Skip to main content

The joys of the British Library Reading Rooms

So here's the reason why you will never catch me dead in the Business reading rooms at the British Library.  I know nobody is asking, and nobody cares, but I am on a tea break and need some way chill.

Last week I sat in the coffee shop opposite the library waiting for the magical moment when the doors open and you enter the pristine stillness of that glorious building, filled only with the keenest and most determined of researchers.  Next to me in the coffee shop there was a couple of fellow 'British Libriers' discussing a new invention which they were planning to patent, and which they were working on marketing.  Their conversation was littered with jargon about cost margins and maximization and goodness knows what other horrors.

On the other side of me was another couple of Libriers talking about import/export regulations.

Now, I have nothing against these people.  I find people capable of such feats really rather impressive.  My problem is that I am just not interested.  One of the most constant joys of the British Library is those rare moments when you raise your bleary eyes from the pages of the book you are reading, and they meet by chance the bleary eyes of another reader on a desk next to you or opposite you.

A connection is made.

Perhaps, later in the day, you might pass those same eyes at the water dispenser, or grabbing a coffee - and words might be exchanged.  It is at that moment that you learn about another persons obsession - their passion, the thing that fills their every waking hour.  It might be somebody researching the life of Nehru, or Nyerere.  It might be somebody debating a minute anomaly in Boyle's law, or working on a chapter about masculinity in Indian wrestling.  .

Listening to these people is so often inspiring, fascinating, engrossing.  Such conversations leave you feeling energised and excited to be sharing a library with such people.

Now last week I was in the British Library working on a set of policy documents relating to intellectual property.  Frankly, I was bored senseless.  The very last thing I would have needed at the time would be to strike up a conversation with somebody else doing something similar.  It is (if you will excuse a phrase which really belongs to a younger man than me) 'not my thing'.

So I sat in the Humanities room surrounded by people doing things I was really interested in, while doing myself something which could only elicit from them a polite 'oh, really?'  And it was brilliant.

Next time, there might be somebody there diving headlong into the chaotic theoretical realms of Lawrence Sterne.  Hopefully, it will be me.

Popular posts from this blog

2) Introduction to morphemes

So does language begin with words?

No. Language begins with sounds. It is important to understand this first and foremost. We have already raised this point, but it is worth raising again – language begins with sounds!

If I appear to be emphasizing this with a rather bizarre desperation, it is because it would be easy to think that since we are beginning our exploration of language and linguistics with words that this is where language begins. When you think about it logically though, all words are composed of various sounds grouped together. The word ‘cat’ is composed of three distinct sounds - /c/, /a/ and /t/.

So why aren’t we starting with looking at how sounds create language?

Well, in the not-too-distant past, when European football used to be free on the telly, Manchester United or Arsenal would jet off to Spain for a titanic contest with Barcelona. When the commentators referred to Barcelona, they would pronounce it ‘Bar-se-low-nah’ (bɑ:sɜ:ləʊnæ). After a few years th…

A fond farewell

Every time a new term starts, I find myself wondering what the hell happened to the supposed weeks inbetween?  We leap from teaching, to marking, to assessment boards to enrolments - and after all that, BANG!  Back in the classroom!  At which point we often start wishing there had been at least some time to prepare our classes...

But things have been rather different this time.  About a three months ago I was (admittedly to my own surprise) considered worthy enough to be offered an incredibly exciting job with the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the University of East London.  The regular whirlwind of activity over the Summer then, is having something of a more terminal period: Teaching, marking, assessment boards, enrolments and BANG! I'm walking out of Newham College for the last time!

It is now almost exactly 10 years since I joined Newham College.  The plan then was, at heart, very simple: The residents of Newham Borough represented a vast population …

Moodle looks rubbish: The myth that may be costing HE institutions

It was interesting, but not entirely surprising to read Phil Hill's blog on e-Literate suggesting a dramatic slow-down in the take-up of Moodle in HE Institutions.  Not surprising because there seems to be a myth about Moodle that has always flickered in dark corners and is fanned into flame by for-profit LMS providers at the nearest opportunity.

This myth is that Moodle looks rubbish.

Other LMS providers set up a course content page filled with as many html5 gadgets as they can imagine, and compare it to the most basic topic-format Moodle page.  "There we are!" they declare, "Look how rubbish Moodle looks compared to our system!  And in the modern world where students are using tablets and mobile phones more and more, isn't it important that your University LMS looks smart and contemporary?"

And so Universities look at these other LMS systems and think: 'Ooo, it has this, or it has that!  Our Moodle doesn't have them!'  Which in turn prompts a…