Day visit to the British Library: personal experiences of the visit and individual conclusions
The purpose of this short paper is to outline the experience I personally had on a recent visit to the British Library. As such, I will describe many of the structural features involved in the visit, in addition to the personal assumptions I made in relation to the effectiveness of the visit.
The main focus of the visit to the British Library was to enhance our understanding of literature and the wider issues involved in reading. However, although this acted as the central reason for the visit, I felt that dividing the party into two groups allowed for higher levels of personal interaction with the Library representative Julian Walker.
Nonetheless, upon being split into two groups Julian began proffered questions in relation to reading. Many of these questions were directed at our own personal reading habits. In addition, Julian sought to highlight the degree to which reading and literature are complex phenomena which require in-depth assessment.
As suggested, the questions posed by Julian were generally directed at the group members. As such, the questions centred on a process of literary self-reflection. For example, the first question Julian posed centred on whether we read out of choice. In my case, I generally prefer to read something in which I am interested. However, even if a book is interesting, I find it difficult to enjoy if the writing style is complex. Secondly, Julian asked whether we choose to read fiction or nonfiction. Given the aim of self-reflection, I once again thought about my own reading habits. However, the discussion undertaken by the group centred on the various positives and negatives of each variant of literature. It was suggested that reading fiction books is a waste of time because such literature is not based on actual reality. However, I thought that in the case of children’s books, children can learn reality through fiction.
A further self-reflective question proffered by Julian asked whether or not we read for enjoyment. In my case, I realised that I only read when it is necessary, thus not for the purposes of enjoyment. In addition, when asked where we chose to read I suggested that I usually read when on the tube or bus as I find this an effective use of time. A further series of questions followed which centred on similar processes of self-reflection on the issue of reading. Following the proffering of questions, Julian provided us with a written text and asked us to comment upon our preferred paragraphs. In addition, those who pointed to specific paragraphs were asked to offer reasons for their stated preference.
Following the examination of the provided text, we undertook a detailed discussion and general debate within the group. The primary focus of the debate centred on a discussion as to whether oral texts should be read orally or not. We were asked to form opinions and conclusions on this issue and then engage in discussion with other members of the group. My personal assumption on the matter was that oral texts should be read in their original state. The main reason I used to support this suggestion centred on the ability to effectively understand what the speaker is trying to say. Therefore, I argued that leaving oral texts in their original state would allow for a comprehensive understanding of what is being said. Other members of the group assumed a different position. In particular, some group members suggested that if oral texts were re-written and properly thought out, then there could be an increased possibility of interpreting the message of the speaker more effectively. Nonetheless, although opposite points of view were proffered, the group concluded that there were obvious benefits from both approaches.
After the discussion on the oral text was over, Julian directed a further discussion which looked specifically at a piece of writing produced by Shakespeare. This writing was found within the Library itself and Julian utilised it as a means of proposing a discussion. The discussion suggested centred on whether it is more beneficial to keep the first draft of writing as the final work, or rather, whether the first draft should be subject to changes and alterations prior to completion. In exemplifying the tendency towards the latter, Julian highlighted how both Shakespeare and Mozart only produced one draft of their work. As such, both men rarely undertook changes to their work following the production of the first draft. Following this outline from Julian, the group subjected the issue to detailed discussion and assessment. Many suggestions were proffered; however, many people in the group, including myself, chose to suggest that Mozart and Shakespeare are unique individuals that engender qualities of genius.
Above all, I found the visit to the British Library most enjoyable. In addition, I also found the visit very informative. Julian provided a number of insights into the processes involved both in reading and writing. However, although Julian directed much of the subject matter in the group debates, he nonetheless allowed members of the group to express their opinions. I found this process of self-reflection most helpful and pertinent to my studies. In particular, the self-reflection in relation to reading made me think about my own reading habits in a different manner. In many ways this alteration in thinking allowed me to highlight possible flaws in my reading habits. In particular, the questions Julian posed at the outset of the visit showed me that I need to engage in more detailed reading, even if I do not find this especially enjoyable. Finally, I found the group discussions to be very effective in highlighting different points of view on a particular subject. All members of the group were willing to hear the opinions of others and effective overall direction was provided by Julian. Therefore, overall, I found the visit a very effective use of my time. It will certainly aid my personal studies, in addition to enhancing my individual reading habits.