Friday, July 30, 2010

Today I went to the Charing Cross Library, a small public library in London. The library looks like many other public libraries with one notable exception--they have a very large collection of Chinese language materials. With a library card, patrons can check out books for free, while for materials like CDs, DVDs, and audio books there is a small fee. Other items in the collection included newspapers, magazines, a small CD and DVD collection, and a small (but packed) children's section. Near the circulation desk, they had a rack of pamphlets advertising local happenings, particularly those at the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, which are right across the street from the library.

Although the library is rather small, I was surprised to find that they had a small used bookshop to generate further revenue. This bookshop was composed of "ex-library stock" and included books, DVDs, and CDs in English as well as other languages. The library was also equipped with several public access computers, which required a library card in order to log on. Members can use the computers free of charge for one hour a day (the library limits access for more than an hour because of such high demand).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

King's College Maughan Library

Today we went to the King's College Maughan Library. The library is housed in the former public records office, which was built in the 1850s. In an effort to better support King's College students, the library is currently working on their roving librarian efforts, which will help get librarians out from behind their desks and into the library to help patrons.

While at the Maughan library, we got to see their special collections which spans from the 15th century to present and holds roughly 150,000 items. One thing I was surprised to learn is that the special collections department still maintains a working card catalog. Thus, every new item acquired has a card made for it. Because most libraries are doing away with card catalogs in favor of online or electronic options, it was interesting to see a library that chose to maintain this format.

The special collections for the Maughan include a strong medical collection, particularly of material pre-1900. During our visit, we saw a book donated by Florence Nightingale, a treatise on surgery from 1514, a manuscript on medicine from 1607. The latter actually incorporated elements of astrology, as it was still widely believed to be an important component of medicine at the time. Another incredibly rare item they have is a book produced in a concentration camp during WWII. This book is one of two known copies and depicts the concentration camps in a positive light; the books were created in anticipation of a visit from the Red Cross. Some of the drawings in the book show the prisoners of the camps in cafes or gardening.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

London Zoo and Library

Today we went to the zoo! I was delighted to realize I still remember quite a bit about animals. Particularly memorable were the otters, who were crying to be fed and looking around eagerly for someone to feed them. Also memorable was something I overheard: two British women were talking to each other when they came to the armadillo tank. The armadillo was nowhere to be seen. One woman said to the other, "what's an armadillo?" To which her friend responded, "it's like a porcupine". I couldn't help but smile to myself.

After the zoo visit, we went to the Zoological Society of London's library. Needless to say, this was the first time I had ever visited a zoo library and I found it fascinating. While it initially focused on maintaining a collection of the society's publications and meetings' minutes, it is now one of the largest zoological libraries in the world. The library is primarily used by members of the society, zoo employees, and the public. In addition to records relating to the zoo and zoological society, their collection also includes journals from zoos around the world, books on zoos, and books on specific zoo animals. They also collect zoo guides, annual reports, conference reports and stud books (the captive breeding information for different animals, used to help maintain genetic diversity). I was surprised to learn that people come to the zoo library to do genealogy research; because the library maintains staff records, people can look up to see if one their relatives worked at the zoo and what they did there.

While at the library, we were able to talk to a man named John Edwards, who had written a book on the early photography of zoo animals. The library has in its collection 12,000 glass plates of original early photographs from as far back as 1860 (some of these we had already seen images of because they had been reproduced for gift shop items). Other interesting items we saw at the library included a letter from Charles Darwin asking the society for help, and a painting they have on the wall that's from 1629. The painting stand out in particular because in it there is a dodo bird that was actually painted from life.

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

National Archives of Scotland

After Dunfermline, we visited the National Archives of Scotland. This is a government agency that maintains the records of Scotland. It is divided into two divisions: record services, which deals with government records, court/legal records, and collections development; and corporate services, which deals with finance and administration, conservation, reader services, and communications. The records at the national archives range from the 12th to 21st century and occupy 70km of shelving. They also maintain a digital collection, known as "virtual volumes", which are the digitized records that are accessible in-house and include access to Scottish wills from 1500-1901. Another interesting website they maintain is the Scottish Register of Tartans, which is, as the name would suggest, a "national repository of tartan designs". The site allows the user to search a tartan that's already been registered (using the name of the tartan, the type, or the designer) or to register a new tartan.

For our visit, the staff had pulled out several interesting examples of old records for us to peruse. One of these items was a lawyer's descriptions of cases. The librarian at the archive had been going through them to find examples of merchant ships being sunk by Germans during WWI. Because the ships were sunk and the cargo lost, the ships owners had to seek a lawyer so that they could be protected from legal action. Another interesting document they had pulled out for us was an old medical record listing a little bit of information about the patient and the patient's ailment. The space for "occupation" on this form was particularly amusing; we found one that simply said "nothing" and another whose occupation was listed as "poor scholar".

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Dunfermline Carnegie Library

First of all, Dunfermline is a gorgeous town, as far as I can tell.

Secondly, it's home the Dunfermline Carnegie Library. Carnegie endowed £8,000 to open the library, and it is the first of many Carnegie libraries. This library is the biggest and busiest library in Fife. Among its collections it has a large local and family history collection which contains ordnance survey maps, the local paper back to 1859, the Fife county census information back to 1841, and a large number of copies of old photographs. The photographs are divided into large books and organized based on the location where they were taken.

The library also contains a special collection devoted to the Scottish poet Robert Burns. This collection contains some of Burns' earliest works as well as a large sculpture of the poet himself. One particularly interesting program the librarian discussed is the bibliotherapy, or Book on Prescription program. With this program, doctors will "prescribe" a book (based on a list of approved books) that relates to the patient's ailment or treatment. The patient will take this "prescription" to the library, who has these books set aside, and the patient can check out the book to learn more. As someone who works with a patient library (that is associated with the medical library), I think this is a fantastic idea. Since many doctors don't always have a lot of time to spend with each patients and since there is such an enormous amount of health-related materials on the Internet (where credibility is almost always in question), I think it's wonderful to have specific resources for patients to go to.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia user Kilnburn

Monday, July 19, 2010

Edinburgh Central Library

Today we went to the Edinburgh Central Library. The library currently has around 850,000 items and was set up as part of an endowment by Andrew Carnegie. One fun fact, all Carnegie libraries have above their entrance the words "let there be light". About a year ago, an emphasis was placed on developing a virtual library and the librarians talked at length about that effort. Currently, there are still several items that can be searched on a card catalog, although most of the materials can be searched for on the library's OPAC. As part of their virtual library, the library has also scanned and uploaded many images pertaining to Edinburgh history, including many images from the early nineteenth century. This image library can be found at the Capital Collections website.

Another interesting aspect the librarians discussed was their reader development programs (what we in the states would call reader's adisory). Some of the initiatives for reader development include author events where local or national authors come to speak at the library. In addition, the reader development librarians work with local readers' groups and book clubs, and organize volunteers to read at seniors' centers.

After the library tours, a classmate and I found a yarn store, which had an excellent selection of Scottish yarns (I only bought two skeins). The rest of the evening was pretty low-key; back in Dalkeith, we explored the area around the palace where there are several trails that go through the woods. It was really pretty, albeit a bit muddy.

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National Library of Scotland

We didn't have a formal tour today, but were allowed to roam the exhibits at the National Library of Scotland at our leisure.

With roughly 14 million items, the National Library of Scotland (NLS) is Scotland's largest reference library, specializing in all things Scottish. The building we visited was opened in 1956, though the NLS itself was established in 1925. A library card is needed to use the reading rooms, so we didn't get to see those.

However, the exhibitions they have were open to anyone, and many of the displays were interactive. I particularly liked the John Murray Archive exhibit. John Murray was a prominant publisher who published some of the most important figures of his day, such as Lord Byron, Jane Austen, and Charles Darwin. The displays on each figure had a touch screen where you could scroll through a brief history of that person, sometimes including more scandalous details of their lives. Another part of the exhibit contained a large table which had an interactive display projected onto it. This display let you choose what kind of book to publish, including the genre, the style, the target audience, and even what the cover would look like. At the end, it predicted what kind of sales your book would have (mine would have low sales, but a strong cult following).

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Camden and Scotland

Saturday was a free day, so I did what any good consumer would do and went shopping. In Camden markets, specifically. My God. There is no beginning and no end, so far as I can tell. I spent all afternoon wandering the stalls and shops and getting myself lost. Found several gifts for friends (and a few for myself) before finding my way out (a small achievement in itself) and heading back to the dorms.

Sunday I woke up bright and early for a long and arduous bus ride to Scotland. Ok, maybe it wasn't particularly arduous, but everyone on board was very tired. A few first impressions of Scotland: first, it is very beautiful and second, there is a lot of livestock. I don't know that I've ever seen so many sheep and cows in my life! In fact, I know I haven't.

We stayed in a town called Dalkeith, which is a sleepy little town outside of Edinburgh and a dramatic change from London. Dalkeith Palace, where we called home while in Scotland, was magnificent. Very old, very large, and very creepy when you're walking through the corridors at night trying to find your way back to your room. It reminded me a bit of The Shining. The grounds around the house were thick with woods and there were several muddy, sluggy paths leading through them. (Seriously, there were a lot of slugs.)

Friday, July 16, 2010


Today we visited the Bodleian Library at Oxford. The place has so much history, it's really overwhelming. The first building we entered first opened as a divinity school in 1488 and has beautiful late-Gothic architecture. The guide told us that the Bodleian is the oldest public library in Britain, and the second largest (after the British Library). The library acts as a depository in that they collect a copy of everything published in Britain as well as other items. They have material in 125 different languages. As if this weren't enough, some of the Bodleian's rooms were used in the filming of the Haarry Potter movies!

But back to the history. After some of the initial book-less rooms, we were taken into Duke Humphrey's reading room, which is the oldest in the library. Many of the books here are still chained to the wall as they were in the early days of the library. On the end of each shelf was a framed shelf lists which acted as the first library catalog, describing which books were held on that shelf. The Humphrey library was also one of the first galleried libraries in Britain. By putting the stairs to the gallery by the librarian's desk, the lirbarian could monitor who went up to the shelves; this also meant that those books would not have to be chained to the wall.

After the Humphrey's library were were led into underground tunnels that connect the old library to the new. The tunnels were originally used as air raid shelters, but fortunately, Oxford was never actually bombed during the war. (The guide explained to us that there is a rumor that the reason they weren't bombed is because Hitler wanted an honorary degree from Oxford.) Also in the tunnels is an old conveyor system that moves books between the libraries and is still in use.

Other than the library, the trip to Oxford was fairly uneventful. We traveled there by train from Paddington Station, which was nice if only because I was always a fan of the Paddington Bear books when I was a kid. They even had a kiosk selling Paddington Bear-related merchandise, and I ended up buying a new copy of the first book in the series. Once in Oxford, I wandered around with some of my classmates, going in some of the toursity shops and checking out the town on foot. After the library tour, we hit the Alice in Wonderland Shop (which was fun, though I didn't buy anything), grabbed dinner at a nearby pub, then grabbed the train back to London.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

The V&A Museum Library

Today I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum Library. The library is open to the public, but is a closed-access library; this means that while people can browse titles online, most of the actual books and materials will need to be retrieved by a librarian. One interesting aspect of the library is that they have no classification system--everything is shelved by size. Because most art books can be large or unusual sizes, this method is used to best utilize available shelf space. Another interesting fact about the library is that they never weed items, thus space is always an issue. This is further complicated by the fact that the museum will often fight them for space for its exhibits. The librarian showed us a room where library materials were in locked shelves along the walls, but a museum exhibit took up the central space in the room.

In addition to the regular art collection, the library also contains a special colelction. Some of the items include Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks, a first folio Shakespeare, and Dickens' manuscripts (among other things). These items can be pulled out for patrons but only if absolutely necessary and if the patron provides appropriate letters and credentials for needing to see the items. One way around this is items like da Vinci's notebook, of which they have a photocopy. That way they almost never have to pull out the original. A couple interesting items they showed us were "art books", which weren't books at all in the traditional sense, but works of art. One was bound comic book pages that had several pieces cut out, making the original story unreadable. Another looked more like a wooden box, but had text written all over the inside, and pieces that came out of it, such as a small scroll.

Other than visiting the library, I didn't spend too much time at the library. However, I did take the time to visit the Beatrix Potter exhibit. My mom read those stories so many times growing up that I was eager to see the original artworks. The exhibit was well done in that it had each original illustration with the text from the story underneath it; thus you could walk around the room and read the story while viewing the original artwork.

After the museum, a classmate and I went to Hyde park for a bit. The park is massive and I intend to go back as I only got to see a fraction of it. We followed the park trip with a quick dinner at a pub, and then we were off to see the Welsh band Los Campesinos! play a show. The show was a lot of fun, it was at a smaller venue and the crowd was really into it. I had seen the band once before (at last year's Lollapalooza) but seeing a band at a festival is a lot different from seeing them at one of their own shows.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Today we had a leisurely day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, aka Shakespeare's birthplace. The only item on the agenda was a play in the evening, so a group of us spend the rest of the afternoon strolling around the town and shopping. (I bought a Shakespeare umbrella, among other things.) It was nice to have a library- and museum-free day. While there are several museums and places of interest in Stratford, some of my classmates and I decided to skip them. (This was based on the fact that so much of Shakespeare's life is speculation and so little is actually known that most of the museums seem like a bit of a waste; this was just the verdict we came to.)

The play in the evening was fantastic. Our class saw The Winter's Tale, which is a Shakespeare play that I was unfamiliar with. The set design was phenomenal. Most of it, such as the leaves on trees, were made up of book pages. Book pages also littered the stage and made up the costumes of some of the characters. At one point, a giant book page bear puppet (yes, you read that right) dragged off one of the characters, which was a cool effect (trust me on this).

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The London Library

Today we went to the London Library. Established in 1841, the London Library is an independent instituion funded primarily by member subscriptions. With former members including Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Darwin, the library has a strong literary history. Unlike libraries that use the Dewey or LC classification system, the London Library has a system that is entirely unique. Sir Charles Hagberg Wright, the librarian from 1893-1940, divided the collection into major subject areas and then alphabetized the works by the author's last name, or by title for edited works.

One interesting aspect of the library is that once a book is obtained, it stays. They never get rid of anything with the exception of duplicate copies of the same edition of a book. This creates obvious problems where space is concerned. Another problem is conservation. As the librarians emphasized, they are a library and not a museum. Thus, it's only the rarest and oldest of materials that are not allowed to be checked out. Everything else can go home with patrons. As a result, the library has a dedicated conservation department that repairs and maintains the books. This effort includes binding or rebinding around 4,500 books per year.

After the library, some classmates and I got dinner at a place called The Slug and Lettuce, which despite it's unappetizing name, had really good food. Later in the evening, I went with a group of people to see We Will Rock You, which is a silly musical featuring the music of Queen. While the storyline was ridiculous, the music was fantastic (it's Queen, after all) and the crowd was really into it. At the end of the show, the actors took their bows and a large screen on stage came on and read "You want to hear Bohemian Rhapsody?" (the song still hadn't been performed). The crowd went nuts. The screen changed, reading "Oh, alright then." At which point the cast came back out to perform "Bohemian Rhapsody". The audience went wild. Despite the ridiculousness of the story, it was a really fun show.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Caird Library

Today we visited the National Maritime Museum's Caird Library. The Caird library is open to the public and is one of the largest maritime libraries in the world. In addition to maritime-related materials, the library's collection also focuses on emigration, navigation, piracy, astronomy, exploration and naval architecture. As part of a national museum, the library receives public funding. The librarian leading the tour explained that while the library is currently somewhat hidden, they will soon be moving to a new building where they hope to increase visibility and the number of users.

Of the many interesting items they pulled from their archives to show us, the two I found most interesting were a naval atlas from 1686 and a book of signal codes from 1800. Part of my interest is due to the fact that both were plundered from other ships. The naval atlas was copied by Basil Ringrose from one that was pirated from the Spanish. The book of signal codes came from the USS Chesapeake and was obtained when the British attacked the ship. What was particularly unusual about the the signal code book was that the spine was fitted with several lead weights; the information in the book was so important that in the event of an attack the owner should have thrown it overboard. The lead weights were to help it sink. Unfortunately, whoever was in charge of the book didn't do this and code book now belongs to the Caird library. I love that in both of these situations, information was one of the most valuable things obtained.

After the tour, I checked out the museum's toy boat exhibit, and then hiked up the hill to see the Prime Meridian and the Royal Observatory. The view was fantastic. I spent most of the rest of the day running errands, but later in the evening went to see Predators, which I absolutely loved. Highly recommended for fans of the original!

Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum website.

An American in Paris

First, library stuff. After a somewhat miserable journey to Paris, one of the first places I had the opportunity to visit was the American Library in Paris. What began as a private book service for American soldiers in WWI is now the only large, English language library in continental Europe. As such it caters to a variety of users--ex-pats, English speakers in the area, students and professors of American studies. Sometimes academics will even visit the library from abroad. The librarian who spoke with us described the library's functions as a sort of hybrid; the library looks and feels much like a public library, but tries to act as an academic library. The collection consists of popular titles for books, magazines and newspapers, and also academic titles dealing with American culture, social sciences and literature. Because the library is a private institution, they must do all their own fundraising and require an annual fee of 100€ from their users. The library also serves as a kind of community center, offering a variety of programming for children and adults, including movie nights, exhibits, lectures and so on.

After the library tours, I feel like my trip to Paris began in earnest. We went to dinner at a traditional French bistro where I had French onion soup (despite the 90 degree heat), beef with shallots (which were carmalized to perfection--I could have eaten them by themself) and the best creme brulee I've ever had. Exhausted, I headed back to the hotel after dinner.

The following day (after a croissant and cafe au lait) I set out with a group to the Palace of Versailles. Wow. The immensity and opulence of the place is simply staggering. While I took several pictures, I don't know that any of them do the place justice. Not only is the palace incredible, but the gardens seem to go on forever. The view is spectacular. After attempting to comprehend Versailles, we returned to Paris where I wandered around with a classmate, stopped for crepes, and eventually made our way back to the Eiffel Tower, where the whole group was meeting to go on a riverboat cruise that night. It was touristy, but it was a wonderful way to see the city at night. Watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle was fantastic.

On our last day in Paris, a classmate and I set out early for the catacombs. The catacombs were eerie. A seemingly endless stone spiral staircase leads you deep underground, and after seeing some preliminary information about the catacombs you wander further and all the walls are made out of human bones. Layers of skulls are stacked on top of layers of other bones. In some areas, the skulls form a design. It's dark down there. And the low ceiling drips water. It was terrifically creepy and I'm so glad I got to go (oddly, it was at the top of my to do list in Paris). After, we wandered around Paris and stopped in a bakery where I ate the most beautiful dessert of my life. It was raspberry mouse wrapped in a kind of cup made out of striped red and white cake, topped with a sort of jam and chopped pistrachios. It was marvelous.

While I didn't get to see everything Paris had to offer, I'm very glad I went and have every intention of going back.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Monceau

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The British Library

Today we visited the British Library, which with over 200 million items is one of the largest libraries in the world. While the building itself is massive, additional storage can be found beneath the building (and the building's outside courtyard) that go several stories undergroud. Even with the amoutn of storage available, some material is stored offsite. One of the many impressive features of the British Library is the King's Library, which is a collection of around 65,000 volumes (as well as roughly 19,000 pamphlets) that was the personal collection of King George III. This collection was given to the British Library only on the condition that it is always displayed. To accomplish this, this collection is housed in glass and goes through several stories of the building (as seen below).

While at the British Library, we also had the opportunity to visit the Treasures Room. My mind boggled at the items it contained. Some of the items I saw include: medieval illuminated manuscripts, the notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf, Jane Austen's writing desk, the woodblocks of the Tenniel illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, Beatles lyrics (the original forms, scrawled on the backs of envelopes and such), and most impressively the Magna Carta. It was truly overwhelming to see so many valuable (and in some cases priceless) items in one place.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The British Museum

Today, deep within the bowels of the British Museum, we visited the museum's central archives. The archives collection is composed of six types of records--government, meetings' minutes, staff finance, building, temporary exhibitions, and reading room records. The records were actually really interesting, both in their breadth and content. One particularly interesting item we got to see was an exploded bomb shell that hit the museum during WWII. We also saw pictures of the damage. While I've read about the air raids in London, I don't know that I realized just how much was bombed and destroyed here during that time. Every site we've visited so far has had something to say on the destruction caused by the bombings. Other things we got to see included a property deed from 1694 and a folder related to their King Tut exhibit in 1973. The exhibit folder was interesting because it included all kinds of information related to the exhibit, as well as pictures of the lines of people waiting to get in.

After the archives tour, a classmate and I wandered around the British Museum and saw--among other things--the Rosetta Stone. The museum itself is massive and was too much to get through in a day; even after breaking for lunch at a pub we didn't get around to everything.

British Museum image courtesy of

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Barbican

Today was the Barbican Library, which was a drastic change from St. Paul's.

The Barbican is a public library built in the 1980s in an area rebuilt after being bombed in WWII. Around 9,000 people actually live there, but over 300,000 work or go in and out of the Barbican Center. The library itself was not terribly different from our own public libraries, though they do have an arts library (which focuses on architecture and perfoming arts) as well as a music library.

The area containing the library was not designed for this purpose, which presents interesting challenges in terms of shelving and layout. The librarian also explained that the thick concrete walls in the building make it difficult to access the wi-fi network. One thing I found particularly interesting was the Bookstart Program that the children's librarian explained to us. Bookstart is a national program that entitles every child three free packs of books, that are given to them at intervals beginning when they are toddlers up until age five. The program even receives some government funding.

After eating lunch at the Barbican Center, a classmate and I went to the Tate Modern. Wow. Sometimes I forget how much I love art. It was fantastic. I saw many famous pieces, including Lichtenstein's Whaam!, which I enjoyed immensely. Really, the whole museum was terrific. I'm always surprised by how much I still remember about art, sicne I haven't studied it in so long. The abstract expressionist gallery was probably my favorite.

For dinner, I had my first ever fish and chips! I even ate it with vinegar, the way you're supposed to. I got it at a place called Fishcotheque. (Best name ever.)

After dinner, my class got tickets to see a play called Nevermore, which was a musical about Edgar Allan Poe. Given that I absolutely love Poe, it was right up my alley. The set was minimal, but the costumes and the props were outstanding--very Tim Burton-esque. The music used lines from Poe's poetry, and several of his short stories were alluded to throughout the play.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

St. Paul's

St. Paul's Cathedral was gorgeous, inside and out and the library was fantastic--it reminded me of something out of a movie.

After climbing a seemingly endless spiral stone staircase, Joseph Wisdom, the librarian, took us up past the "BBC View" (where the BBC films when in St. Paul's) and into the first of two chambers that were designed for the library. The first chamber we went into holds "The Great Model", which is what it sounds like--a huge wooden model of St. Paul's. The model was built in 1674 for about £600. Oh, and both chambers open with a skeleton key (I don't know if I've ever seen someone actually use a skeleton key before).

When we went into the library, he first thing I noticed was the smell. It smelled like old books, but other things as well--it actually reminded me a bit of good tobacco. Mr. Wisdom explained that it was caused by "off-gassing" which has to do with the chemical reaction that takes place between paper and leather over time. The library itself looked impossibly old, with dark wood and ancient books on the shelves. There were also numbered artifacts scattered about and--somewhat anachronistically--a Who's Who 2006. I was interested to hear abuot their critreia for donations, and how people are always trying to give them old Bibles. Mr. Wisdom said that they try to find good homes for the old Bibles, but don't usually keep them.

That evening, the British Studies Program had a big welcoming reception at the King's College Chapel. The chapel itself was ridiculously ornate. A few speakers gave us all a sort of pep talk and welcomed us to the program, which was followed by a reception. Afterwards, some of my classmates and I made our way to Leicester Square, where after much discussion we decided to see a movie.

We saw a British movie called Wild Targets, which was actually really good. It starred a bunch of famous British actors (Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint), and we all had a good time. A note on British theaters--they're different from ours. For one, we were in a theater with only four rows, which gave it a decidedly more intimate fell. For another, you get to pick where you want to sit (front, back, middle). Why don't we have a similar system in the States? It was nice having an assigned seat.

Thoroughly exhausted, we took the tubes back to the dorms and called it a night.

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Welcome to London

After an exceptionally long and sleepless flight, I arrived in London Friday morning and was greeted by a pleasant man with a thick southern accent. "Welcome to London!"

And so it begins.

Friday is a bit of a blur to me. The sleep depirvation made me feel light-headed and bit loopy. I do remember going on a quick tour of the neighborhood, purchasing an oyster card for the London tubes, and then, for my first meal in England, eating at a TexMex style restaurant. Bizarre.

Saturday was my first full day in London. I woke up still feeling tired, as well as dizzy and nauseous. Terrific! I blame jet lag. I managed to get through a quick class meeting and orientation without falling asleep or throwing up, which I count as a personal triumph. A nap between orientation and our first walking tour helped me feel a bit better--I was able to walk around and follow a conversation without too much difficulty. The Leaky Cauldron walk was somewhat overshadowed by the revelry of the London Pride Festival, however, we did manage to go into some great antique bookstores. After the walk disbanded, I spent some time people watching and enjoying the festivities.

Sunday I finally felt myself again. No more jet lag (thank God). The walking tour for Sunday was called London Calling and it made me very happy. When the professor guiding the tour showed up in Converse and a Gogol Bordello t-shirt, I knew I was in the right place. We went up to Camden Town and saw a number of old punk venues/places of interest. We also popped into Stables Market, where I easily could have spent the remainder of the day (but didn't).

Sunday evening was spent with my classmates, walking along the river and trying to find an open restaurant to abate our hunger. This took much longer than expected and forced us to wander further than anticipated. We eventually found a small Italian restuarant that fit the bill (read: it was still open). After, we were all sufficiently exhausted and made our way back to the dorms.