Library cards are useful

I just found out that my library card gives me online access to a whole range of reference material. Maybe you knew that already; maybe I’m the very last person in the UK to find out.

Here’s a selection of what’s available to me with a Southwark Libraries card:

  • The Oxford English Dictionary
  • Oxford Music Online (a superset of The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians)
  • A database of articles from of major British and Irish newspapers—this even includes the now-paywalled Times.
  • The Times Digital Archive: every page from that newspaper, scanned, and indexed.

I was utterly delighted to find that I could use the OED free of charge with my (also free) library card.

You might have a different selection available; you’ll have to check your own local library’s website.

The Times Digital Archive is an entertaining resource; a quick search for bicycle led me to this delightful article from 1869:

VELOCIPEDING.—A journey on bicyles from Liverpool to London, by way of Oxford and Henley, has just been accomplished by two of the Liverpool Velocipede Club. On Wednesday evening, Mr. A. S. Pearson and Mr. J. M. Caw, the honorary secretary of the club, set off from the shores of the Mersey for a “preliminary canter” to Chester, from which city they started in earnest on Thursday morning. After a ride of 59 miles they arrived at Newbridge, near Wolverhampton, where they stayed the night. On Friday the velocipedians, having traversed the Black Country, went on to Woodstock, a distance of 69 miles, where they slept. On Saturday night the tourists arived in London, feeling none the worse for their long ride. Their bicycles caused no little astonishment on the way, and the remarks passed by the natives were most amusing. At some of the villages the boys clustered round the machines, and, when they could, caught hold of them, and ran behind until they were tired out. Many inquiries were made as to the name of “them queer horses,” some calling them “whirligigs,” “menageries,” and “valaparaisos.” Between Wolverhampton and Birmingham attempts were made to upset the riders by throwing stones. The tourists carried their luggage in carpet bags, which can be fastened on by strapping them either in front or on the portmanteau plate behind. This is stated to be the longest bicycle tour yet made in this country, and the riders are of the opinion that, had they been disposed, they could have accomplished the distance in much less time.

Some things haven’t changed much in 140 years: the public is still confused by and occasionally antipathetic towards bicycles. Other things have, such as vocabulary: it’s no longer customary to refer to the denizens of the provinces as natives.


  1. Rob

    Wrote at 2011-01-13 18:51 UTC using Safari 533.19.4 on Mac OS X:

    I agree. Unfortunately, most people would close all the libraries and terminate funding to the arts, the sciences anything else that they don’t engage with daily and spend the money instead on health and social security. With the convenience of the internet also, it’s not surprising that libraries are on the decline.
  2. Frayxius

    Wrote at 2011-01-14 00:52 UTC using Internet Explorer 8.0 on Windows Vista:

    Having traversed betwixt Wolverhampton and Birmingham in my motorised carriage on numerous occasions recently, I can indeed vouch for the fact that things have changed little in 140 years. The young natives are still pelting the odd passing horseless contraption with various articles at their disposal …usually accompanying this with the most ungodly of verbal profanities. No doubt a playful pastime brought on by the euphoria of being freed from the arduous task of cleaning chimneys all day.
  3. totalsolutions

    Wrote at 2011-01-17 10:57 UTC using Chrome 8.0.552.237 on Windows 7:

    Wonderful, Thanks for the info Paul very useful.
  4. Stankonia

    Wrote at 2011-02-07 17:29 UTC using Chrome 8.0.552.237 on Windows XP:

    Frayxius, I have to admit your post was classic.
    Very very funny stuff indeed…Cheers.