In this section
Responding to change
Progress in the digital information arena, and in the way that libraries claim material, has kept us busy this year, both in partnership with others and on our own projects.
The Library's digital strategy was advanced significantly this year when government funding was announced for the Library's ambitious project to establish a Trusted Digital Repository (TDR) for Scotland. The Scottish Executive (now Scottish Government) pledged funding of up to £1.8 million for the two-year project, which will ensure that Scotland's digital heritage can be preserved for the long term.
The aim of the project is to apply the same level of professional care to collecting, preserving and providing access to digital items as NLS does to printed matter. The government funding enabled us to recruit a dedicated team and begin to buy the technology needed to deliver the project's aims.
The archiving of websites and the building and hosting of repository systems are two key elements of the project. The TDR team has already been contributing to IRIScotland, a Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries (SCURL) project to provide comprehensive access to Scotland's research output. The project provides access to all research papers held by Scottish universities. The repository uses an 'open access' publishing model, making Scottish research easily available to all, rather than restricted to those with subscriptions to academic journals. NLS is testing the feasibility of providing a hosting service for research institutions without their own databases.
NLS is one of six members of the UK Web Archiving Consortium (UKWAC). The web is increasingly becoming a first port of call for researchers and anyone seeking information. This project aims to explore how culturally significant websites can be identified for long-term preservation.
The average life expectancy of a website is 44 days; the project aims to extend this to 100 years or more. The first phase of the two-year pilot project drew to a close this year, having archived over 2,500 sites, with partners taking steps to build on the experiences they have gained from the project. To view the fledgling UK web archive visit www.webarchive.org.uk and browse selected websites covering everything from Scottish art and literature to whisky, athletics and politics.
Legal deposit arrangements
Legal deposit, the legislation that allows NLS and five other libraries in the UK and Ireland to claim a copy of everything published in the British Isles, has provided the cornerstone of the Library's collections for centuries.
Much of the work involved is organised by an agency which claims on behalf of four of these libraries and distributes publications accordingly. To maximise various efficiencies, the libraries have been reviewing the location and arrangements of the agency in future.
Housing the agency in the National Library's Edinburgh premises is considered to be the preferred solution at present. During 2007 NLS has taken a key role in this process, in partnership with the other four libraries, appointing a dedicated Project Officer to comprehensively review the options and ensure the project runs smoothly. The results of this review will be announced early in 2008.
The Library's collections, and the expertise of our curatorial staff, continually fuels a wide variety of research projects.
The John Murray Archive had hardly been unpacked before researchers and writers had begun to find new and imaginative uses for it. Even before the archive was officially made available to researchers (in October 2006) two particular projects were well under way.
Visiting Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Fellow Dr Barbara Schaff used the archive and Edinburgh University's Centre for the History of the Book to investigate the John Murray Travellers' Handbooks (the precursor to modern-day travel guidebooks) for Italy and Germany.
The Library also supported the establishment of a new MSc course, 'Material Cultures & the History of the Book', run by the Centre. The course will draw heavily on the archive and the other important publishing archives held at NLS.
Spanish Civil War symposium
The 70th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War was commemorated in November 2006 with a symposium at NLS that attracted many of the war's leading academics and commentators. The event was attended by guests from the Spanish Consulate and one of two surviving Scottish volunteers from the International Brigade, Mr Steve Fullarton. A selection of relevant collection items went on display to complement the series of talks and discussions, including propaganda posters, photographs and letters and papers from the archive of the Scottish International Brigaders. Of particular interest was a copy of a 1937 Spanish Embassy publication signed by key Labour politicians of the day including Clement Attlee and William Wedgwood Benn, father of former Cabinet Minister Tony Benn.
Military map research
A project to explore the military landscape of Scotland in the 18th century, using maps from NLS collections, got underway in 2006. The three-year PhD studentship, under the supervision of Professor Charles Withers the Institute of Geography at Edinburgh University and Chris Fleet of NLS, was made possible by funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The research will investigate maps and plans, such as those published by the Board of Ordnance, depicting the militarisation of Scotland in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The research will broaden the understanding of this material and its context, and produce a 'finding list' for 18th-century Scottish military mapping which is held in several institutions in England and Scotland.
Medical History of British India website
The growing interest in our India Papers collection of official publications, maps and manuscripts of British India has led to the creation of a new web resource on disease prevention and public health in the region.
The web feature Medical History of British India reproduces 50 public health records, made available online for the first time. These documents give researchers valuable insights into the state's efforts to study, understand and control diseases like cholera, plague, malaria and leprosy. The digitisation of our medical history volumes was funded by awards from the Wellcome Trust.
Caring for collections
Applying the highest possible standards of professional care to our historic collections is a constant priority. This year we have increased our support for the care of items on display in the Library and loaned elsewhere, while continuing to work on a range of national and international partnership projects.
Identical Books Project
NLS took a major role this year in a national project to compare storage environments and the patterns of book use in copyright libraries across the UK.
The project, led by the British Library, studies the physical condition of identical books held in NLS and each of the five other legal deposit libraries. Any differences in the condition of these books will reflect differences in the patterns of use in the various libraries and differences in their storage environments.
The results of these tests will greatly inform all partners' preservation and handling practices. NLS Conservator Giordana Santoro has played a key part in the project. She has been visiting each of the libraries to ensure that scientific 'test conditions' are applied to the measuring of acidity and colourisation in the books.
For over 10 years the Library has offered a regular programme of internships to conservation and preservation students studying at institutions in Scotland and further afield. The internships give the students valuable experience of working with major book and manuscript collections, and of developing practical skills taught by our highly-skilled and experienced staff.
Five students were given this opportunity in 2006-2007: two from the prestigious European Course for Book Conservation and Restoration in Spoleto, Italy, two from Lyon's Restauration et Conservation D'Oeuvres D'Arts and one from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland. These studentships provide a two-way learning process for all involved, while spreading word of the Library's strong international reputation for collection care.
Giving assistance and advice to libraries and other collections across Scotland on conservation and preservation matters is a key part of our conservation remit. Support of this nature was given in 2006 to the Keepers of Innerpeffray Library, Perthshire, when members of the Conservation and Preservation Division carried out an inspection of their collection storage and display areas. The Keepers gained valuable advice and information that will help them to preserve their important collection of rare books and manuscripts.
Looking after the John Murray Archive
Conservation work on the John Murray Archive (JMA) began in 2006 with the addition of a dedicated conservator. JMA Conservator Kate Kidd works exclusively on the archive, carrying out a range of remedial treatments. An important part of her role is to provide access to the JMA by preparing items from the collection for exhibition, either within the Library or elsewhere. Additionally, a programme to re-house the collection in archival boxes is well under way, as is the preparation of items for the digitising and microfilming programmes.
The National Library maintains an active presence on a variety of national and international professional groups that share best practice, research and ideas.
These include the National Preservation Office Microfilming Group, the Heads of Conservation, the Preservation Advisory Panel and the Phase Box UK Group.
NLS was the first of the five UK legal deposit libraries to introduce the production of phase boxes using computer-aided design equipment, setting the standards for others to follow. These boxes, which are made to measure in house at our Preservation Services Unit, provide a microclimate for the items stored inside and offer invaluable protection from accidental water damage, dust, light and handling, significantly slowing the degradation of collection items for years to come.
Spreading the word
Sharing the stories found in our collections with a widening audience is a great challenge, and one to which we are rising well.
Raising and evaluating awareness
We want as many people as possible to benefit from our collections. To make this happen, we need to continually ensure our message reaches the world, through a wide variety of media. The statistics show that we are making great progress with this. The first Omnibus Survey we participated in, in December 2004, showed that only 20% of the Scottish population had heard of the National Library. By February 2006 that figure had grown to 31%. In June 2007 we achieved 50% awareness. Omnibus Surveys are independent, statistically significant and represent the geographic and demographic make-up of the population.
The bare numbers themselves only tell part of the story of course. The results of our market research discussion groups reinforce these quantitative results. Our outreach and promotional efforts were instrumental in achieving this goal and in improving perceptions — as a result, more people now see NLS as friendly and welcoming.
The daily media coverage we receive (printed and broadcast) is scanned and independently analysed every quarter. This gives a breakdown of beneficial, factual or adverse coverage achieved, including a financial value. The estimated annual value of media coverage received this year has increased by 22% to a total of £1,227,117. Thanks to this coverage, NLS is now firmly on the radar of the media and other influencers, such as politicians and businesses.
Our website aims to be among the most accessible and user-friendly public sector sites. The site complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines set by the internationally acknowledged standards body, the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). This was acknowledged in 2006 when the site was awarded Best Government Website by the Web Marketing Association, ahead of prestigious international competition from the Library of Congress and the US Postal Service, among others. Average monthly user sessions on the site have increased from around 100,000 in 2004 to nearly 300,000 in 2006.
Further recognition of the strides we are making in raising public awareness came with the news that we had won in three short-listed categories at the 2006 Communicators in Business (CiB) Scotland Awards, with prizes received for Best One-Off Publication, for the NLS Annual Review 2005-2006, Best Use of the Web, and Best Communications Team.
A new quarterly magazine, 'Discover NLS', was launched in April 2006. The magazine's bright, contemporary design and rich editorial content were acknowledged at the 2006 Scottish Magazine Awards, organised annually by the Periodical Publishers Association Scotland, where it was highly commended in three categories.
Our collections provide a wealth of material for publications, capitalised on this year by a rewarding partnership with publishers Birlinn Ltd. Birlinn worked with the Library to reproduce two stunning, illustrated facsimiles of important books. A new edition of Joan Blaeu's groundbreaking 'Atlas of Scotland' was published with beautiful reproductions of all 48 original hand-coloured maps of Scotland. Blaeu's original atlas, published in 1654 and based on the pioneering surveys of Timothy Pont, was effectively the first atlas of Scotland. The 2006 edition includes additional material, and a translation, from a number of leading scholars, along with the original publishers letters, which illustrate how the atlas was first created.
This was followed by a new edition of William Daniell's 'Voyage Round the Coasts of Great Britain', which was also published by Birlinn in association with NLS. Daniell's Voyage celebrated the majestic splendour of the Scottish islands and coast when it was published in 1825. The new edition reproduces the Scottish illustration plates, with accompanying travelogue, from the Library's set, along with some unpublished notes written by Sir Walter Scott. It also features an essay by Dr Iain Gordon Brown, Principal Curator of Manuscripts, exploring Scott's relationship with Daniell, and their influence on one another.
NLS celebrated its partnership with Aberdeen Library and Information Services in November 2006 with the Library's first ever roadshow. Staff accompanied collection treasures, greeted the public and handed out information to over 500 visitors in a two-day visit to Aberdeen Central Library. The event was organised to coincide with the first NLS Annual General Meeting to be held outside of Edinburgh. Staff answered customers' questions and encouraged them to register and take advantage of our growing suite of remote services. The successful event was the first in a series to take the Library to people across Scotland, with a residency in Perth subsequently held later in 2007.