The first public library we visited was the Barbican Public Lending Library but before I can talk about the library I must start with the Barbican…before one tells the story they must first set the mood. Located in the center of the City of London and the financial district, the Barbican is a multiuse space comprised of the Barbican Centre, a performing arts venue, which hosts theatre shows, art exhibits, and musical performances; the Guildhall School of Music and Drama; the Barbican Estates, which houses over 4,000 residents; the Barbican Public Library; and a myriad of eating establishments and shops. In a word, the Barbican is a “microcosm”.
Later that afternoon, after concluding our morning visit to LAARC, we were fortunate enough to visit a corporate library located in the heart of London’s financial district. Once again, for all my library neophytes out there, let me tell you what the difference between a public and a corporate librarian…fundamentally, nothing! The education, degree conferred, and basic duties are the same. But the audience and the demand in corporate libraries is different. My excitement regarding this visit had less to do with the elegant surroundings and impressive security and more with seeing what I learned in the classroom being put into practice and thriving on an international stage. (Side note: I will admit I was also very excited to meet my first of several Americans employed and using their library degrees in London; it is still my dream to work in the UK after graduation and it was good to gain her insight about accessing the UK job market.)
Week 2 began in the London Borough of Hackney at the Museum of London Archaeological Archives and Research Center or LAARC, for short. According to their website, http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/collections-research/laarc/ LAARC is responsible for storing information from over 8,500 archeological sites all over London and surrounding areas from the past 100 years. They house the full archival records for over 3,500 of these sites as well as an archaeological library collection, which is open to researchers by appointment. In 2012 LAARC was named the largest Archeological Archive in the World by the Guinness World Record Organization…and has the plaque to prove it!
Our next visit took us to the beautiful Stowe House/School/Gardens located in Buckinghamshire, England, just an hour and a half outside of London. We traveled by coach and as we got further and further away from the bricks and steel of the city I began to understand why those who could afford to left the city for the English countryside; and pulling up to Stowe House, if you didn’t already feel like you’re in another world, you did now.
What a way to start our UK library tour but at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. For all you library neophytes out there here are some quick facts: