October 2012

Simon Brett books

I've read quite a few murder mysteries by Simon Brett and enjoyed them. They are easy to read, not too gruesome and have some good characters.
I saw 'The Penultimate Chance Saloon' in the library the other day so thought I'd give it a try. I enjoyed it, it was light hearted and funny and had some nice characters who you could laugh at but still like. I'd recommend it as a cheery quick read.

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Monday, 1 October 2012

Book Club - Friday for a change.....

We had our first Book Club meeting for the new academic year - it's not quite as grand or as officious as that - we have a meeting in Sept when all the children are back at school, college or uni.  As a special one off it was decided that it could be held on a Friday night so that I would be back from Edinburgh for the weekend and wouldn't miss it. It was a good turn out actually with most people there. (but we cant have it Friday eve everytime as some people want to spend time with their husbands or family on Friday evening - yes, really :( I would have thought that Book Club was way higher in the priorities....).
The books we were meant to read were The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (suggested by me) and The Thread by Victoria Hislop. There was general grumbling about The Moonstone as there often is about books I suggest but some people had made the effort and read it and enjoyed it. You do have to sift and scan through some parts of it but I enjoyed it especially at the end when it all comes together and the mystery is revealed. I like who dunnits - I like crime and thrillers but only if they're not scarey - i like the puzzle of finding out the answer from the clues. It has been interesting to discover that lots of books that i like are considered boring or a bit old fashioned by others - luckily we are all friends so can be honest yet kind about it.
I hadn't read The Thread but I think everyone else had. They enjoyed it but didn't say much about it although it did prompt a long discussion about Prince Philip and his mother and a tv programme about them which is supposed to be definitely worth watching.
For next time we are reading The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.
Also The Hundred Year Old Man who climbed out of the window and disappeared which I have actually started reading a couple of weeks ago and am enjoying so far.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Edinburgh Central Library

I have been in Edinburgh for a month now - this is the longest I've ever lived anywhere without joining the library. Edinburgh Central Library is about 15minutes walk from where I am living so I went along to join. The library is a big old building and quite impressive.

I went to the main area on the ground floor and asked to join. They don't have a big enquiry desk but have roaming staff and a pod of staff computers and a small desk. The staff are very helpful and the assistant said it would be quickest if I went downstairs to the bottom floor. This seems to be the Scottish floor with Scottish related books and stuff. Anyhow there was an interesting conversation going on between the assistants and a man who had lost his book 'in the drink'. I asked for a card to join and was given one - the assistant was a bit suspicious of me at first but thawed out gradually and explained everything I could do with my library card and how to get ebooks or access computers or the Internet.
I went back upstairs and resisted the temptation to get lots of books. I chose two and used the self issue machine which worked well.

I'll explore the building more next time. There was a display of some tiles on the staircase. I liked the look of them but can't remember what they were.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Working in a library

I have been in my new job for a month now and although the Student Information Points are based in the libraries, my role is not a library management role. It is more of a general management post based around enhancing student support.
I miss working in a library but I'm not sure whether I miss library management or whether I miss being able to do my work in a library. I think it is a bit of both and luckily the latter is easy to address at times. I can go and work in the Main University Library for a couple of hours. So that's what I did one afternoon last week. I like academic libraries, I like the peace and quiet associated with people getting on with their work purposefully and reading, I like the books and I like working in a place where other people are working but no need to interact. I'm lucky that I can get my library 'fix' as part of my working life.

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Thursday, 26 April 2012

Gateshead Library

Yesterday on the way back from South Shields I made a detour to Gateshead in order to visit the Shipley Art Gallery and to visit Gateshead Central Library. The Shipley art Gallery is probably my favourite art gallery as it always has interesting exhibitions, is beautifully unpretentious, has helpful staff, a good gift shop (useful for Christmas presents) and grand toilets. The current exhibition is 'Journeys in Beadwork'.
There were even some dresses with QR codes made from beads.
On to the library - it was raining so I didn't spend time looking at the outside of the building but it is an old building with a new modern interior.
It is very welcoming and as soon as you walk through the main door you want to explore further.
At the left hand side is a multimedia area - I'm not sure what they call it but it has glass automatically opening doors and when you go in there is music playing!! On the doors it said 'Playing Vividly'. Lots of CDs, DVDs - popular ones, the latest ones, boxed sets - Wednesdays all DVDs £1!! There were music scores too. It was great and busy with people of all ages and knowledgeable staff. it had the wow factor.
The main section was non fiction - set out in a simple yet effective way with cool stripy seating.
There was an extensive selection of books both non fiction and fiction and very up to date and appealing. The books had a feeling of relevancy and that they were suitable for a wide range of people. I liked the layout with seating areas and the shelving used to break up areas without closing them off. Through the fiction area with audio books and quick choice stands was the childrens area and garden. Then onto the teen area which made me wish i was a teenager again - books - computers - games consoles - high bench seats. This area was easy to look into but not part of the thoroughfare. There was a relaxed but purposeful air to the teen section by the people using it.
The main library area leads through to the tourist information area and to the Information services which is the reference library, IT support, local history and quiet study facilities. There is also an art gallery and cafe.
There are a few enquiry desks which are easy to find but not imposing and there are self service issuing / returning machines.
The library had a great feel to it and was busy with users. It has obviously had a lot of resource invested in it and is important as a central library rather than a branch library. I enjoyed visiting it.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Adele Parks at Teesside High School

Today I went to hear a talk by Adele Parks. She is an author of 'chick lit' best sellers.
Last year she gave a talk at Teesside University and she was brilliant. She has a Honorary Doctorate from the university and grew up in the local area at Eaglescliffe. I went to the talk at the university with Geoff and with my friend Roisin.
Roisin is an English teacher at Teesside High School and had been so impressed with Adele she had emailed her and asked if she would come and talk at the school especially to 6th form students studying English.
Adele's talk was very interesting and she focused it on areas that would be informative for the students. She explained how she has become an author through reading and being fascinated by words. She also described how she had become successful through dedication and hard work and that there was nothing wrong with being a 'swot', that it was essential in order to achieve. Hopefully her talk will inspire and reassure some of the students to become writers or at least study English at university. Most of the pupils at the school are all girls and it's good to see cool and successful role models.

While I was there I had a quick look in the library (don't like to miss an opportunity) which is only small but has a great selection of books. It is a great school and it was interesting to visit.

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Monday, 23 April 2012

No luck at Clare College

Last weekend I stayed at Clare College Cambridge when I was taking Joe back to Churchill. It was a nice place to stay although the beds were not as comfortable as they could have been. The gardens were beautiful. In the booklet for bed and breakfast guests they said you could access the library common room and could use computers in various places. So I went and asked the porter. I said 'Is it possible to look in the library, please' and he said 'No'. I admit it is my fault as I should know by now that it is necessary to email or phone in advance to gain entry - I have filled in quite a few request forms. The porter was very helpful about everything else.
This is the outside of the library from the room where I stayed.

and the University Library

Sunderland Library

We went to visit Sunderland Central Library as I wasn't sure where it was. I thought it was still in the same building as the museum but it isn't, it's just up the main street.

The building is fine but ordinary. There are some very colourful windows on the way up the stairs and some good displays.

There is a very good media section with lots of DVDs CDs etc - an excellent selection.

The main book collection is very extensive, I was surprised at how many books there were.

A wide range of different languages and cultures are catered for.

There is an interesting Dickens display

It is a great, well resourced library but I couldn't get the feel of the place, I just couldn't pick up the vibes.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Billingham Libraries

I decided to go to the library in Billingham as I hadn't been before. Although Billingham is close to where I live it is not in County Durham as we are but in Stockton-on-Tees. I often pass the library on the roundabout but I didn't think that was the main one as the sign outside says Roseberry Library. So I looked up other libraries in Stockton / Billingham and found that Billingham library is Bedale Avenue. It is on a housing estate and the building houses other priority services.

It is a interesting brick building - 1940's? and inside was really great. There are wooden book shelves, old radiators and large windows and it feels very appealing and welcoming. The feel of the place is colourful and lots of books arranged in ways that draw you in. A good fiction selection and smaller displays of new books, books for good reads and book clubs etc.. There was information about events and initiatives eg World Book Night.

There was a children's section and a small computer section. The library was busy with children and adults. The staff were brilliant and very helpful and supportive to users. They were friendly and very efficient. I decided to join the library and the librarian was very informative and explained what I needed to know - I was impressed.

(the only thing was that I felt a bit guilty as I think it must be obvious that I'm looking round with a purpose - I try to take photos surreptitiously but I think I'm going to have to explain in future as I don't want librarians/library assistants to think I'm inspecting them).

Next I went to Roseberry Library which is on the main road roundabout coming into the town. Billingham is a typical concrete car park & shopping centre but is quite alright. They have nice flower displays. The library has a good fiction selection and non fiction and books about local history etc. There is a reference section accessed by a spiral staircase. Wooden bookshelves again, great posters and displays. Staff friendly.

I liked the retro feel of the place and I think that councils should promote and use that to attract different sectors of the community. They are great buildings and there is a demand for retro furniture and items such as records from the 50's and 60's. It would be a good venue for a party.

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Friday, 6 April 2012

Whitby Library - almost

On Wednesday we went to Robin Hoods Bay and then onto Whitby. It was a sunny but really cold day. We got there at 2.15pm and went to find the library but it had closed at 2.00pm. It is sort of tucked away along from the station and in an uninspiring building. Whitby's a bit like that , it has a beautiful harbour and the Abbey is awesome but the buildings are a mixture of grand victorian and more modern hotchpotch. It is a busy town and the library deserves a better building and a more exciting place.
Next time I'll try to get there to have a good look round inside.

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