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 Two – National Library of Scotland

It’s hard to determine which day in the UK was my favorite, but day two is definitely in the running.

On Day Two of my International Adventure I visited the National Library of Scotland and met with members of their Access and Outreach Department. Thanks to the extremely kind Veronica Denholm, Access and Outreach Officer, I was able to sit in on an Access and Outreach departmental meeting. Of the eight member department five were present, but John Coll, the current Head of Access was also present and reported on two presentations he’d recently given.

In preparation for this meeting I read the 2014 Annual Report for the National Library of Scotland so I had some background information on what they were currently doing and what their strategic plan for the next few years is. One big change is that their board was recently downsized and this smaller board would be focusing on having regular retreats to focus on strategizing on community engagement.

John Coll, Head of Access reported on his recent presentation to the board on current and target audiences as well as the results of their recent customer survey. They have decided that their 2015 Corporate Plan (or Strategic Plan) would focus on targeting strategies for non-users. I think that this is something that the National Library of Scotland has in common with libraries from around the world. All libraries want to increase access to their services and knowledge about library services but as a library user I feel like a lot of the awareness campaigns that I see are located inside of libraries, so they seem to promote increase usage of specific aspects of a library, but not necessarily to target non-users.

Because the National Library of Scotland is a non-lending library they don’t go completely within my spectrum of Public Libraries. While they are open to the public and any citizen (and those eligible for visitor cards) they do not circulate their collection as much of it is rare and extremely fragile. They also have a rule that under 16s (people under sixteen years old) cannot look at materials unless a parent or guardian is with them. Obviously this is a barrier to access and one that they acknowledge as most of their audience are students especially post-graduate students and also adults doing historical research. Veronica did note that they do tours and instructional meetings for primary and secondary school students.

One project they are focusing on is the Scotland Screen Archive of Moving Pictures. This is a collection of Scotland in moving images that will be in Kelvingrove in Glasgow. This collection is designed to capture the physical representation of Scotland in a way that will appeal to users visually. This makes sense because the rest of their collection is mostly text based.

After this excellent meeting and discussion I was given a tour of the building including the archive and was able to see one of the floors where the collection is stored outside of the use.

As a library lover this day was amazing and I was shocked to see how busy the library was at about 11:00 in the morning. Users of all ages were utilizing the collection, hovering over books, using the computers to look up holdings and meeting in the small café area within the building. I also got to explore the exhibit halls and while they could be a bit dark (in lighting) the items contained in them included clothing and letters from Scotland’s history and was just amazing. My favorite was the exhibit on Scotland and the United States Civil War which included letters from Frederick Douglass.

Afterwards I visited the Central Library of the Edinburgh Public Library, the Children’s Central Library of Edinburgh. Both located right across from the National Library of Scotland.

And I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t go into The Elephant House, one of the café’s where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel. It was right across the street and I couldn’t resist. I mean, honestly, could you?

After that I met up with Brandi at Henderson’s Vegetarian restaurant, which was delicious and worked well for both our dietary restrictions (a vegetarian and a person with Celiacs). I have to admit there’s a small bit of me that regrets not getting the vegetarian Haggis, but then there’s the larger part of me that has no regrets about avoiding Haggis (vegetarian or otherwise). I think if I ever go again and I’m not a vegetarian I’ll probably try it just to say I have.

National Library of Scotland. (2015). Annual Review, 2013-2014. Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland.

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.