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A librarian on a glass trip (guest post)

A man and a woman (Richard and Alice) standing smiling in a pub, with wooden background including a partially glass door and floral stained glass windows

In this post I’m discussing:

Opportunity for a glass trip

When Richard has been on his many trips around the country over the years, collecting and delivering, and meeting with fellow stained glass enthusiasts, he has occasionally been asked whether his wife ever comes with him on these trips (or at least that’s what he tells me – maybe to keep me involved!). There is good reason why I haven’t taken up this opportunity:

  • We have two children who, while they’re getting older, do need a parent to cook them meals and keep them company
  • Though I support Richard in his business, especially with holding windows for photography, and creating Excel formulas, I do have my own job to be getting on with, as an academic librarian (and emerging researcher – which is the theme of my own blog)


But at long last, in early April this year, I have been with my husband on a business trip, one which took us from London to Edinburgh and back again, with many places in between. He’s taken one or other of our children on some of these trips in the past, but only for a night or two – I had a whole five nights away! We are very lucky to have wonderful parents to look after our children while we took this ‘Busman’s holiday’.

My ‘work’ during the trip

I wasn’t only along for the ride – Richard did find me things to do:

  • I did some deliveries (from van to door!) and took some part in carrying the windows we collected to our van.
  • I sent all the text messages letting people know that we’d be with them in half an hour – a very important task this, as they’ve usually been given a wider time slot, and occasionally we’ve been delayed due to traffic.
  • I researched alternative accommodation when our planned hotel fell through (a broken boiler!) Richard spends a huge amount of time planning all the logistics in advance of a trip. My usual research is using the likes of Bloomberg, and academic journal databases, but I can switch to on request!
  • I offered my opinion on whether we (and it does feel like we) should buy certain pieces, sometimes during a ‘board meeting’ over dinner! Though as a business librarian, I must make clear this is a joke – there is no board of directors as the business is a small concern that doesn’t require them…
  • I guarded purchased stock (with book in hand), from the wind and from interested passers by, while Richard rearranged glass in the van. Working out where to safely put all the treasure acquired – which will gradually be added to the website in the coming weeks and months – was a regular issue throughout the trip.
  • I got to visit some interesting businesses, and unique and beautiful houses. I regularly get to see what some of Richard’s customers do with the glass they purchase from him, in the images he posts on his Customer reuse ideas page, but have only now had the opportunity to be shown round a customer’s home – one of the aspects of these trips that I always enjoy hearing about. [Note – I distracted myself for a good ten minutes looking again through the reuse ideas page, when I had intended to just get the URL to provide a link!]

Delivery in Birmingham

Guarding treasure in Grantham which will eventually appear in the Victorian category.

What I’ve learnt from the trip

  • Travelling around the country in a van is very tiring, both for the driver (Richard) and for the person along for the ride (me). We did manage a bit of exploring in the cities and towns we stayed in (and even had a night staying and socialising with family – we brought a stained glass suncatcher as a gift, as well as a bottle of wine!), but on several evenings were too tired for tourism beyond a meal.
  • Where we did venture out to our surroundings, we spotted glass in all sorts of places – in a fascinating grade 2 listed pub in Liverpool, and in the Adelphi hotel in the same city. Our history and research interests led to us reading up about the background of this hotel. My librarian tendency to read critically and look at multiple sources meant that I got the more positive perspective from the hotel’s website, and some more shocking details from Wikipedia (I won’t go off on more of a tangent by listing my further research on this topic!)
  • There are many skilled people who work with stained glass. Seeing some locations where the ‘magic’ happens was fascinating.
  • There’s only so much you can fit in a medium-sized van. And quite a bit of this will need to be stored in near vicinity to me, until it can be photographed and eventually sold. As Richard has been unpacking the van and putting glass in temporary locations before photography and proper storage, I’ve enjoyed surprises seeing them displayed around the house. But I must not get too attached!

The Vines (The Big House, Lime Street, Liverpool – Grade 2 listed

The Grand Lounge of the Adelphi hotel, Liverpool – the ceiling consists of Victorian rolled glass panes!


We have stacks of small framed windows (toplights) waiting to be listed in the trade category.

Most people prioritise putting washing in the machine when they get back from a holiday…

This scenic pattern is from a set of doubleglazed units which will soon be listed in the scenic category.

Merging a glass trip with a holiday

While this was a business trip for Richard, it was definitely also a holiday for us both. It may not surprise you to learn that my husband finds it hard to stop working at times, and it is the same for me. Turning off from work is very hard when you’re running your own business from home, and it’s almost as challenging as a subject librarian who’s the library liaison for thousands of people (to say nothing of my current research obsession!). Therefore days off work when at home are never fully days off – work is always on your mind. For me, being on this trip, getting more involved in sourcing salvaged window glass, I was able to properly take a break from my usual preoccupations. Though I admit that I have referred to my job multiple times in this post!

When not eating or socialising, as described above, I got lots of opportunity to read (I collect books at the rate Richard collects windows, though am less keen to let go of them than Richard is willing to part from the glass – necessary when running a business!). For a librarian, I’m not very strong at ‘weeding’ (aka withdrawing books from) my collection, and have many shelves of books waiting to be read.

We listened, while driving, to multiple podcasts. So the time on the road didn’t feel wasted, and was enjoyable. While our listening was more of the comedy and true crime variety, I’ll take this moment to highlight the time Richard was on a podcast, True Tales from Old Houses, talking about his glass business…

We even played a game, despite being away without our children! Proper evidence that my husband did take me on a holiday, not just a business trip!

Alice Cann is an academic librarian, who blogs at She is also Richard’s wife.

7 thoughts on “A librarian on a glass trip (guest post)

  1. Very good to hear from you, Alice. That’s a lot of “country touring” happening – it’s great that you were able to share. Sounds like you are both work-obsessed to an extent. It intrigues me that glass seems so under-appreciated, along with crafts -to the point where history is lost. I listened to the podcast Richard was on, about old houses, & completely agree that earlier attention to detail and care in crafting windows and other parts of house construction continues to wane. On the other hand, those people who become engaged and take on restoration instead of renovation are rewarded by the results. As with academic research, it becomes a “deep dive”. I’ve done it myself, academically and historically to learn more from the social context when certain kinds of style and craft were more common and why & how this may have changed. I have purchased a couple of top lights from Richard and a couple of painted glass roundels. I promised to send photos when I finally decide how I’ll create a “belonging” for them, now, in my cottage. Almost every day I am reminded of the 1850’s Carpenter Gothic house I worked on, with my partner…beautiful glass, beautiful trim, plaster of Paris, huge wooden support beams. That house, if people continue to maintain it, will still be proudly standing when the “tricky-tacky” houses with the “toy” windows are leaning closer to the ground, not so proud. Your children will take in, by osmosis alone, the value in history and in craft for which you serve as exemplars. It’s always more important what you do, rather than what others don’t do. Remaining positive is best.

    1. Hi Patricia, I enjoyed reading your very thoughtful comment. In particular thinking about the deep dive that restoration involves, and the link with academic research. I want to look into this more. Also the freedom or lack of freedom that people have to focus and do a deep dive on something, be it reading and writing (or primary research and analysis) or restoration of stained glass or anything else. This relates also to your last point about it being more important to think about what you do (can do) yourself, rather than what others don’t do. Not everyone has the opportunity (time, funds, resources, different interests) to do a deep dive into something, and that is ok. I want to admire when someone (Richard, for our stuff, or someone else, such as in the house we visited on our trip) has spent time on creative restoration, but accept that for other people they don’t have the time to or interest in, for example, repainting wooden windows every few years! And back again to academic research – I teach people about effectively searching for academic literature, and have a big interest in systematic reviews (which are high quality but very time consuming – the intricate stained glass window of academic journal article) and think this is important, but accept and advocate for the fact that in other situations a quick search in Google Scholar is the right option!

  2. […] post was originally published as a guest post on Richard Cann’s (my husband’s) Leaded Stained Glass […]

  3. Great article…

    What a trip, you both got some great finds.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Great post Alice…I really enjoyed it. The link to the Adelphi was an alarming read! Should you not be borrowing books from your local library rather than buying them?! That’s what I do now, unless it is a reference book which I will use on a regular basis. Hope to hear from you again…

    1. Hi Carole,

      Thank you. (The Adelphi keeps coming to my mind in relation to lots of things).

      I definitely use my local library (several of them!), but like to buy books too – not that I think this is a must for a reader. I think of myself as having two separate, but linked, hobbies of book reading and book collecting! I like reorganising my books, and am enjoying looking at the bookshelves right now (they’re my equivalent of stained glass windows!).

      If there’s a random book I’ve heard of that I want to read, I would check the library first. But if the library doesn’t have it, or if it’s something by a favourite author that I’m going to want to reread or own to lend to other people, I buy it (often using a book voucher – knowing I like to buy books, I get given them as presents quite often). For me reference books are thing I’m more likely to use the library for (online resources that I or my colleague manage the subscriptions to!), and fiction books I’m more likely to want to own a copy, due to my love of rereading and looking at the books.

      I want to support my local library, but I also want to support my local bookshop and keep it open (I know one of the photos has me holding a Kindle, but I mainly only have 99p cheapies on this, for reading in bed – I do prioritise buying in print and in person!). Lots of my books also come from charity shops, though I’m trying to be good about not doing this too often, considering how many books I have waiting to be read.

  5. […] Having said that… I mentioned a few of the ways I help out in my previous guest post, A librarian on a glass trip and Richard has now got me working on another task, trying to improve the reach of his website […]

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