Sunday, August 15, 2010

Zoological Society of London Library: Optional Visit

The Zoological Society of London Library tour was given by John Edwards, the Zoo historian. The building,built in 1910, currently houses the library, offices, and meeting rooms. To fully understand the library, Edwards first gave us background information about the London Zoo. The London Zoo opened in 1828 and in 1836, the Zoological Society was founded. In the 1850's, the Zoological Society's Museum collection was donated to the British Museum. At the end of the tour, we were shown pictures of some of the animals that were kept throughout the history of the London Zoo. We saw photos of the first hippo that came to the Zoo in 1850, a baby orangutan named Lady Jane, a sable antelope (the only one outside of Africa), the only photo of a living Quagga (a less striped Zebra), and photos of the first African Elephant, Jumbo, that came to the London Zoo. By 1912, there were a recorded 1 million visitors that came to the Zoo that year.

The Library was founded in 1826 and is now the largest privately owned zoological collection in the world. We spoke with Emma, the book cataloger, about her project that she has started. She is working on turning the card catalog to OPAC. So far, books published after 1993 and before 1860 have been cataloged to the OPAC. The card catalog was made in the 1960's. Ruth Jones spoke more about the collection. Their entire collection is housed in the same room. The library's collection holds conference proceedings, annual reports, zoo guides from all zoos, books about animals, animal breeding, husbandry material, and other zoo related material. Most of the items this library holds are hard to find items. Ann Sylph from archives showed us a few of the rare materials the library holds. We saw the ZSL's first charter, written by George IV in 1829. We saw letters by Darwin requesting help with specific bird names. We also saw the new charter, written by Elizabeth II in 1995. Popular inquiries made by patrons today are about family history. They are looking for past relatives who have worked in the London Zoo.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Stratford-upon-Avon Library: Optional Visit

The Stratford-upon-Avon Public Library was a wonderful find. It is situated on the same street where Shakespeare was born. Stratford-upon-Avon library is a Carnegie library and is also part of the Warwickshire library system. Like most public libraries, their collections holds items like large print and regular print books, CDs, DVDs, periodicals, and also microfilm readers in the periodical room. The library's focus, once again, appeared centered on family history. After visiting Scotland's libraries, the trend of family history continued. Some of the material used for family history included parish registers, census returns, electoral registers, local newspapers, maps, trade directories, monumental inscriptions, CD-ROMs, books, and also internet resources for local studies and family history websites. Another helpful resource is the family history group that meets in the library on the first Friday of every month. The library staff includes local history librarians, who can provide assistance for patron's questions about family history.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The American Library in Paris: Optional Visit

The American Library in Paris was an amazing find! Before entering the library, we had to check out the cart of free books the library had placed outside. No one could resist free books! What I thought was most interesting about the American Library in Paris is that it is the largest English-language lending library on the European continent. In 1917, the Library War Service, a product of the ALA, ships 1.5 million books to U.S. service personnel. The American Library in Paris was founded by the ALA in 1920. The core collection of books were donated by American libraries for US armed forces personnel serving their allies in WWI. In 1923, the library launches Ex Libris, a monthly review, with contributions from Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. In the 1940s, French libraries began to close under Nazi occupation- but not the American Library in Paris. Their doors stayed open throughout WWII. The library even provided an underground lending service to Jewish patrons. In the 50s, investigators sent to filter out Communist inspired literature from the library were turned away. In 1955, the library launches The English Language Library for the Blind, which was the first collection of Braille books in English on the European continent. Marlene Dietrich's personal library was donated in 1995.

Now, the library serves as a non-profit cultural association in France. The collection includes 120,000 books, 300 periodicals, DVD, VHS, and other audio visual materials, and online and paper reference and research resource materials. The library is open to all, with annual and short-term membership options for families, students, and seniors. There are 2,300 members ranging over 60 different countries. The library has a staff of 12 members, speaking 8 different languages, and over 50 volunteers that participate in all aspects of the library.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Maughan Library at King's College

Sally Brock started our tour with an introduction to King's College and the history of the Maughan Library. King's College (Strand campus) was founded in 1829. The Strand campus is the only non-health related studies campus. Studies at the Strand campus include the humanities, law, and sciences. In the beginning, the library was seperated into several libraries. It was considered to be a mish-mash of books, with no room for expansion. The building the library is currently located became up for grabs in the 1990s. King's is leasing the building because it falls on royal property, and the Queen is a patron of King's. In 2001, the Maughan Library opened.

The building was formerly a public record office, built in the 1850s. It was the first fireproof building in London. This building was ideally built in the heart of London, making it convenient to store records. The building was designed with only a few public rooms. Changes were made to allow more public rooms- there are 1,000 reader places and over 800 computer terminals located in Maughan. The collection includes 750,000 items. The stacks are primarily open stacks, with special collections as an exception. King's students, researchers, faculty and staff, and other students affiliated with King's are allowed access to the collection. Over the past 10 years, the Maughan Library has underwent a few changes to become more patron friendly. Wireless connection, 24/7 access during finals week, social seating areas, and flexible teaching spaces have been included in the changes. Other features of the library include the short loan room and the round reading room. Obviously, books with a short loan period are placed in the short loan room. The round reading room is meant for silent study. Patrons who enter this room are well aware of the room's serious tone. This room has also been frequently used for filming purposes. The room gives a hint of what a library should look like. The stacks are round, encircling the entire room from floor to ceiling with books.

The Foyles special collections includes 150,000 items and 12 reader spaces. The collection is rich in the medical field, including Florence Nightingale's works. Foyles doesn't have a large acquisitions budget. They receive between 10-12 new items per year. There are 3 staff members full-time. The reading room is closely monitored by staff, and the patrons may only look at materials in the reading room. Anyone with a student ID is allowed to use the collection. Most users are post graduate and research students. One of the items shown was a rare Low German Bible. It was printed in Halberstadt in 1520. There was an illustration on one page of the 4 horses mentioned in Revelations.

Monday, July 26, 2010

National Archives of Scotland

The National Archives of Scotland is an agency of the Scottish government, headed by the Keeper of the Records. The archives consists of 3 buildings located in Edinburgh, 140 staff, and 8 websites. There are 2 Divisions: Record Services Division and Corporate Services Division. The Record Services Division includes government records, court and legal records, collection development. The Corporate Services Division includes accomodation services, finance and administration, information and communications technology, conservation, and reader services. The archives' holdings consists of 70 km of records, ranging from the 12th-21st century. Subjects include government, business, railway and private records, wills, valuation rolls, maps, and photographs.

The tour began in the General Register House. In the Historical Search Room, the public is allowed to use the room for research. The West Register House, opened in 1995, houses the conservation department. The archives' recent developments include an online catalog, 'virtual volumes' located in house, access to Scottish wills (1500-1901), digitzation of the Church of Scotland Records and Scottish Documents website, registers archive conversion project, valuation rolls project, and the Scotlands People Centre. This special collection includes Robert Burns' will and prison registers with photos. The Register of Deeds is located on the 1st floor. It was redesigned 2 years ago. A fireproof system was built, making the walls and floors of stone, rather than wood. Included in the library is a statue of George III, sculpted by Anne Seymour Damer.

Dunfermline Public Library

The Dunfermline Public Library was built in 1883. The library was a success when it first opened, and it included a museum and a ladies reading room. Their lending includes a mixture of old and new materials. The teenage section is very popular, and was moved into the regular stacks. Computer classes for the elderly are available in the library. Participants learn how to send emails and learn other basic computer skills. The classes are done throughout Fife. The collections include Chinese and Polish, as well as an exhibition about Fife. Dunfermline is a branch library. The Abbey Room used to be the Music Library and the YA room. Unfortunately, every Music Library in Fife was stopped last year. Dunfermline has plans to build a new museum next to the library. There are 28 staff members based in Dunfermline. They provide staff for other branches when needed.

There are several unique departments within the Dunfermline Public Library. The Children's Library opened in the 1930s and it now participates in school visits. The Local History Department includes a dedicated staff, as well as books, maps, and slides. The Special/Rare Collections holds many things, including the Dunfermline Press. The collection dates back to the 1850s. Locals have donated items for the public. The items in the special collection are not for loan, binding is send to outside sources, and the stacks are climate controlled. The library doesn't offer much work to do for conservation. However, the efforts made include using acid free paper and boxes for the materials. The Murison Burns Collection consists of collected Burns books and busts. The collection is still growing. The International Geneological Index (IGI) is dated pre 1865, contains the Parish index from mostly Fife, and is located near the special collections. The Reference section is open access and includes photocopies and books.

Central Library at Edinburgh

Our tour at the Central Library at Edinburgh was filled with information about the different departments within the library. First, Allison presented information about the Library Development of Digitization (Digital Library). The Virtual Library was developed only a year ago. It provides 24/7 availability and brings e-services together. Their upcoming project are downloadable e-books. The library has discovered that patrons are wanting more online resources, rather than searching through the reference section. Your Edinburgh is a community website on the library's main page. The focus is providing information that people really need. The webpage also has a photo collection, which consists of 3,500 photographs. The Images of Edinburgh shows how the city has changed over the years. 2,000 patrons are subscribed to the e-newsletter. This is a great tool for patrons to know what is going on in the library. The library also has a Wordpress blog, Tales of One City, which promotes the library. They post daily. Twitter is also a very effective way of communicating and monitoring what patrons say about the library.

Annie Bell and Colin discussed the Reader Development department. The purpose of this department is engaging with readers, and learning how to expound their reading and library experience. They have author events. Author events are usually once a month, between 150-180 people attend, and the writers are generally Scottish. "Crime in the City" was a crime themed author month where different crime authors went around the city, promoting their books. Reading groups are very popular within the 26branches of the library at Edinburgh. There are over 100 reading groups, but most are private. Another program that has been implemented is Read A Loud, which consists of reading poetry and showing photos to the elderly. There are 5 care homes in Edinburgh that participate.

Karen talked about conservation and special collections. The collection dates back from the 15th century to present. Their preservation is usually done outside the library by conservators. The trouble with conservation is money. It costs 500£ to de-acidify a book. Karen's advice is to always justify your decisions when it comes to conserving.

National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland holds 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps, 30,000 music scores, 32,000 films and videos, and 25,000 newspaper and magazine titles. There are 6,000 items received every week. The library grew out of the Library of the Faculty of Advocates. The Advocates of the Library was established in 1689. The Advocate Library was granted the right to claim a copy of every book published in the British Isles under the 1710 Copyright Act. Sir Alexander Grant of Forres donated to help build the George IV building, which is where the library is currently located. In 1956, the George IV building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. The building has a total of 15 floors. However, this wasn't enough to hold the massive collection and a new building, the Causeway, was added in 1995.

Our tour included the John McMurray Archive, which is located in the George IV building. John McMurray first set up shop in 1768 on Fleet St. He was a native of Edinburgh. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Lord Byron are a few of many authors he published. In 2002, John Murray VII offered the archive to the NLS. The archive includes information and artifacts from Walter Scott, Lord Byron, and Jane Austen. Scott and Murray founded the Quarterly Review. One of Scott's accomplishments was inventing the historical novel. His motto, "I shall be safe when enclosed", was placed inside his books. Lord Byron invented the "Byronic" hero, because of his exotic life of fashion and adventure. He loved the mysterious and was a swordsman and fighter. Jane Austen, unlike both men, had to publish her works anonymously. Her brother and father supported her writings, and her sister, Cassandra, was her closest friend. Murray published the 1st edition of Emma in 1815 and the 2nd edition of Mansfield Park in 1816.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Bodleian Library at Oxford

First, I would like to say Oxford was BEAUTIFUL! The campus is gorgeous and I took tons of pictures! The tour began in the DaVinci School, which was built in 1488. The first actual lecture of Oxford took place in 1096 in the church. In the beginning, students admitted to Oxford only studied for employment purposes. The two choices at that time were working for the church or the crown. In the DaVinci School, when a student was giving a dissertation, the process was called examination by oral disputation. You were placed at a podium in the front of the room, surrounded by all your colleagues and professors, followed by a professor in the back, who would question you throughout the entire oral examination. Talk about stressful! Oxford currently has 39 colleges and is the oldest university in the English speaking world. Our tour led into two other rooms, the Sheldonian and the Complication House. The Sheldonian is Oxford's court. It is the oldest surviving court. The Complication House, built in 1637, is where the Parliament of the University held meetings.

The Bodleian is the oldest public library in England and the 2nd largest library. They receive 5,500 new additions per week. Most books are written in Sanskrit and the second most language the books are written in is Hebrew. The initial collection did not contain a single book written in English because English was not a language deemed worthy of studying during that time period. The Bodleian was built in 1488. In 1515, King Edward VI ordered all superstitious material gone. The library was forced to sell their rare materials, and also to close their doors. It soon became a school of medicine. In 1598, Sir Thomas Bodley wrote to the college about restoring the library. Between 1598-1602, the new library was built. The library now has 3 floors underground, with a tunnel leading to the other buildings where the collections are stored. Books are always delivered on the trolley system. The library spends over 1 million pounds restoring the books. Google generously donated millions to digitize parts of the collection. Another interesting fact about the Bodleian is that the invasion maps for Normandy for D-Day were developed in the library.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum first opened in 1852. The museum went through a few moves and finally rested in 1857 in its current location. The library's collection holds 2 million items, including 8,000 periodical titles. They use Horizon software and have all their items cataloged in the online catalog. The stacks are organized by size, rather than call number. The collection was deemed for educational purposes. In the 1970's, Art History became popular in the UK and gained a place within the museum's library. The library is the biggest department within the museum and they receive all incoming items to be cataloged. Their goal is more towards preservation, than conservation. There is no temperature control within the library. It is connected to the museum, rather than being in a separate location.

We also had a peek at some of their special collections. These items include Shakespeare's first folio, a 17th century Islamic binding, a proof copy of Dicken's Bleak House, and a monthly edition of Bleak House (which was sent from 1852-1853). We were unable to see DaVinci's real notebooks (they have 3 of the notebooks), but we were able to see a copy. The copy gave a pretty close idea of how the actual notebook would look, including the backwards writing style. The library also holds 75% of all English crests in their collection. The Islamic binding was very ornate, with a rich blue background, and garnishes covering the rest of the binding. Seeing Dicken's handwriting on his own work was an amazing sight!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

London Library

The London Library tour began in the Preservation and Stack Management Department. Stella Worthington talked to us about this department and shared their past and present accomplishments in the library. The department's main job is keeping the books in the best possible condition. The rare books began in the basement of the library but had to be moved because the physical conditions were harming the books. To date, the London Library has processed 35,000 rare books. The library has a conservator on staff, including student workers that help with conservation. One goal the library is concentrating on is minimizing the change in temperature in the stacks. The most unique aspect of the London Library is that it's a lending library. Some of the collection dates back to the 1700s, but patrons are able to check out and take the books outside of the library. The London Library is the largest independent lending library in the world. It has 7,500 members. Another perk to joining the library is there are no late fees! The minimum check out time for a book is 2 months, and the book may be renewed continually until another patron recalls the material. The online catalog is a work in progress, with 42% of the books that haven't been electronically cataloged. Their fastest growing collection is Art. All of the books are organized by size, rather than call number. Patrons are able to freely browse the stacks for materials, but they must closely follow the call number listed in the catalog to ensure they're in the right section and the right shelf. The tour guides were very enthusiastic and showed a love for the library they are representing. The building itself is incredible. The staff joked about getting lost inside the library, but I definitely understand now why the library is considered a labrynth! Patrons and friends of the library still donate items to this day to the library. There are 18 miles of shelving and 1,000,000 books are held inside this library.

National Maritime Museum

We toured the Caird Library, which is one of the largest Maritime Libraries in the world. The collection is quite unique, holding papers, archives, and rare books on immigration, piracy, astronomy, voyages and explorations, and naval architecture. The library was donated by Sir James Caird and has been open to the public since 1937. The hours have been minimized to only 3 days a week because of their future plans for a new building. The move is supposed to help with the accessibility of the library. Since the library is located in the back of the museum, it's currently a hidden secret. The new facility is supposed to bring in more patrons and be easier to locate. The Caird Library holds 8,000 rare books and 20,000 periodicals. There are 70,000 records and the archives contains over 4 miles of shelving. Caird Library is publicly funded. Martin and Hannah divided the group up to show us some of the rare collections the Caird Library holds. The Principles of Mr. Harrison's Timekeeper contains Harrison's accurate timekeeper. He had four models, H1,2,3, and 4. The fourth won the award in 1769 for being the most accurate timekeeper. One of my favorites was the Aurora Staris, which was the first book ever printed, illustrated, and bound in the Antarctic. Apparently, printing books was a popular past time in Antarctica. The printing press was donated and accompanied the journey. The book is 120 pages, containing poems and illustrations. George Marson. the on board artist, made the illustrations. Another interesting piece were the small books on the narrative of the Royal George. The ship sank during a repair, killing 900 people. The author of the books is unknown. There are detailed illustrations of the ship sinking and include many different accounts of the sinking.

British Library

My favorite part of the British Library is that the stacks can be seen as a work of art within the library. The stacks are in the middle of the library and can be seen because the room is encased in glass. Although the patron is unable to search the stacks physically for the book, they can actually look at the stacks through the glass. The British Library opened in 1998. The building is immense, which is reasonable because of the heavy flow of patrons and visitors using and touring the facility. It receives 8,000 new publications daily. The Library holds a copy of every book published in the UK. Contrary to belief, there are more books being published now than in the 1960's. The basement reaches 75 ft. below ground (quite a basement!). Our tour guide, Heather Moorely, informed us that the Northern Line does run through the basement, because it is so far below ground. All books are stored in the basement facility. Books are stored by size, not call number, which utilizes all of their space efficiently. The basement is kept at 16 degrees Celsuis, or 60.8 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping the books a consistently cool temperature. When a patron requests a book, there is a ticket printed out for the book, and it is retrieved. The ticket stub is left in the space the book belongs, keeping the record of the book's absence in the stacks. The book is placed on a trolley and sent upstairs. A book has never gone missing by using the trolley system. Rare books are sent up by hand. The patron will then be able to access the book in a reading room. You must be 18 or older to get a reader's card, which allows patrons to access the materials.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

British Museum Archives

I love museums, but I hate how I always spend too much time in one place! Going into a museum as large as the British Museum, I find I have to keep track of time so I can see everything! The Europe and Egyptian exhibits were my favorite, especially the mummies! The Archives tour was amazing! I'm starting to enjoy archives more and more after our visits. Learning that the history of the museum can be found in the records held in archives proves how vital this department truly is. The archive records are trustees records from as early as the 1760s. The records are split into governance, staff and finances, the building, exhibitions, and the reading records. The Book of Presents, which also began in the 1760s, contains the information of the person who donated an item, their address, and whether they received a letter of thanks. Also, the receipt of the donation can be found with the record. Another item we viewed was a Letter Book. These are records of the letters of conversation from the excavationists to the director. There are 8,000 photographs held in the archives. These photographs consist mainly of the exhibits within and photographs of the outside of the building. We were shown pictures of the damage done to the archives during WWII, including a shell found inside the Museum!
I loved this tour because of all the information given and shown to us. The highlight was definitely taking a peek at Karl Marx and T.S. Eliot's signatures! The archives in the British Museum contains so much valuable information about the history of the evolution of the museum and everything contained within.

Barbican Library

In my opinion, the Barbican Library showed how similar the public library system is in England and the U.S. This opinion is solely based on one UK public library visit. I don't have experience working in a public library, but from a patron's eye, they appear similar. The stacks appeared similarly organized, including displays placed throughout the library. Some of our tour focused on the improvements made to the efficiency of the library- including self check-out machines. Before entering the Barbican Library, there is an automated return box that prints a return receipt. We also learned about the demographics of the surrounding area the Barbicon represents. While 9,000 natives of the area use the Library, 350,000 patrons only come into the city for work, often using a lunch break to check out items from the Barbicon. However, 75% of those who live near the Barbicon, use it.
What most interested me about this library visit was the music collection. Richard Jones, the assistant Music Librarian, guided us through this part of the tour. He first spoke about the dangers that music libraries often face in London- budget cuts. Most music libraries are the first to be cut, when the money runs out. The Barbican Music Library is considered to be the flagship music library in London. Music libraries in London are still popular because they hold the traditional cultures of London- choral singing. The scores are uniquely cataloged in the McColvin and Reed system, rather than the Dewey Decimal System. The music librarians catalog their own music scores before sending them to be bound. This is the most tedious and costly part of the music score collection. The music library is also equipped with a collection of CDs and listening booths. Their newest feature is a self check-out machine for CDs.
I found out what Dr. Welsch was talking about when she said it's hard to get around in the Barbicon. After the library tour, I found myself wandering and wandering to find the exit! I must talk about Nevermore. INCREDIBLE! When I heard it was called Nevermore, I was hoping it'd be something about E.A. Poe! He's one of my favorite writers and I loved every second of the show! The costumes looked like they were extras from a Tim Burton film (which I also love!!). The music blended perfectly with the dark tone of his life's story. All in all, a perfect end to a wonderful day!

Monday, July 5, 2010

St. Paul's Cathedral and Library

I'm excited that St. Paul's Cathedral was our first class tour because it really set the tone for the course! I loved that we were able to visit the Library and see something rare- something that most people never get to see. I don't have any experience with rare collections or archives, but the tour today has definitely peaked my interest.

A few things I learned about St. Paul's
~ In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. preached there before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize
~ In 2001, St. Paul's was the gathering place of Londoners who mourned 9/11
~ In 2002, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the Golden Jubilee at St. Paul's

Currently, St. Paul's has an exhibition organized by ALMA (Angola London Mozambique Association) and it is part of the 2010 City of London festival. The exhibit contains 3 very unique works of art- 'The Pianist', 'The Bird of Peace', and 'The Music Man'. All three are made entirely of de-commissioned weapons. This project was begun by Bishop Dinis Sengulane. He believed that the quantity of privately owned weapons was the biggest threat to the future peace of Southern Mozambique. In 1992, he, along with the Christian Council of Mozambique and Christian Aid, encouraged people to exchange their weapons for useful products like ploughs, gardening tools, sewing-machines, and bicycles. Now, there are have been a reported 700,000 weapons that have been turned in because of this project. Their new focus for 2010 is 'Weapons for Water', which allows communities to receive wells as compensation for their weapons.

Last, but not least, St. Paul's Library tour! First was the Trophy/Model Room. This room holds Sir Christopher Wren's "First Model" of St. Paul's. His first idea was rejected because the model resembled St. Peter's in Rome. The model was breathtaking. It filled the entire room. The next stop was the Library. The room had the same structure as the Trophy room, which holds the "First Model". Joe Wisdom (my first and favorite tour guide!) stated that the Trophy room was most likely created to be a library. The Library was amazing! I would love to be a part of working with a special collection, especially something as rare as St. Paul's Cathedral Library collections!

First weekend in London!

For some reason, I've always had the short end of the stick when it comes to traveling. First, before I even entered the Jackson airport, I noticed my suitcase was a bit soaked on one side. The wrinkle free spray that I had been searching all over Tuscaloosa for was leaking out into my luggage and on my clothes. What a wonderful way to start out a trip overseas! ;-) By the time I arrived in London, the next day, my clothes had a very unpleasant smell. Jetlagged and all, I started my laundry around 10 p.m., finished up around midnight, and finally got some sleep! The main thing I noticed the first night was how loud the city is at night. There are two bus stops outside of our dorm, plus the neverending flow of cars and traffic, and every once in a while I hear the occasional police or ambulance siren (by the way, police and ambulance sirens make a particular shrill, earsplitting noise here). I must admit, living on a dead end road does have its advantages. Like everything else, I'm getting use to the noises at night, and maybe soon I'll be able to drown it out with a fan! Speaking of fan, did you know that if you buy a fan here, it does not come assembled? I was quite surprised to see my fan in 15 pieces when I pulled it out of the box! I guess that means I could be a lazy American :-)

Ok now to the good stuff: What have I seen so far? Tons! When we first entered into London we drove past Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. I grabbed some quick photos from the bus of those and the Eye, which is the largest ferris wheel in the world. Maybe, when I gather up the courage, I'll go for a ride on it before I leave! Just maybe... Saturday afternoon I took my first walkabout and found some pretty tiny, but amazing book stores! One was full of first editions of many famous books. There was an entire shelf of Alice in Wonderland books! Saturday evening we walked around Buckingham Palace and snapped some photos of the guards. We were too late to go for a tour, but I will be back! Sunday I had the Abbey Road walkabout. Definitely had chills. Abbey Road happens to be a crosswalk on a very busy street. One thing I learned quickly is that cars have the right away. ALWAYS. I got a few pictures of the crosswalk, but my favorite part was the wall where fans wrote to the Beatles! I have plenty of pictures of that, and I will be going back with a marker or two :-) Sunday afternoon, we found the Harry Potter bridge! To be more specific, it was the bridge that the Death Eaters destroyed in the 6th film. After crossing the bridge, we found St. Paul's Cathedral and tried to get into Ye Ole Cheshire Cheese, but it was closed! We found another place to eat and had yet another amazing meal. Speaking of the food, I haven't eaten a bad meal yet! Yes, it's a little different, and yes I'm taking pictures of everything I eat so you can see for yourself!
Well, that was my weekend!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Harry Potter Series (Review)

It took me a VERY long time until I finally sat down and read these books! I'm ashamed to say I just finished the books last August. I've kept up with the movies and now I have a comparison to finally make. I know the book is always better than the movie, but I was shocked at how much content was left out of the films. The movies are still incredible, but nothing compares to the books. J.K. Rowling has a lovely imagination that captivates the reader of these books. She created Quiddich! I was hooked into Harry's world while reading these books, and even had a few Harry Potter dreams. I couldn't have been more heartbroken to finish these books, and the fact that I won't be visiting Hogwarts any time soon. I remember reading these books late into the night, and texting my friend Amanda about how much the movies left out. I'm sure she loved the 1,2, and 3 am texts about Harry Potter! If ever I were able to visit an imaginary place, Hogwarts would be at the top of my list. The fourth book was my favorite because of the Tri-Wizard's Tournament. Every book never failed to have an out of this world adventure in store for Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I was so afraid that a major character would die in the last book, but I finished the series pretty satisfied with the results. Do I think the stories could and should continue? DEFINITELY!

The Awakening (Review)

I read The Awakening in my American Lit class. Out of all the books assigned to read as an English major, this book was my favorite. Edna Pontellier, while not having the finest of names, became a revolutionary in her time. The Awakening is set in New Orleans, LA at the turn of the 19th century. What set Edna apart from most women was her desire to do more than gossip and sip tea. She wanted to be free from her societal standards as a woman and mother. All of this was revealed to her over her summer vacation at Grand Isle. She met Roberto Lebrun, and soon found there was more than friendship involved in their relationship. However, after the summer he moved to Mexico to escape the situation. Her "awakening" is encountered when she first learns to swim. Her personal brush with the dangers of the sea pushed her hopes and desires into action. Soon after her swim lesson, her husband, Leonce, took a business trip to New York and sent their two children to his mother's house, leaving Edna home alone with her thoughts. She pursued her independence by moving out of her house and beginning her career in the arts. At this point in the novel, she has become a self sustaining woman, which was her goal. Roberto declares his love to Edna after his return from Mexico. Through a series of unfortunate events, Edna is never able to give her response and Roberto left with a note expressing he wouldn't return. Edna decides to go back to the place that started it all- the ocean. Slipping into the one place that she felt she had conquered, she is overcome and drowns. This novel is a precursor to the feminist movement that would soon emerge in America and throughout the world.

The Private John Lennon (Review)

This book was a product of a serendipitous find in the Music library in Gorgas. I have always loved the Beatles, especially John Lennon. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in John Lennon's life or involvement with the Beatles. What I loved most about this book is that it's written by Julia Baird, John's stepsister. The Private John Lennon portrays John as a brother, being a part of his Liverpool band, the Silver Beatles, and transforming into one of the most renowned bands in the history of music. I've been wanting to read about the history of the Beatles, particularly John Lennon, for some time, but haven't had the time. Most Beatles books I've seen in Barnes and Nobles resemble the length of War and Peace, and doesn't exactly fit into light reading. This book was only 300 pages, making it a breeze to finish in a week or two.

Now to the content- Julia Baird poured herself into this book. She uncovered many family secrets while working on this novel, and finally received some answers that were never given to her as a child. She re-opens the wound of dealing with the sudden death of her mother in her childhood years. Their mother introduced John to music, buying him his first guitar, which connected him to his lifeline. John was never able to live with his mother and two sisters, making their secret visits precious time. In the eyes of the government, Julia was deemed an unfit mother because she was living with a man she had not married, even though they had two daughters. John lived with the eldest sister, Mary "Mimi" Smith. Julia Baird reflects on childhood memories with her brother John, then shifts into the music scene and describes the first time she saw thousands of girls screaming out her brother's name at a Beatles concert. Once the three sibling grew into adults and pursued separate dreams, the sisters grew apart from John. Julia describes her attempts to reconnect with her brother. Once John moved to New York, he was unable to see his family in England, because he wouldn't be allowed back into the U.S. They communicated through telephone and sometimes letters until John's death. She also writes about her attempts to find her mother's second child, that was given up for adoption.

John's Journal

I have to give all the credit of this post to John McWilliams and his brilliant idea of bringing a journal with us to document our encounters on our road trip to California. He also corrected me at least twenty times that this is a Journal, NOT a Diary!
Here are a few entries from his Journal:
First, score predictions for the National Championship game~
Kirk 24-13- Bama
Me 24-21- Bama
John 24-18- Bama
Final Score: 37-21- Bama!

Monday, January 4, 2010
From Mississippi: 2:27 pm ~It's snowing! 63 miles from Jackson
From Texas: 11:06 pm- Kirk was pulled over by state trooper for license plate light being out. Received only a warning. Nice guy. Had no idea that Texas was playing in the Championship game.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010
5:07 am- We entered Mountain Time. There are windmills with lights in a distance. Kirk declares them, a "ridiculous amount". Two bobcat sightings. According to John, the mountains resemble mashed potatoes and gravy...
6:48 am- Driving beside the Mexican border in Juarez,Mexico. Thousands of lights. Mesmerizing.
1:30 pm- Stopped at ASU and ate at Student Union. Walked to the bookstore after John fed the birds. Proceeded to Sun Devil Stadium, which is impossible to find. Found ASU's Library, which was underground.
Arrived in Huntington Beach, CA 8:24 pm!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Visited UCLA's campus. Apparently it was the first week of school, because they had booths and organizations to sign up for. A stereotypical "surfer guy" kept yelling "Blood Drive!" to everyone that walked past him. We received around 15 handouts for things we'd never attend. Went to a Lakers VS. Clippers game that night. Best text message on the score board: "Tide's ready to saw off some horns!"

Thursday, January 7, 2010
GAME DAY. We spent the entire day at the Rose Bowl Stadium. Picked up our tickets at 10 am. Row 15! They were great seats! We were on the left side of the field goal in Alabama's end zone. Kirk and I had quite an experience getting concessions. There was a huge crowd waiting to get into the tunnel and find their seats. I had a tray full of ketchupped fries when the crowd turned into a stampede! I remember Kirk yelling, "Box 'em out!" from somewhere behind me. No fries or ketchup were spilled during the stampede.

Friday, January 8, 2010
Headed home. We left LA at 12:30 pm. We ate at our last In N Out Burger. It was the best burger I've ever tasted! I saw two simultaneous shooting stars that night.

Saturday, January 9, 2010
8:34 am- John made the side of the Texas highway his restroom.
11: 14 am- stopped for lunch in Oklahoma. Kirk saw two guys with red sweatshirts on and yelled "Roll Tide!" at them. Too bad the sweatshirts were Arizona and Oklahoma.

Sunday, January 10, 2010
12:45 am- Home!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Dark Tower Series (Review)

I began the Dark Tower novels when I was in high school and finished them in college. I have always been a Stephen King fan, so obviously I discovered the series. This series is definitely Stephen King's best work. Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, is left with the burden of saving the world by reaching the Dark Tower before the Man in Black. In the second novel, The Drawing of the Three, he finds his three apprentices, Susannah, Eddie, and Jake. Now that his ka-tet is complete, they begin their journey to save the world. One of the major elements of the novels is time travel, to this world and other worlds. Roland and his ka-tet travel to other wheres and whens throughout the novels. King even creates his own language, High Speech, which is used by the characters they encounter in Roland's world. One of my favorite aspects of the series is that Stephen King incorporates some of his other novels and even events from his own life into the series. Here's a list of his other short stories and books that are connected to the Dark Tower series: 'Salem's Lot, The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Talisman, Black House, It, Insomnia, Regulators, Desperation, Rose Madder, Bag of Bones, From A Buick 8, Skeleton Crew, Hearts in Atlantis, Everything's Eventual, and Little Sisters of Eluria.

This is the list of the novels in the Dark Tower series:
The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Wastelands, Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, The Dark Tower

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Sookie Stackhouse Novels (Review)

I never realized how much I would enjoy fantasy fiction until I read the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Based in rural Louisiana, Sookie the telepathic barmaid encounters her first vampire in Bon Tempts. Bill Compton enters her life and changes everything she used to know about the world. She is introduced into the vampire world and becomes very valuable in the vampire community. As a human lie detector, she uncovers many mysteries through the series and finds that vampires soon become the least of her worries. Sookie encounters shape shifters, werewolves, witches, and even fairies that rock her small town life. There is never a dull moment when reading these novels and it's a wonderful escape from the everyday.

Here's a list of the books that have been published so far:
Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, All Together Dead, From Dead to Worse, Dead and Gone

The Lovely Bones (Review)

Hearing the hype from the movie, I decided to read The Lovely Bones before watching the movie. WARNING: If you are planning on reading this book, I recommend you not reading this unless you enjoy spoiled endings! It was a wonderfully written book. The vocabulary didn't exactly match a 14 year old girl, but I'm not complaining. I am relieved that the description of Susie's rape and murder was displayed through delicate words, enabling a not so vivid mental picture. The novel revealed the frustration and the vain hope of an unsolved murder. Buckley, the youngest son, was told for months that his oldest sister was sleeping over at a friend's house. Day after day their family waited for her to come home, until the thought of murder sank in. I am sympathetic towards Lindsey, always hiding from her reflection. Everyone, including her father, only saw Susie when they looked through Lindsey's eyes. Lindsey remained the strongest character in the Salmon family. She alone broke into George Harvy's house and found Susie's crime scene- the man made hole in the cornfield. Her father had suggested, thought, and even interrogated George Harvy but Lindsey followed through. Jack does deserve credit for being as strong as possible for Lindsey and Buckley, remaining their anchor when his wife, Abigail, leaves. I had assumed that justice would prevail early in the book, but I was mistaken. Harvey's actions catch up to him later, resulting in his lonely death by a falling icicle.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Roadtrip to California

Made up my mind, make a new start
Goin' to California with an achin' in my heart
~Led Zeppelin
I didn't go to California with an ache in my heart, but I was California Dreaming on such a winter's day. After two stressful weeks of last minute road trip planning, I was on my way from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Pasadena, California. With the help of two friends, John and Kirk, we made the week long, 4,000 mile journey to watch the National Championship game at the Rose Bowl Stadium. The facts: we drove straight through to California. We left Monday at 11:30 am and arrived at Huntington Beach, CA 8:30 Tuesday night. Wednesday we sunk our toes in the Pacific Ocean, drove through Hollywood, and watched a Lakers game that evening. Thursday, we picked up our tickets at 10 am at the Rose Bowl Stadium and spent the rest of the day soaking in the sun, waiting for the game that's been in every Bama fan's dreams. Friday, satisfied, tired, definitely not thinking about school the following Monday, we slowly started our way back home. We left around 2 pm and arrived back in Tuscaloosa Sunday at 12:45 am.

I was able to purchase a student ticket in the 2nd round of eligible students. I found out 2 weeks before the game that I was going! I stressed through Christmas to find 2 friends to make the journey. After one friend canceled two days before the trip, John and I gave Kirk a phone call, who couldn't pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. I loved the change of scenery that we experienced driving through southwest United States. My favorite state was Arkansas. I loved the weather, the cacti, and the boulders that decorated the highway. We stopped for a few hours to visit Phoenix and we toured Arizona State's campus. It was a cloudless 70 degrees in Phoenix. The worst part about going back to Alabama was the winter weather.