Sunday, December 24, 2017

Thoughts on my Days in the British Library

I spent my last 10 days in the UK mostly reading at the British Library.  Amazing.  What a place!  It's like the British people have given a gift to the world.  Well, probably some of it was stolen.  But what I read was pretty much all texts (manuscript and print) produced in England, often London, so those weren't stolen from afar.

The catalog system isn't as straightforward as it should be, especially requesting manuscripts.  Some of the librarians are fabulous, some less helpful.  (I tried to sign up for a session with a librarian, and I sort of had one, but not an official one because no one responded to my official request.  And the librarian I met with was less helpful than one would have hoped.

Figuring out the catalog moderately well made everything go better, but that took a while.  Fortunately, I'd started trying to figure things out (and did pretty well on print texts) in September, so that by the time I was really in London steadily, I was finding my stuff pretty well.

By the end of my time, I was doing that thing where you'd go through one day feeling like I'd pretty much read everything I needed to, and then near the end of the day I'd make a tiny breakthrough and realize I had a whole other area to read in, or had found some number of texts through a different search strategy in the catalog.  And the next day I'd have a full, full day, and the third day, I'd be back thinking I'd read pretty much what I needed to, until late in the day, I'd find more.  By the very end, I really was beginning to feel like I'd gotten a handle on a lot, and the one thing I wanted to look at was being "used" or held or something by another reader.

There's really nothing as good as holding a physical book in your hands and reading it, especially if it's a manuscript and a little hard to read.  But even a printed book is a lot easier to flip through to find things in person than a digital version ever seems to be.

Despite staying at a hotel with a good sized room and en suite bathroom, within a short walk of the Library, I was pretty much reading to be not staying at a hotel after 10 days.

So now, of course, I've had a few days at home, and then went on the road to my siblings where I'm staying for the holidays.  And then my Mother will come home with me for a few days, which I'm stressing out about because my house is dusty and I didn't really have time to settle back in.  Between she and my brother, she invited herself, and I couldn't say "no" of course, and wouldn't, but I'd like a bit of time to myself to settle back into my home and organize my British Library notes for the next step before I forget everything.

I haven't played the violin since mid-August.  I brought it along to my siblings, but would really like to just have time to myself without feeling like there's a judgmental audience listening and ready to comment.


  1. Welcome home -- I'm so glad you had such a great semester in England and your European travels!

  2. The British library is the one thing I've always wanted to see in England -- jealous!