Minutes, 31 March 2004

Rare Books in Scotland business meeting

Wednesday 31 March 2004, Henry Heaney Room, Glasgow University Library


  • Peter Asplin (Glasgow University)
  • Caroline Brown (Dundee University)
  • Christine Cain (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig)
  • Alastair Cherry (Scottish Catholic Archives)
  • Karen Cunningham (Strathclyde University)
  • Julie Gardham (Glasgow University)
  • Christine Gascoigne (St Andrews University)
  • Brian Hillyard (National Library of Scotland)
  • Graham Hogg (National Library of Scotland)
  • Marian Kirton (Napier University)
  • Lindsay Levy (Advocates' Library)
  • Valerie McClure (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow)
  • Andrew Martin (National Museums of Scotland)
  • Iain Milne (Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh)
  • Catherine Nicholson (SCURL), Sheila Noble (Edinburgh University)
  • Karen O'Brien (Edinburgh City Libraries)
  • John Scally (Edinburgh University)
  • Eoin Shalloo (National Library of Scotland)
  • Ann Sweeney (Strathclyde University)
  • Richard Turbet (Aberdeen University)
  • Julie Wands (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow)
  • Allison Watson (Paisley University)
  • David Weston (Glasgow University Library)
  • Gordon Willis (Stirling University)


  • Iain Beavan (Aberdeen University)
  • Jeremy Duncan (A K Bell Library, Perth)
  • Michelle Gait (Aberdeen University)
  • Karen Moran (Royal Observatory Edinburgh)
  • Marianne Smith (Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh)

Dr Hillyard began by thanking David Weston and the staff of GUL for their hospitality, including an excellent lunch.

1. Update following 3 September 2003 meeting

1.1. Web pages
BH introduced the Rare Books in Scotland 'professional page', which is on the NLS website. He hoped to improve navigation to the page and he apologised for the non-appearance of the GUL rare books collection development policy, which would shortly be made available. The web page would also be used to record today's events and also give details of forthcoming conferences and events of general interest such as the BBTH conference in July. Information would also be emailed around at the same time. It was agreed by those present that MSWord documents accessible through the web page were acceptable to them.

The issue of adding links to other libraries' websites was discussed. There were no plans to do that as yet; the current NLS Rare Books pages provided links to relevant rare books websites in and outwith Scotland.

1.2. CERL
BH had been in contact with some libraries about CERL "cluster" membership; the Advocates' Library had become a member of the NLS cluster and BH was now processing another four memberships. Cluster membership gave libraries considerable benefits and the chance to contribute to CERL's Hand Press Book File. BH would be happy to discuss CERL membership with anyone and to act as a link to CERL. He pointed out that there were also other kinds of CERL membership (group, associate, special).

NLS would be hosting CERL's AGM on the 13 November. There would also be a related exhibition and a seminar on the previous day on the theme of provenance; speakers had been arranged, including David Pearson, Director, University of London Research Library Services, James Knowles, University of Stirling, and NLS staff. The day would be open to librarians and researchers outside CERL and BH asked those interested in attending to let him know as soon as possible, in case there were space problems. He would ensure that details of the CERL seminar would be emailed to everyone.

1.3. Workshops
NLS ran two workshops on bibliography and cataloguing on 21 January. Numbers were limited to 5 persons a time and there is now a waiting list for these workshops. A repeat of the workshops was planned as well as additional workshops. Notes from the January workshops would shortly appear on the RBiS web page.

1.4. ESTC
BH had attended a meeting of the International ESTC Committee in London last autumn and had agreed to co-ordinate the completion of the "Scottish canvas" (the list of books held by Scottish libraries for which ESTC does not have full records). BH now had access to the latest Scottish canvas database and he would be contacting the relevant libraries individually to discuss updating these records. BH offered to act as contact with ESTC if any library wished to discuss any ESTC-related projects or report any hitherto unreported holdings. NLS was particularly keen to locate unknown copies or editions of pre-1701 Scottish books to add to the online Aldis, which was intended to contain a full record of Scottish holdings of pre-1701 Scottish books by 2008.

1.5. Collaborative collection development
BH invited those present to provide him descriptions of their collection strengths and of collections which are added to by purchase, to join the other collection development documents on the RBiS web page. Information was invaluable for libraries with an ongoing acquisitions programme in order to alert other libraries of possible acquisitions. It was helpful also to know if libraries did not have a rare books acquisitions budget. The CILIP Rare Books Group had been approached about producing a CD version of the 2nd ed. of its Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections, published in 1997. The RBG Committee thought that there was now too much out-of-date information in the Directory to justify releasing the same text in another format and they favoured a revision. If anyone had any opinions on a revision of the Directory, they should contact BH.

1.6. Celebrating 500 years of Scottish printing
BH and Patrick Mark of SPRAT had convened a meeting on October 7 last year to discuss how to celebrate the forthcoming 500th anniversary of printing in Scotland. A number of possible approaches had been identified and further meetings and coordination of activities between institutions would be needed. Two new relevant senior managers in the NLS were now in place - Alex Miller, Director of Development and Marketing, and Nat Edwards, Education and Interpretative Services Manager (who has overall responsibility for exhibitions) - who were looking at possible exhibition themes. An NLS exhibition would be held in 2008 (2007 was now taken up with a major Year of Highland Culture exhibition). BH hoped that NLS would be able to provide, free of charge, exhibition panels about the history of Scottish printing which could be used by Scottish libraries to provide a context for exploring the history of printing in their locality. BH confirmed that NLS exhibition policy was now to produce a virtual exhibition on the web as well as the actual exhibition.

2. Future status of the group

BH introduced this part of the meeting as a chance to start discussing the future of the group, and whether it would be better to be an independent group such as the Historic Libraries Forum, whose membership largely consists of independent libraries in SE England, or to become affiliated to another body. The most obvious option for affiliation is the Scottish Confederation of University and Research Libraries (SCURL). BH outlined via SCURL's website the structure of SCURL and its affiliated groups. There could be a possible overlap of this group's activities with those of SUSCAG (Scottish University Special Collections and Archives Group), although so far BH had been given no reason to believe that this would be the case. Another affiliated group, the Scottish Visual Arts Group, provided a good parallel in its aims and range of membership.

Catherine Nicholson, Development Director of SCURL, gave a brief presentation on SCURL, what its remit was, how it was organised and what the mutual benefits of affiliation would be.

Possible affiliation was discussed by those present. The following points emerged: the NLS's current organising role for the group was welcomed and would continue unchanged should affiliation take place; there was no real overlap with SUSCAG; it was agreed that affiliation with SCURL should be further explored. BH would discuss this further with SUSCAG, Catherine Nicholson and Gordon Hunt, Director of Customer Services in the NLS and Secretary of SCURL.

BH asked for suggestions for a possible name for the group and asked for them to be emailed to him so that they can be discussed at the next meeting.

3. Future activities

3.1. Plans for workshops
As mentioned earlier, NLS workshops in bibliography and cataloguing would be repeated, possibly in January of next year. Workshops on acquisition procedures had been given high priority at last September's meeting. BH proposed a meeting with unrestricted numbers which would give budget-holders a chance to exchange experiences and information. It was agreed that a workshop on conservation, covering self-help and procedures for outsourcing of work, would be helpful.

3.2. The next meeting of the group
BH would arrange a date for the meeting, probably in November. A venue would also have to be decided. A wider spread of meeting places outwith the Central Belt would in theory be desirable but in practice may not be feasible. The possibility of charging for workshops was discussed, but there were no plans as yet to do this.

3.3. Any other events, meetings
Other suggestions for workshops were on specific features in rare book cataloguing. Christine Gascoigne offered to host a workshop on recording provenance in St Andrews.

3.4. Email list
The possibility of setting up an email list for the group was discussed. It would relatively simple to set up a list, access to which could be limited to members of the group. BH would consult and report back.

4. Rare books librarianship in library schools

Catherine Nicholson reported that CILIPS Education Review Group was currently undertaking a training needs analysis of the profession in Scotland. Forbes Gibb of the University of Strathclyde and Robert Newton from Robert Gordon University had recently attended a SCURL meeting to discuss training and professional development matters. The question of training for rare books librarianship had been raised. Following this meeting, Forbes Gibb had expressed a willingness to explore how the special collections and preservation needs might be met, possibly as an option in the existing MSc programmes delivered jointly by the staff of the department and experts in the field. Robert Newton had subsequently proposed a meeting between himself, Peter Reid and Iain Beavan to discuss further.

In Iain Beavan's absence Richard Turbet reported that Iain had yet to receive any feedback from Robert Gordon University. From RT's own experiences as a music librarian he noted that library schools had shown no interest in teaching music librarianship, and that the UK and Ireland branch of the International Association of Music Libraries had formed a dedicated courses committee in order to help people who been had placed in charge of music collections often without adequate training. If Strathclyde and Robert Gordon universities were not able or willing to work together to provide training in rare books librarianship, then rare book librarians in Scotland would do well to follow the IAML's example and organise their own training to promote the cause of rare books librarianship. Catherine Nicholson would contact Iain Beavan about lack of response from Robert Gordon University.

5. Any other business

No other business to report.

Graham Hogg
Rare Book Collections
National Library of Scotland


Rare Books in Scotland meeting minutes

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