Busman’s Holiday

Trinity College Library
Photo by Brett Jordon /flicker

A Busman’s Holiday is defined as “A vacation during which one engages in activity that is similar to one’s usual work.” by the American Heritage Dictionary. The Urban dictionary adds “Comes from the late 1800’s, where a man who drives a bus for a living goes on a long bus journey on their holiday.”

So, do people who work in libraries also visit libraries while on vacation. I had the good fortune to visit the library at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Famous for having the Book of Kells, a 9th-century gospel manuscript famous throughout the world. After viewing the book, you proceed upstairs to the magnificent Long Room which houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books in its oak bookcases. It is beyond doubt, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.I posed this question to several other members of our staff here at Langsdale Library, and I’d like to share a portion of those responses here.

Lucy Holman, our Director here at Lansdale shared that she visited the Alexandria Library in Egypt a couple of years ago. “It was amazing to visit a library that is both incredibly modern and ancient. The building’s architecture lends itself to a library of the 21st century, but the collections include scrolls and manuscripts dating back to the Roman and Byzantine empires. The library welcomes the average Egyptian student and citizen as well as leading scholars from around the world. Standing near the top of the library looking down at floors and floors of collections and users was dizzying, both literally and figuratively!”
Ivy Owens, our cataloger and member of the Technical Services department recalls libraries in Great Britain.
“Yes, always!—or visited bookstores. I especially like Hay-on-Wye, Wales because it has 38 bookstores and a public library where I picked up library information in Welsh! The Welsh word for Library is “Llyfregell” which is pronounced “clevergueth.” My daughter’s dorm library at Cambridge has everything arranged by the Dewey Decimal System, which they so rudely call the Standard Decimal System. I had to use my Langsdale staff card to be allowed into the main Cambridge University Library to get to the West Room which has all the cool old mysteries.”
Delores Redman, intercampus loan coordinator and member of the Book and Document Delivery department remembers visiting the Library of Congress.“Well, about 6 years ago, when I was helping ILL part time, the MAILL visited the Library of Congress, so that was pretty cool, and it was great being in DC. The Marble room was pretty astounding to see. (made of all marble of course.)”
Erin Toepfner, library technician and member of the Circulation Department also talks about a library close to home.
“I guess the closest I’ve come to sightseeing a library was during an interview I had at the Peabody Library. While I waited to interview for a secretarial position, I was able to visit the library and wow. It’s really amazing. All gleaming wood and old books. My favorite libraries tend to be the old-world kind. Leather-bound books and mahogany—that’s what I look for in a library, and what I’m trying to do with my own mini library at home”
Jeffrey Hutson, Associate Director for Public Services found it difficult to talk about just one visit to a library while on holiday.
“In Europe there are a great many wonderful and beautiful libraries, but most of them are private. Public libraries aren’t nearly as abundant in Europe as they are in the US, but what impressed me about the main public library in Vienna, Austria is that it is built on top of a subway station which happens to be in the middle one of the city’s busiest streets. . .I mean talk about access to the common people. . .it’s genius! Architechturally, the building is quite stunning — it’s very modern, almost resembling a pyramid, except that it’s quite long and narrow. . .and in true Viennese style, there is a cafe on the uppermost level of the library! “
Adele Marley, Circulation Technician and member of the Circulation Department experience the ultra modern library on her visit with her brother.
“When I visited my brother in San Francisco in the 1990s, he took me to the main branch of the then-recently constructed SFPL. It was really astonishingly modern, and I don’t think I’d seen so many patrons in any library on a Sunday. They were swamped! There were so many places for people to sit and read comfortably or study. This was sort of before laptops were in wide use, so people were actually reading books. I remember thinking that the library was the size of a shopping mall, and it was just filled with natural light.”
Carol Vaeth, Book and Document Delivery Supervisor, joins Ivy in her praise of British libraries.
“Actually, I had the pleasure of going to the library in Oxford, England. We were only allowed on the first floor, so didn’t get to see very much. Such a tease!!”
Catherine Johnson, Instruction Coordinator and member of the Reference department recalls her special grandparent and visits to his “library”.
“I have visited some beautiful libraries but my favorite library was not technically a library at all. I certainly inherited my love of organizing and sharing information from my grandfather. He packed his basement with information and developed his own system for organizing that information. I always enjoyed my trips to Grandpa’s basement because I always found things that were fascinating and unexpected – and I almost always have that same experience in libraries.”
Peter Ramsey, Instruction Librarian and member of the Reference department adds another voice to those praising the U.K. libraries.
“ While in grad school I attended a summer seminar at “The University of Oxford” all about academic librarianship in the UK. As it turns out, the library system at Oxford U consists of over 100 separate libraries, and many of them have aged quite nicely. There were a number of highlights during our various tours, but one that particularly stands out is seeing the basement of the Bodleian Library. There was a cranky old conveyer belt system to move books up to the reading rooms and many of the books were stored in compact shelving that was suspended from I-beams to hang about an inch above the floor
Another highlight was the swearing in process we did in order to get a library card. We each had to recite the following to a staff member:
I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.

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