Getting Lost at the British Library

Well, not so much “getting lost” as “buying tickets for the wrong day because in a hurry”. And rushing there (and spending £5 on a taxi) and really just feeling kind of stupid, but it was okay. Partially because they let you do self-guided tours and because that was the only real “bad” thing to happen on my trip. Not to mention I now have a story to tell that I think is hilarious.

I have to admit that I’ve never actually visited The Library of Congress here, but it’s totally on my bucket list but I think that’s the closest we here in America have as far as a national library. It was really interesting to see and compare two different National Libraries (The National Library of Scotland and the British Library). Both are non-lending libraries so you’d think that they’d have similar issues with patronage, but when I was at the British Library it was PACKED. The café and common rooms were full, people were using laptops, looking at materials in the reading room. Granted I was at the British Library on a Thursday in the late afternoon as opposed to early on a Monday morning so I think that likely had a lot to do with the difference. Plus it’s literally right down the street from the King’s Cross Station so I think the proximity to everything helped.

The British Library has a strict no-photos allowed rule so I wasn’t able to take photographs but the collection is breathtaking. Unfortunately I wasn’t as lucky as I was with the National Library of Scotland because I showed myself around but I did read their 2013 – 2014 Annual Report which lists their major goals for 2014 – 2015 and the one I found most interesting is Number 3: Support research communities in key areas for social and economic benefit.

They focused on inspiring and enabling entrepreneurs by focusing on an Entrepreneurship week and holding an Inspiring Entrepreneurs series of events. I think this is extremely important and a great way for libraries that don’t offer lending services to still be involved in the community as a whole.

British Library. (2015). British Library Annual Report and Accounts 2013/14. London: British Library.


Days 4 -6: The London Adventure

Those that know me well know that I’m not really a morning person, but I’m not sure if it was the time change, the sense of adventure, but most mornings I was up and having a cup of tea by 7:30am. This worked out well for our London adventure as we got up extra early to catch the train to London. This was going to be great, we had tickets for a tour of the British National Library (more on that later) and I was going to see so many literary things. It’s amazing to think that in just a few hours you can get from one country to another in just a few hours. The early morning train ride was filled with sleepy passengers but my view was either of the book I was reading The Case for Books: Past Present and Future, or outside looking at the changing countryside. It was amazing to see the different level of architecture that exists there. There are parts that are very modern, but I saw lots of small cottages that looked like they had been there for hundreds of years. Tons of sheep too, granted I live in Indiana so seeing sheep/llamas/cows isn’t uncommon if you are driving in the countryside. It was very much the same as America, and yet very different. I loved it.

So on a side note (I promise, it’s related) if you follow me on GoodReads you might have noticed that over the last few months I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter books on CD in my car. I read the Harry Potter books when they first came out but this is my first time going back and starting at the start of the series. Why is this important? Because when we took the train in we arrive at London’s King’s Cross Station. Home to Platform 9 ¾ – also known as “Where you catch the train to Hogwarts”. Needless to say I kind of geeked out, embarrassing Brandi and our friend Jenny quite a bit. But I REGRET NOTHING.

London was so much fun.


What I saw:

Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament
The Canada Gates
The Queen Victoria Memorial
The Shard
London Bridge
The Globe Theatre
And Buckingham Palace – where to my amusement the Royal Mail was there delivering, well, the Royal Mail.

Where I ate:

Honest Burgers in London, I honestly can’t recommend them enough. They were so good we ate their twice, on the first day we were in London and on the last day were in London (and I’ve been craving it since). They had a fantastic veggie fritter burger and the fries, oh my god the fries were so good. Brandi has Celiacs so she can’t consume gluten and she was able to get a burger on a delicious gluten free bun. Both the fries and onion rings are gluten free.

The Truscott Arms in Maida Vale. Brandi had done her research and they had gluten free fish and chips so we used our trusty oyster cards and headed out there. I got a really good caprese salad with pesto.

And a bunch of other little places.

British Library. (2015). British Library Annual Report and Accounts 2013/14. London: British Library.

Day 3: The Glasgow Adventure

Scotland – Day Three: The Glasgow Adventure

I’d just like to point out that both Alex and Iain made fun of me for watching a bunch of Scottish movies but this was the day it would come in common the most. I took the bus (all by myself) from Edinburgh to Glasgow (about 40 minutes) and then walked from downtown Glasgow to the University of Strathclyde. I’d heard of the University in passing but it wasn’t until ALA Midwinter that I met with Dr. Cottington and Julie, a current PhD student that were promoting the university at a booth there. I like school, I’m not going to pretend that I don’t. I’m also not going to pretend that I’ve always thought about getting my PhD in something and this project has opened my eyes to the aspect of research for libraries. I decided to ask about their PhD program because they were there and because the idea of living and studying abroad (even before my trip) appealed to me.

Since I was already planning on going to Scotland and wanted to spend a day in Glasgow, I decided I should email Dr. Cottington to arrange a tour of the school. She was extremely accommodating, putting me in touch with David McMenemy, Lecturer and Course Director for Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde. I honestly cannot say enough positive things about David McMenemy, he showed me around the absolutely amazing offices, answering my questions, being hilariously funny, engaging and honestly one of the nicest people I met on my entire trip and made me leave really wondering if it would be feasible for me to get a PhD from there.

I do have to admit that the fact that it snowed (though only for about 15 minutes) while I was there a bit disturbing. By the time I was done meeting with David (who was amazing and introduced me to several current PhD students) it had turned to rain, the clear snow in late March was a little off putting. But at least it was pretty, and David made sure to point out some cool facts, like that Glasgow pretended to be downtown Philadephia when World War Z was filmed there made me want to set up camp.

Luckily (or unluckily) for me I have at least a year left in my Masters’ and Certification Program so I couldn’t apply as soon as I got home. On David’s recommendation I visited the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. It’s actually Carnegie library in the United Kingdom. The Mitchell Library is the largest municipal reference library in Western Europe and has the beautiful architecture that I think I’ve associated with how libraries should look. It was only supposed to be about a 15 minute walk from the University but the GPS on the phone I was using hated me and it took me quite a while, but I got to see the Buchannan Galleries (a collection of shops) were I was able to grab some great souvenirs but finally I found Mitchell Library and it was SO WORTH IT. I’ve lived and worked through library construction, reconstruction and redesigning but I was awed by this library and the number of people using it. When I was leaving I looked at the time at it as 14:00 (3:00pm) and the library had a good number of people using computers, looking at books and even using the microfilm at the library.

Is it wrong that I grabbed a burrito before heading back to the bus station? I was starving and it seemed like an easy vegetarian option that involved guacamole.

Scotland – Day One

After landing and meeting up with my wonderful Brandi she suggested that I get some sleep. Brandi is as brilliant a woman as she is a best friend and I took her advice and slept for a few hours, insisting however that she wake me up at 11:00am so that I wouldn’t sleep away the day. After all, I can sleep in America (and trust me when I got back I did!). Since I arrived on Sunday Brandi and I spent most of the day exploring the center of the city of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is amazingly beautiful, we walked through St. Andrews Square and it amazed me how old things could actually be.

Warning, Standard American Abroad Blathering

I’m not going to pretend that people driving on the left side of the road wasn’t jarring, and I won’t say how many times I almost got into the drivers seat accidentally, but it does make going around roundabouts much easier.

Currency getting currency was a nightmare, but that I blame on my bank, I really didn’t have any trouble understanding the paper money used in Scotland (British Pounds), each denomination is a different color and the sizes vary. The change was different and it took some getting used to looking at change that had “sizeable” value and it took me several days to remember that a lot of the “change” I had was worth one or two pounds. Needless to say I may have ended up paying for a few large purchases in one and two pound coins. Sorry again to the book store employee.

The Food I’ll mention food a lot because everyone who knows me knows I’m all about food. While we did go to Henderson’s (Day 2) which does have a vegetarian Haggis, I decided against it. Overall the food was FANTASTIC, my first meal in Scotland was actually Spanish Tapas that were amazing. I was a little worried that as a vegetarian I might not be able to find a plethora of food options but I was wrong, everywhere I went had a variety of options for me to choose from. Oh and I totally had Giraffe bread – it was pretty straightforward bread but hey, when in Scotland and near a Sainsbury’s.

The Food Labeling is actually my favorite part. Apparently all prepared/packaged food has to have a list of the possible allergens and foods that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans are labeled as such. Needless to say this made life as a vegetarian really great and easy and I had no problem finding stuff I could eat.

Most of my first day was dedicated to just driving around town, buying food and just having a great time. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world.

Scotland – Travel Day Getting There

I’ve actually been back in the states for a few weeks but I had a lot of stuff going on. In the next couple of posts I’m going to recount what I saw and did in the United Kingdom as well as a lot of the readings.

Travel Day

I have to be honest and say that I hardly ever fly. In November 2014 my friend Brandi and her husband Iain (both will be mentioned a lot in the next few posts) went to New York City, but before that my last flight was probably in 2006 so the thought of an international flight seemed a bit daunting.

I decided that my best option was to fly on as few planes as possible, so I flew out direct from Indianapolis to Newark and then from Newark to Edinburgh International Airport. Overall the flights were good, I had a nice layover between landing in Newark and departing for Edinburgh so I was able to grab a bite to eat before taking the shuttle to the international concourse. Not to mention find my gate, find out my gate had been changed and to get all the way across the giant terminal to where my new gate was. I sounds like I’m complaining but I’m really not. I also decided last minute to invest in a travel pillow, seriously a good decision and will be taking it with me when I fly in the future.

The flight was long, but luckily I was able to watch a movie of my choice (Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and to get some sleep.

<strong. When You Wake Up, You'll be in a Different Time and Place

The best advice I got was to start taking immune system boosting vitamins (like vitamin C) and to drink plenty of fluids. So many people get sick before and after flying and since this was a one in a lifetime opportunity I really didn’t want to waste any time fighting illness. I don’t know if it was this or pure luck but I didn’t get sick!

The other bit of advice I got came in two parts, 1) Try to sleep on the plane and 2) try to adjust to the time change as quickly as possible.

I slept better on the plane than I thought was possible, but still not great. First of all, I was warned that it would be cold, but I underestimated how cold it would be. That said, I did my best to stay warm and get some sleep. I woke up about 45 minutes before landing and I think that’s when the adrenaline hit me. I was doing this, I was really about the land in Scotland, a country I’d only dreamed about visiting before, that there was no backing out, and I have to admit that I felt a little bit like I was both going to pee my pants from the excitement and throw up from the anxiety.

Luckily, I didn’t do either, I went through customs successfully, picked up my luggage and walked out into the airport, straight in the arms of my best friend, Brandi. Brandi has lived in Edinburgh for the last five years and provided me with more support for this trip than I can even begin to express.

So special thanks to Brandi Parris for not leaving me stranded in the airport, because everyone knows that would have been the start to a really bad trip.

Inter-“Librarian” Loans

Whoa, it’s been a while since I updated but a LOT has happened since I last posted. In January I attended the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference in Chicago. I attended the Public Library Association Conference when it was in Indianapolis but this was different. When I attended PLA I had just started library school and hadn’t really put much thought into research and career plans, this conference was different. With my impending trip to Scotland (14 days!) and being bitten by the bugs of International Librarianship and Comparative Librarianship I had focus and goals. I was able to meet some really great people who are working internationally in libraries and attend some really fantastic sessions about community building and building social capital through library usage. Needless to say, I feel like attending the Midwinter conference was a great library experience – that is, until the snow came.

Unfortunately, Midwinter was the same weekend as Chicago’s fifth largest snowstorm of ALL-TIME! In about a day 19.3 inches of snow fell almost stranding me and my fellow LIS student Tara in Chicago. Thank god for Amtrak, the only major mode of transportation that was still running. If nothing else it proved I can problem solve when it’s crunch time, something I’ll probably need while I’m traveling internationally.

ALA Midwinter Highlights:

  • I met LeVar Burton and he said my name was pretty! His session was phenomenalDisplaying 20150201_121222.jpg
  • I helped author Wesley Chu carry coffee to the TOR booth
  • Edge Initiative session
  • ALL OF IT!

Seriously, even with all the snow and the struggle to get home it was an experience of a lifetime!

I’ve been so busy doing research for my trip but here are some things you can expect from me soon:

Indianapolis Literary/Diversity Events I’ve attended (seriously they’ve been awesome)

  • An introduction to Comparative Librarianship
  • Book reviews!
  • A discussion on International Librarianship and how it differs from Comparative Librarianship
  • Random posts on Harry Potter as I listen to their audio versions over the next few weeks

Generation Millennium

A friend of mine recently read something I wrote for school and commented: “It tastes like librarianship and feminism – with just a hint of why should Millennials care”. I found this statement to be hilarious and fairly accurate. It made me realize that part of my decision to start my journey to librarianship is because I want to have an impact on the world. For some crazy reason I feel as though this path is the best way to begin.

I belong to Generation Millennium, which most studies put as being born between 1980 and 1995. Though Horwath & Williamson and Sweeney consider Generation Millennium to be anyone born as early as 1979. This conflicts with Howe and Strauss who start the generation at 1982. For my research I’m sticking with the standard, anyone born in 1980 all the way through 1995. Basically, anyone old enough to have grown up with a personal computer at home or used one in school regularly. The Oregon Trail Generation – which, by the way, you can now play online for free thanks to the Internet Archive.

This is my generation and while some scholars are torn between thinking were the best or worst generation, I think one thing is true: we’re an important, socially active one. And I don’t just mean social media activity, sure according to The Pew Research Internet Project 89% of internet uses between 18-29 utilize social media but it’s more than that. We’re a generation who votes, who are more likely to demonstrate or protest, a generation who is concerned with the environment and economy, and who are raising socially conscious children. But honestly, what’s important to me is that this is me, these are my friends and my peers. Many of my friends have children and it’s interesting to see how those with and without children utilize the public library.

I’ve done some research on what libraries in the United States are doing to engage Millennials but because our information seeking behaviors have become global, I feel like my research needs to become global too.

The date is set, on March 21st I’ll be flying to Edinburgh, Scotland to start my research in comparative librarianship