Met Office

The Met Office is the UK’s national weather service. In 2004 its headquarters were moved to Exeter. It is a stunning building, with a sidewalk-inspired interior complete with street lamps, trees and a small creek. The Met is a huge organization, and has its own in-house library and archive. Last week I shadowed their librarians and archivist for a morning.

Trying to find the Met Office proved to be challenging. As a stereotypical twenty-something, I am overly dependent on my phone, and didn’t see the need to print out a map. Mistake #1, as the area is in a GPS black hole. As soon as I left the train station I got turned around. However, with the help of a few nice strangers I was able to make my way to the offices, just making my appointment. Phew.

The Met has a unique setup with both its archives and library on-site. While they are in different buildings and are run by different staff, many of the requests coming into the Met require information from both places. While the library was nice, I was most impressed with the archive. Each storage unit was temperature controlled, with air-decontamination units activating everytime a door opened. Furthermore, it looked like a “proper” archive (aka one from the movies) with its dark looming corridors and copious amounts of fire proofing.

Some of the things I saw (and got to handle!) include the original d-day weather forecast and the first iteration of the Beaufort wind scale, taken from Beufort’s 1806 diary.

Talking tech with the librarians was also very interesting, as their systems are much more advanced than ours at the NHS. I must admit some of the weather-specific language went way over my head though.

Finally I spoke with an Information Officer, who told me more about their user base. As it is a public library, many different types of people request information and want to use their resources. For instance this can include scientists as well as fiction authors wanting meteorological accuracy in their next historical novel. One of their more popular requests is for weather fact-sheets for baby books. What a great idea! Everyone here seemed to enjoy their work, and it seemed to be partly due to this variety.

Overall, it was a very eye-opening trip, and I look forward to the next libraries I visit!

Southmead Hospital

A few days ago I visited Southmead Hospital and library. Recently re-furbished, the library was much bigger and more modern than ours here at Torbay. It’s really great to be able to meet more people in the profession, and one of the things that I liked most about this visit was talking to staff who had previously worked in mental healthcare libraries. Library people are friendly and always ready to give advice. And, graduating with an undergraduate in psychology, I am always eager to see how people integrate the subject into other careers paths. For instance, I learned more about recovery colleges, which “use an educational paradigm to complement traditional treatment approaches.”

After looking around the library, we were taken to the Brunel building, the latest addition to Southmead hospital. Entering, it was immediately apparent why it has been referred to as a “super hospital.” I have never seen anything like it. Looking more like a combination hotel/airport than hospital, there were even trees growing inside. However, my favourite thing had to be the robots. These unmanned robots take everything from bedding to bread around the hospital. A hospital of the future, indeed.



Community Visits: Totnes

After we became an ICO (Integrated Care Organization) last year, the librarians here at Torbay have been eager to visit community hospitals for outreach. Last week I visited Totnes Hospital with my manager to meet with their staff. There’s no designated library there, and the hospital is much smaller and considerably less frantic. Also its interior reminded me of a log-cabin more than anything else. It was interesting to see how they are run, and we arranged to return in the summer to provide information literacy and database training. I’m looking forward to future visits, both to this hospital and others in the area!


Granada (Semana Santa part 2)

Leaving Madrid for Granada at 6:00am, we had one of the nicest long-haul bus rides I’ve ever been on. There was free wifi, individual screens on each seat, and best of all, the most amazing views of the morning fog lifting off the hills. One of my most successful Spanish-speaking moments was also on this bus, as I remembered enough from my IGCSEs to have a small conversation with the woman sitting next to me. Success!

Granada is a beautiful medieval city with a large student population. It was also full of tourists for the holiday. Walking around the center, you can see why it is such an attraction. There is stunning architecture at every turn, and orange trees everywhere. We didn’t take any oranges (is it legal?), but were amazed at the sheer quantity.

After a short lunch and walk we headed off to Güéjar Sierra, a small mountain village about 45 minutes away from the city.

Güéjar Sierra was gorgeous. It’s a ski town, and many of the other visitors were actually skiing on the other side of the mountain. In March! We stayed here in an extremely cute ski house.

On our second day in Granada we decided to take a hike in Monachil, a small village in the Sierra Nevada national park. Even though we couldn’t finish the whole loop (we only had a narrow window here), it was absolutely incredible.

When we got back to Granada from Monachil, we had a couple of hours to spend while waiting for our bus back to the house. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because as we were sitting at the cafe, drinking our chocolate and eating crepes, we got to see a procession go by. The outfits for Semana Santa took a while to get used to. This particular celebration went through Granada, and thousands were out to watch. Don’t worry though, the alter got under the traffic light!


Upon return to Güéjar Sierra, there was a similar procession going on. It was much smaller, and no Nazarenes. It was a really nice ceremony, and all the kids were heavily involved.

On our final day in Granada we wanted to go to the Alhambra, but unfortunately could not get tickets. That’s ok though, because instead we walked around the grounds, and did the Llano de la Perdiz loop. The views were spectacular. There was a playground on the top, with fun workout materials and soccer fields. Because it was a national holiday, there were also many families having barbecues up there.

After coming down from the mountain, we had a few hours for lunch before heading back to Madrid, so of course we had to try the seafood paella. It was warm enough to eat outside (I still am recovering from that sunburn), and we sat for hours just drinking sangria and trying to finish this enormous dish.


And that’s it! Big thank you to my friend for hosting us. I had such an amazing time and was so lucky to be able to visit.

Madrid (Semana Santa part 1)

The past month has just flown by. March was especially busy, as everyone was taking their annual leave before it ran out on April 1st. I had a week to take too, so what did I do? Hop on a plane to Spain!

One of the benefits of living in England (apart from the number of days I get off each year), is that it is very easy and cheap to travel. Growing up internationally, I have friends all over the world, and being here gives me the chance to visit many of them. In Madrid I was staying with a friend from Oxy. I was very lucky, the weather was perfect and I managed to fit in a lot of sightseeing.

Madrid is great for a number of reasons, one being all of parks you can find in the city center. My favorite was the Buen Retiro Park. This is one of the most popular parks in Madrid, and going in you can see why. It was huge, with a fountain, glass palace and book stalls everywhere! It also had tennis courts and ample areas to picnic.

I would be remiss of course, if I didn’t also mention the food. Oh boy. Chocolate and churros, small bocadillos, tapas…all washed down with tinto de verano. I get hungry just thinking about it..

Apart from the food and parks, we spent a whole day just browsing the different museums in Madrid, mainly the Prado and El Reina de Sofia. After spending time in IGCSE history studying the Spanish civil war, it was quite incredible to see Picasso’s Guernica.


On our last day in Madrid we went to El Escorial. Or, more specifically, the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The monastery grounds spread far, and within 45 minutes or so you can reach the top of a hill to get a stunning look of El Escorial.

What a treat! After finishing our few days in Madrid, we took a bus down to Granada to go explore Andalucia. I’ll discuss this leg of the trip in a second blog post.