Sunday, June 19, 2022

Day 11 – King's College Library

Thursday began with breakfast in Regent’s Park with Desiree and Erin. We walked in from Marylebone Road, then followed signs for a café and wound up next to some tennis courts. I had a chocolate croissant and inspected the books on a community shelf in the back. I found a book by Annie Groves that looked appealing. The others kept on walking but I returned to the dorm only to learn bad news: one of our group had tested positive and been quarantined in her room for five days. Getting Covid is no joke and being confined to one of these claustrophobic rooms as a heat wave is beginning sounded pretty grim. Everyone was somber when we met for the day’s excursion. We asked Dr. Steele what we could do for the victim and she said a second person (my next-door neighbor) also had symptoms and was going to get tested as well. I had been wearing a mask pretty steadily but now everyone from USM was told to wear one. Apparently, the Gothic Studies group has several people sick as well (I feel there is some significance there but am not sure exactly what).
King’s College is not as old or prestigious as Oxford but it is a highly regarded public university founded in the 19th century by Prinny (aka George IV – he’s the King of the College) and the Duke of Wellington. It was founded as a secular institution which meant Catholics could attend, which was not permitted at Oxford or Cambridge in the early 19th century prior to the Catholic Relief Act 1829, which secured some civil rights for Catholics in England. King’s is known for social sciences, hard sciences, law, and medicine, including the world-famous Guy’s Hospital (which featured in some of the books I used to read).
Stained glass in the Weston Room
King’s College Maughan Library and Special Collections is located in central London, at the University’s Strand campus, close to Fleet Street and the Temple Library we visited our first day (see website).  The university acquired the building in 2001 and the same Weston Corporation that provided Oxford with a huge addition also renovated a ground-floor room with gorgeous stained glass windows. Our hosts had brought out some of their most interesting treasures to show us and had created a PowerPoint to walk us “fellow professionals” through them. Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections and Engagement, and Adam Ray, Special Collections Manager, were joined by two young women who were library assistants doing one-year work experience prior to attending library school. They work on blogging and digitization as well as supporting the other librarians.
An 18th century chapbook
The Foyle Special Collection holds over 200,000 items – printed books and periodicals, as well as maps, slides, manuscripts, and photographs – ranging in date from 1483 to the present day. A number of their collections have been absorbed or lent from other institutions. The largest collection is from the government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which contains more than 80,000 items. The library possesses several books from the first decade of printing. They use the international standard, DCRM, for cataloging because it pays more attention to the physical details of the item and allows more information about the ownership history. They try to work closely with students and sponsor a history graduate student who works on special projects. There are nine staff in special collections and about 100 in the actual library. The special collections are open on weekdays to King's staff and students as well as to the public. Visitors who are not affiliated with King’s need to make an appointment.
King's College
They had chosen several valuable items with American connections to show us, including a book containing some of the earliest maps of New England, published in 1634 and The charters of the province of Pennsylvania and city of Philadelphia, printed and sold by Ben Franklin himself in 1743. A book from Britain’s Colonial Office was a bound collection of all the ceremonial goodbye letters of Secretaries of State on leaving the Colonial Office, and included handwritten notes from Gladstone and Churchill and a Duke of Devonshire. I also liked the selection of 18th-century chapbooks.
The tour of the building was a bit of a letdown after seeing all these impressive items, although we did admire the Library’s Round Reading Room (lovely but so hot I wondered how anyone could study).

As I mentioned, a heat wave was melting everyone in London: hosts and guests all looked wilted. The King’s staff thoughtfully provided tea at the end of our visit and conversation. I told Adam how hard it is to come up with a research topic when one is perpetually distracted by London and how I had looked forward to getting a Reader’s Pass at the British Library but now their system is down and no one can request books. He said I could email him and he would look to see where there were good archives of children’s books, which was very kind.
The Round Reading Room
After thanking our hosts, we headed on our way. I left the group and found the little Shoe Lane (which sounds more charming than it is) public library branch off Fleet Street. I had checked the online catalog but was still glad to find a copy of The Children of Green Knowe. I wish I had brought my own book from home but was trying to keep my luggage light, haha. The library was having a book sale – 5 paperbacks for £1. It was hard to choose and the librarian told me to come back later in the month as there would be more! I told her it was already going to be hard to carry all my purchases home. She was very nice although puzzled about my library card which had apparently not been set up perfectly at the Barbican. On the way home, I stopped at the Marks and Spencer on Oxford Street and bought food and laundry detergent. After I ate, I wrestled with the convoluted system used by the University of Westminster and managed to do a load of laundry. I figured if we were all at risk of Covid, I wanted to be quarantined with clean clothes!
Miles walked: 4.2
Books acquired: 1 at the tennis café, 5 at the Shoe Lane Library


Helen said...

I'm enjoying reading your posts, even if I haven't had time to comment on them all! Sorry to hear about the Covid - I hope you're managing to avoid it.

TracyK said...

I am enjoying hearing about all your library visits AND book purchases. And I am envious.

Really sorry to hear about people in the group with Covid and I hope that you and others in the group can avoid it.

Katrina said...

Thank you, I've been avoiding London for decades but your experiences make me think I should maybe bite the bullet and visit.

CLM said...

Thanks for the good wishes! I am feeling fine and have been wearing a mask carefully except when eating (admittedly, usually in public places) but I feel so bad for my two classmates. They are supposed to get out of quarantine today, however, and no one else has got sick, which is good, but they missed two things I didn't sign up for but they were looking forward to - an immersive Great Gatsby show (I didn't think it sounded fun but others dressed up and enjoyed it, including my professor) and a day trip to Brighton, which I have already visited.

Katrina, London is worth the expense and occasional chaos if you plan well. However, it is crazy today because there is another Tube strike. It took me two hours to get from one not-very-far part of the city to the Foundling Museum and I practically collapsed when I got there as it was very hot. No water fountain (I guess they are not common, which must be why everyone travels with water bottles). I was too hot to stay long but retraced my steps to the best Waterstone's I have ever been in, near Russell Street. I must have looked at the end of my tether: the woman in the coffee shop gave me an extra Raspberry and Almond Bakewell with my tea.

Ms. Yingling said...

Getting stuck walking around London, even in the heat, beats walking around home! Thank you for sharing your experiences, and glad you found The Children of Greene Knowe. Hope you manage to stay healthy. London. Sigh. My dream is to visit in the fall sometime!