Back to Anglia Ruskin Library
I started back working at Anglia Ruskin University Library in late September. In many ways this is my favourite library at the moment. That is mainly because it offers an experience that is closest to the pre-covid days. Unlike the Lockdown experience at some other libraries the shelves are open for consultation. This is my home library, that serves the university where I work full-time. The librarians are superb, being both knowledgeable and helpful. They are rapidly responsive to book orders. If the library doesn’t have something then I usually walk to Cambridge University Library. Nonetheless at times like this inter-library loans get me whatever I need fairly quickly.
I find the ARU library a bit like Level 9 at Glasgow University Library, in that I have close knowledge of where books are on the shelves. Getting up from a desk without losing my train of thought I can place myself where the books are with ease. This is also a place where I can work alongside other students. There is something energising about being in a place where your only purpose is to work.
Whenever I start writing I always feel as if it is for the first time. O every single occasion it is difficult to get a narrative down that accurately orders the research and analysis I’ve carried out. It is always tricky, as it’s through writing that I work out what I actually think about a subject. Working alongside other students, including some of whom I’ve been teaching, enables me to stay in a writing zone. It helps me to avoid being distracted by a sudden desire to pull out the cooker to retrieve long-spilled pasta; or to have the sixth cup of tea of the morning. That’s the really essential thing about a library for me.
These first visits after the library opened again in September, and which remains open during Lockdown, have been important in giving me a workspace. But more than that the concise form of the library allows me to quickly move between books on literature, history, physics, philosophy and engineering as I work on the Engineering Romanticism project. There are few libraries that allow me to move so quickly between different disciplines.
Struggling with the Story
At the moment I’m struggling with using a talk I gave, for the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York, to structure a messy and extensive chapter I’m working on. The narrative of the talk worked well enough that I’m hoping it can be used to order a twenty thousand word chapter. This chapter is on Shelley’s steam ship and the engine he was working on with Henry Reveley.
Future Chapters at Anglia Ruskin Library
The next chapter is on Thomas Love Peacock and his steam ships to India. That’s the following thing I’ll write at ARU library. I then have a talk to give for the University of Glasgow on 8 January 2021. This is for an event that marks 200 years of the 1820 Scottish Radical Uprising. My talk, commissioned by the Centre for Scottish & Celtic Studies, is on plays that are set during the rebellions of 1820.
I will talk about plays by Stuart Conn, James Kelman and Hector MacMillan that deal with the 1820 uprisings. I’ll focus on the attempts of a group of men, led by John Baird and Andrew Hardie, to take the Carron Iron Works in Falkirk. This event became known as the Battle of Bonnymuir. Incidentally, the Carron Iron Works provided engines for the first steam ships in Britain. My two chapters, and this talk, will be partly written at Anglia Ruskin University Library.
My next talk is at the Oxford Brookes University centre, Materialities. It will be on Screw-cutting, Forms and Standards. This will be delivered on 4 March 2021 via an online link that is bookable on their website. That will become a chapter as well. For now it’s that struggle to find a narrative.