Annual Review 2005-2006

An overview of the National Library of Scotland's activities and collection acquisitions during the year 2005-2006.

 

View PDF version
(full colour; 21 pages; 1.34 MB)

 Introduction from the Chairman and the National Librarian

The National Library of Scotland plays a key role at the heart of Scottish culture, knowledge and ideas, and has built an exemplary reputation for its historic collections and expertise. The Library's traditional role of preserving the past for future generations has been complemented in recent years by a commitment to ensuring much easier access to our collections for the people of Scotland and beyond. The development of the digital library is now one of the key gateways to our great treasures and resources.

The pace of change in the 21st century continues to accelerate and the Library must respond, in particular to take advantage of the revolution in digital technology. This year we have begun to implement many exciting projects in response to developments in the wider world. Our challenges range from collecting and preserving electronic information in a growing range of media and formats to finding ways to make one of the world's most important publishers' archives, the John Murray Archive, not only available to scholars worldwide but also engaging to wider audiences.

The strength of our reputation rests not only on the quality of our collections and the innovation of our staff, but also on our ability to work strategically with other organisations and communities, sharing knowledge and excellence for the benefit of all our customers. This report highlights five examples from the many partnerships and developing relationships that the Library has been involved in over the year.

These working relationships have an impact at local, national and international levels. Among the local projects is NLS support for the Trondra Local History Group in publishing a book that celebrates the rich history and local pride invested in Glasgow's Greater Easterhouse. At a national level our partnership with the national agency for education and the Scottish curriculum, Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), provides online learning resources for Scotland's 80,000 school students. Our international relationships include our internship from the globally prestigious French library school, Ecole des Chartes, which resulted in the cataloguing of two of NLS' most important medieval literary texts.

Working efficiently and effectively remains a priority for the Library. This year we have continued to respond positively to developments such as the 'joined-up working' agenda (crystallised by the publication of the Culture Commission's 'Scotland's Culture' in January 2006 and the Scottish Executive's Efficient Government initiative) through a formal merger agreement with the Scottish Screen Archive. The merger presents exciting opportunities for augmenting our existing collections and their interpretation.

We have built upon the success of last year's new corporate identity, with our re-developed website passing the first stages of accessibility tests by the Royal National Institute for the Blind and gaining the coveted Plain English Campaign accreditation. In broader terms, a statistically balanced market research survey revealed that public awareness of the Library and its purpose had increased significantly.

Delivering an excellent service is central to everything we do and this year witnessed continued improvement of our customer services. Work began towards establishing the Library's first customer charter, alongside an improved admissions policy, which will make it easier for people to use our resources. Preparations have begun for the introduction of 'smart card' technology, which when introduced in late 2006 will allow customers in the pilot area (Dundee) to use their local authority Citizen Cards to access NLS services. We are also working to make more of our electronic services available remotely to registered customers where licences permit.

Progress continued towards transforming our flagship building on George IV Bridge into a visitor centre fit for the 21st century. An increasingly diverse and well-attended programme of free exhibitions, cultural events and education activities engaged visitors of all generations and social backgrounds. Our growing reputation in this area contributed towards the successful outcome of our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding towards the acquisition of the world renowned John Murray Archive. This achievement provided a noteworthy conclusion to the reporting year, when the Archive finally arrived at the Library in March. This landmark event is just the beginning of the next exciting stage in the Library's wider development. The five-year project to make the Archive accessible to and inspiring for the widest possible audience will be a major catalyst for change. We will not be facing this challenge alone. Alongside our dedicated staff and excellent collections, as with so many of our achievements, a cornerstone of this project's success will be close collaboration with a wide network of partners, to whom we extend our renewed appreciation.

Martyn Wade, National Librarian
Professor Michael Anderson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Modern collections

As part of our national remit, we have continued to develop a distributed approach to collection development. By working closely with other research and academic libraries across Scotland, we co-ordinate our collecting activities with those of other organisations, aiming to get the best from Scotland's library collections as a whole.

The assimilation of material, staff and expertise from the Scottish Screen Archive presents the Library with an opportunity to develop its audio-visual collections and to integrate this material with existing collections. Work continues towards making collections such as manuscripts, music and business information easier for customers to discover and therefore access.

Legal deposit

Around 80% of our annual intake of over 300,000 items is received through legal deposit. The future management of the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries, which acts on behalf of NLS and four other libraries to request, receive and acknowledge the publications to which we are entitled under legal deposit legislation, is currently under review. NLS will continue to play a key role in ensuring that an effective legal deposit service is provided.

Our legal deposit privilege has continued to generate material, representing the whole range of British publishing. Items ranged from Chef Fernando's 'Rastafarian Cuisine for Vegetarians' and Leo Baxendale's 'The Beano Room' to Thomas Bartlett's 'Revolutionary Dublin, 1795-1801', Kristina Rogers' 'The Sauropods: evolution and paleobiology' and Moazzam Begg's 'Enemy Combatant'.

Every year presents new opportunities in collecting ephemeral material with a Scottish origin or interest. This year the G8 Summit at Gleneagles allowed us to collect associated literature from different parties, organisations and pressure groups connected with the event. As part of its contribution to the UK Web Archiving Consortium, the Library also researched and archived a number of G8-related websites. Further efforts were also made to improve coverage of ethnic minority publications, while 'The New Scots' exhibition gave us an opportunity to showcase material from our growing collection of Scottish Asian community material.

Donations

Individuals and organisations that donate material to NLS play an invaluable role in supplementing the national collection. The Library welcomed donations from over 500 donors this year, including copies of foreign translations of the novels of Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin, a collection of material on the French poet Camille Mauclair, the newsletter of the Scottish Malaysian Association, and a prospectus from the Tragara Press for an Italian publication, 'Norman Douglas: a portrait'.

Electronic legal deposit

We continue to collect digital material — such as CD-ROMs and DVDs — deposited voluntarily by publishers, as well as a fast-growing body of material published via e-mail.

We have been working closely with publisher bodies and the other legal deposit libraries on how to implement future legal deposit regulations for digital content, such as e-journals,websites and databases, in addition to hand-held media currently collected under the Voluntary Code. This is our second year of archiving websites of Scottish cultural significance as part of our involvement in the UK Web Archiving Consortium (UKWAC). We continue to expand our fledgling web archive collection, which now ranges from party and candidate sites from the 2005 general election, to online novels, such as Accelerando by Charles Stross, author sites such as the Neil Munro Society website, and tourism and visitor sites such as Scotland from the Roadside.

For information on how we are creating our own digital collection and widening access to our licensed resources see 'Delivering remote access'.

Foreign collections

NLS actively collects publications from (and about) the German, French, Italian and Spanish- speaking countries, as well as materials concerning Russia and the former Soviet Union and publications in English from the United States and Commonwealth countries. More than 7,000 foreign publications were purchased during the year.

Topics represented include French cinema, Francophone literature in North Africa, Islamic cultural influences in Spain, the work of important literary figures such as Italo Calvino, Marguerite Duras and Claude Simon, as well as the legacy of General de Gaulle, medieval Burgundy, and the Mafia. Publications relating to the recent Cervantes, Petrarch and Napoleonic anniversaries were also acquired.

One notable American accession was that of the library of the Scottish-American poet Gael Turnbull, acquired from his widow Jill Turnbull. This collection consists of approximately 500 volumes of 20th century poetry from North America and France including many personal presentation copies and small press items.

The growing German interest in the controversial subject of the human cost of Allied bombing in World War II was reflected in the purchase of a considerable number of photographic volumes which document this subject. Among the Russian acquisitions were a number of works from the continuing stream of publications on President Putin.

Mountaineering and polar collections

The Graham Brown Fund allows us to purchase printed materials from all periods, relating to mountains, mountaineering and the polar regions to add to the important collection bequeathed to the Library by Professor Graham Brown in 1965. The developing trend towards collecting ephemeral items such as board games, cartoons, cigarette cards and leaflets continued this year, with some highlights detailed on the mountaineering/polar collections page at www.nls.uk/collections/foreign/mountains/

Official publications

With over one million items, NLS holds one of the largest collections of official publications in the United Kingdom and the largest collection of official publications in Scotland.

A noteworthy addition to the collection this year was Parlianet, an online resource which indexes the proceedings and publications of both Houses of Parliament in Westminster, including Hansard. The data published on Parlianet is taken from official sources under a unique licence with the House of Commons.

Collection displays during the period included major government reports, items relating to the history of the Cold War, and the development of sanitation, the latter featuring items ranging from Edwin Chadwick's famous report, Sanitary conditions of the Labouring Population, to a report on the practice of 'slopping out' in prisons.

Official publications also featured prominently in the 2005 summer exhibition, 'Scotland's Secret War', accompanied by an educational web feature, 'Propaganda: A weapon of war'. Displays were also mounted to complement a series of successful events on Burma, to mark Edinburgh City Council's granting of the freedom of the city to political prisoner and writer Aung San Suu Kyi.

The digitisation of items in the India Papers collection relating to 'Disease control in British India' has now been completed, with the help of a generous award from the Wellcome Trust.

SCOTBIS: Business information service

SCOTBIS, our business information service, continued in its objective of providing the most comprehensive collection of market research data available within Scotland through the acquisition of several additional research series. These included the full set of 2006 research reports for both 'MSI Marketing Research' for Industry and the US series of reports from 'Mintel International Group'. The 'Mintel' acquisition is particularly significant, being the first of its kind for a publicly accessible library within the UK. We also continued to expand our global coverage of company data through subscribing to the www.kompass.com database. This provides information on 1.9 million companies in over 70 countries and allows customers to search using 54,000 keywords or by 750,000 trade names.

Science information

The Library capitalised on the growing public interest in the history of science this year by creating an innovative, interactive web feature, 'Vote for a scientist!' The site invited the public to select their favourite Scottish scientist or engineer from a pool of 24 of the most famous and eminent figures in these fields. Alongside household names such as John Logie Baird, Alexander Graham Bell and Alexander Fleming were eminent but less publicly well-known figures such as James Clerk Maxwell and Lord Kelvin. The results of this survey will feed into a more comprehensive educational web resource, the 'Scottish Science Hall of Fame', which, when launched in 2007, will focus initially on the achievements of the top-ranked candidates. A display of Library resources concerning our chosen scientists' lives and work was also mounted in March to coincide with the Edinburgh Science Festival.

Perhaps the most notable collection development this year was the addition of 'Environmental issues & policy index', a key scientific subscription-based database, to the Library's roster of electronic resources available remotely to registered users.

Heritage collections

Rare book collections

As usual, a wide range of rare and early printed items were acquired during the year. Some were books of historical significance, such as James VI's 'The Kings Maiesties speech', delivered to the House of Lords on 19 March 1604, the first day of the first Parliament of his reign as King of Scotland and England. Others were previously unknown books, such as a crudely illustrated edition of 'Aesop's Fables' for children, published in Glasgow in 1764, or very rare books, such as 'Foirceadul aith-ghearr cheasnuighe' (the Shorter Catechism), printed by Anna Orr in Glasgow in 1776, which afforded an unusual opportunity to fill a gap in our Gaelic collections.

The continuing popularity of the broadsides feature on the NLS website was complemented by our acquisition of two broadsides published in Edinburgh in 1794: they concern Robert Watt who was executed for his involvement in a plot to seize Edinburgh Castle and overthrow the judiciary. Among the most compelling acquisitions of the year was a remarkable example of Victorian culture: an elaborately-bound Bible presented to William and Agnes Renton of Edinburgh on their golden wedding anniversary in 1852. The inside board has a family tree incorporating locks of hair of the couple's 22 grandchildren. Also of great visual interest was a set of 40 photographs of the Forth Bridge taken by Philip Phillips, the son of one of the bridge's builders. These marvellous photographs provide a detailed record of the bridge's construction, down to individual rivets, and were also used as the source material for an online education resource via our partnership with Learning and Teaching Scotland.

There was sustained media interest in our collection of sport-related material this year and our collections benefited from the addition of a copy of an Argentinean sporting periodical 'El Grafico' from June 1923, which contains an account of a tempestuous football match between Third Lanark and a local side in Buenos Aires.

Our support for external exhibitions continued this year with a memorable visit to Regensburg, Germany. Library staff accompanied items on loan to an exhibition celebrating 800 years of the town's history: four printed books, together with the manuscript Marianus Scotus, were displayed in the former Scots monastery in Regensburg. The items had been rescued in the late 1860s and added to Fort Augustus Abbey Library. They were later deposited in NLS and eventually purchased in 2000. A selection of key books from the Scottish Enlightenment was displayed within the Scottish Parliament in December 2005, to coincide with the Vanguard Programme, organised by the Centre for Confidence and Well-Being.

One of the 11 Crawford collections on long-term deposit in the Library is the English Ballads Collection of over 3,700 ballads. A printed catalogue from 1890 provides information on the earlier ballads (nearly 1,500), but the remainder have been otherwise inaccessible to customers. The later ballads provide a valuable insight into popular opinions in 19th-century Britain (drugs and the Napoleonic Wars are covered), and so we are grateful to Lord Crawford for agreeing that some Lindsay Trust funds held by the Library could be used to support a cataloguing project, which began in November 2005.

Heritage maps

An antiquarian map highlight was the acquisition of a rare broadsheet of Thomas Jefferys' 'A Map of the River Forth, from Stirling to Barroustouness', published to inform the public about the recent battle of Falkirk Muir. The map is curious due to its publication date of 15 February 1745.6: 1746 in Scotland, but 1745 in England when the two countries operated different calendars. According to the dealer this earlier version was actually issued on the same day as Culloden, which would explain its rarity, as it was so quickly superseded.

Other map acquisitions relating to Scotland include several small maps by Andrew Dury circa 1764, two manuscripts of estates on the Black Isle, c.1830, and a spectacular printed plan of Drumlanrig castle and policies by John Rocque in 1739 (see 'Discover NLS', issue 1).

Another interesting acquisition is Scottish surveyor William Roy's plan of the 1759 Battle of Thonhausen (or Minden as it is better known). This plan (pictured) sports unusual overlapping flaps which show the position of troops at different stages of the battle. This was prepared for the court martial of George Sackville to provide an objective account of his culpability in battle.</p> <p>Equally quirky purchases made this year include a German playing card with a map of Scotland c.1678 and a colourful jigsaw (or 'dissected map', as they were first called) of Europe produced by Edinburgh publisher Gall & Inglis c.1871-8 as an early form of educational publishing. The earliest jigsaws were all maps, effectively starting the pastime which is still popular today.

Modern maps

Of course our map collections are by no means limited to antiquarian items. Our collection policy for modern maps is often influenced by politics and world events. With North Korea in the news it was appropriate to acquire an atlas containing some 400 maps at a scale of 1:50,000, which is more detailed than our usual collecting policy. For political and military reasons North Korea does not permit official maps to be exported, and this atlas was published in South Korea in 1997, based on earlier Japanese and Russian mapping.

Since the end of the Cold War, acquiring previously unavailable maps of eastern Europe has been a priority and this year Ukraine (at 1:100,000) was purchased. Soviet mapping of Scotland in the 1970s-80s was also acquired; these herald familiar place names in the style of the Ordnance Survey, but with Russian script. More poignantly, the need to assist disaster relief following the tsunami in December 2004 caused Sri Lanka to release restricted maps, which allowed us to add these maps (at 1:50,000) to our collection.

Manuscript collections

Besides the acquisition of the John Murray Archive (JMA), there were many other important purchases, donations and deposits, on the usual very diverse subject areas, from politics to polar exploration. The papers of SNP activist Dr Robert MacIntyre were purchased, and papers of Lord Ritchie-Calder presented and deposited. Journals of the polar explorer Sir James Wordie were donated by his family, and further 19th-century literary material relating to the 'Cornhill magazine' was also purchased. This periodical was published by the firm of Smith Elder, later taken over by John Murray, and is thus a good example of the many intersections between existing NLS collections and its latest, high-profile acquisition, the JMA. More modern literary material relating to Tessa Ransford, Iain Crichton Smith, Naomi Mitchison, Andrew Greig, Gael Turnbull, Duncan Glen and Alasdair Gray all entered the collections, as did material by the composers Ronald Stevenson, Robert Crawford and F G Scott, as well as records of the Piobaireachd Society, a leading promoter of traditional Scottish music.

Manuscript material continued to feature prominently in the Library's exhibitions, such as 'Scotland's secret war' and 'Sale of the centuries: A celebration of shopping in Scotland', while numerous projects to digitise and present manuscript material online were advanced. The customary wide range of inquiries from across the world was answered; and in anticipation of the arrival of the Scottish Screen Archive, work towards auditing our existing audio-visual material also got underway.

Music collections

This year we acquired a significant collection of sound recordings from the widow of the popular entertainer Jimmy Logan, mainly consisting of shellac records and reel-to-reel tapes. Additionally, a particularly notable donation from a major sound archive of historic Scottish recordings has been agreed to be transferred to the NLS Music Collections in 2007.

Music material was contributed to exhibitions and displays throughout the year; from a Hindu spirituality event, to the web feature and display celebrating 50 years of collecting at our George IV Bridge site.

NLS houses significant 18th and 19th century collections of Scottish song. While publication details of these anthologies are listed in the music catalogue to the usual high standards, access to individual songs within these anthologies is only possible through a separate card song index. A pilot project to test the conversion of the Scottish Song Card Index into an online database was carried out with a view to obtain funding for a full conversion project.

Meanwhile EU funding was confirmed for the Enabling Access to Sound Archives through Integration, Enrichment and Retrieval (EASAIER) project. This project, commencing May 2006, will investigate new ways of accessing sound archives and related print materials. NLS has a forward role in providing content for research purposes and participation in the project's evaluation.

The John Murray Archive (JMA)

Substantial effort this year was dedicated towards securing the John Murray Archive for the Library and its customers; and the year ended with the Archive being formally entered in the Manuscript Collections Division's accessions register. The archive is inarguably one of the world's most significant literary and cultural archives from the past 250 years. Manuscripts and letters preserved by London-based John Murray publishers were written by many of the most influential figures from the 18th and 19th centuries. Murray authors included celebrated writers, scientists, politicians, economists and thinkers of the time.

The Library has benefited from major public funding — from both the Scottish Executive and, within the reporting period, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) — towards the archive project on the proviso that its arrival precipitates a transformational impact on our procedures, facilities and services. The result of all this change will become more visible in the coming months, but suffice to say that preparations for the archive's arrival dominated the reporting period, with much work being dedicated to everything from how the Archive could be transported safely from its previous home in London to the Library, to plans for maximising access through cataloguing and creating an exciting new design concept for a permanent exhibition of the archive, due to open in 2007. That all this hard work led directly to the HLF's confirmation of a successful bid is extremely gratifying.

While NLS continues to raise funds from a variety of private sources to complete the acquisition and realise the JMA project plans, the positive outcome of the HLF bid enabled the project's preparatory work and planning to move ahead in earnest. At the year's close, recruitment for the dedicated project team responsible for implementing the project's ambitious objectives of inspiring and engaging an increasingly diverse audience, was under way.

 

Next page

 

 

Annual Review main page



Speak me