On Thursday, we had our final tour of a library as a class – it was somewhat jarring to find ourselves back in the old habit of waking up early and dealing with public transportation in a large group at this point in the program. However, we did our best to shake ourselves awake for the Maughan Library – this is the King’s College academic library. I was surprised to realize that our last visit was, in fact, our very first academic library. Maughan is located in a huge beautiful building that was built in the 1850’s originally to house the public records of London. Once that purpose outgrew the space, the building was repurposed: it was leased from the government by King’s College to bring four distinct academic collections together under one roof. This promoted access for students and allowed the academic library to focus more directly on providing services to their constituency, college students.
Since this is the age group that I work with in my professional life (as a university admissions counselor), I was particularly interested to see the ways in which this library would address their specific needs. I was surprised to find that this academic library seems to be far behind our academic library at the University of Arizona in terms of student services. This may be due in part to their historical building, and the fact that any changes to its structure must be approved by the appropriate historical authorities. I wonder, though, if perhaps the lengthy history of academia in the UK may work against it in this sense. Change is slow in higher education no matter where you go – universities and colleges are generally unwieldy institutions in terms of being responsive to new circumstances and needs. The Maughan Library is only this summer instituting self-service capabilities – the University of Arizona library has had this technology in place for a number of years. They spoke of having dedicated areas for social interaction as if it were a brand-new concept, whereas there are entire floors in all the UA libraries dedicated to large tables conducive to group study sessions, as well as cafes, computer labs, and full sections of multimedia work spaces. I am not entirely sure if this lag is due to a wider difference in educational perspectives, a gap in the resources available, or some combination of effects. I also did not hear them make much reference to any user surveys – it was mentioned at one point that the librarians would watch entering students for signs of confusion, and this seemed like a somewhat ineffective means of discerning student needs in comparison to an actual survey sent to all King’s College students.
After the Maughan Library tour, all 35 members of our LIS class entered the Fuller’s Ale & Pie House on Fleet Street. In its “grisly” (but fictional) past, this is the alehouse that was directly between Sweeney Todd’s barbershop and the pie shop of his mistress, Mrs. Lovett. Legend tells us that it was in the vaults and tunnels below Fuller’s that Sweeney Todd’s victims were “butchered before being cooked and sold in in the pies to Mrs. Lovett’s unsuspecting customers.” Yum. In actuality, the pies were one of the best meals I’ve had in England to date: chicken and asparagus!
After our delicious meal, Nicole, Carrie and I wandered down though Covent Garden for some sweets and music – both of which we found in abundance. There is a cupcake shop there called Ella’s Bakehouse!
We walked down toward Lambeth Bridge to check out the Garden Museum at that point, a topic I will tackle in a subsequent post for class! Suffice to say, it was quite pretty – I took a lot of pictures and wished my mom and Grandma could have been there. 🙂 Later that night, a few of us decided to “clear out the fridge” and take some wine, cider and chocolate down to the South Bank. We sat on the grass, in the blue glow underneath the London Eye, drank and laughed and talked. I love the Queen’s Walk at night, have I mentioned that yet? It’s definitely on the list of things I will miss the most. Along with the Tube, the weather, the food, the pubs, the accents… well, it’s a long list.
Alas, it is 12:30 and I am fading fast. I still have a few more days to recount from my trip – a few required posts for class to finish up, as well as a few personal notes to hit before I can close the chapter on this amazing month of my life. But I will have to embark on those writing efforts from my home soil – tomorrow I fly home! I am excited, I won’t lie – I’ve missed more things and people and opportunities than I can list. Goodnight, London. I hope to see you again, very soon.