Friday, 1 August 2008

Wednesday, July 16: Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum Library

The class took a different form of transportation for our visit today, boat. The destination, was the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. We jumped on the boat beneath the London Eye and traveled down the Thames. After a quick breakfast we were ready to meet our contact at the Caird Library.

Hannah met the group on the second floor of the museum and gave us a quick introduction to the library. She told us that the library was founded in the 1930's after an enormous donation was made by James Caird, whom the library is named after. We were also informed that the Caird library is the largest research library on maritime history in the world. In the libraries collection is: 100,000 books, 20,000 pamphlets, 20,000 bound periodicals, and 8,000 rare books. Some of the items in the special collections date as far back as the 15th century.

The library allows users anyone above the age of 16 to use the library. It is a reference library only and books cannot be removed from museum. The library has developed on online catalogue and is preparing to update the model in order to make it available to the public. Hannah mentioned that the library recieves between 3,000 to 4,000 visitors a year. Most of these are authors conducting research for books or articles.

The group was then taken quickly through the library and taken to a conference room in the rear of the building. In the conference room where we were met by Renea, a digital servic librarian, and Mike, part of the manuscripts team. Both librarians had selected so items in the collection to talk with us about. Renea chose several books commenting on various aspects of life at sea. One item which was particularly interesting was a 'How-to' book about becoming a sailor. A section even instructed a man how to start a fight with another seaman. Mike's items were primarly manuscripts, logs, or letters. A favorite item in this collection was a captain's log book describing the local flora and fauna. The captain happened to be an apt artist and drew many of these animals in the journal.

I found that both Renea and Mike were very excited about their job and both seemed to enjoy sharing their items with the class. I think that this was due in part because of their involvment in the library and its selection of items. Renea mentioned that she had just recently wrote a request for book and had had it approved. This is the type of environment I would like to work in.

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