Minutes, 14 September 2004

Rare Books in Scotland business meeting

Tuesday 14 September 2004, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh


  • Julie Gardham (Glasgow University)
  • Brian Hillyard (National Library of Scotland)
  • Graham Hogg (National Library of Scotland)
  • Lindsay Levy (Advocates Library)
  • Valerie McClure (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow)
  • Iain Milne (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh)
  • Sheila Noble (Edinburgh University)
  • Karen O'Brien (Edinburgh City Libraries)
  • Ellen Peacock (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland)
  • Elize Rowan (National Museums of Scotland)
  • Enda Ryan (Mitchell Library)
  • Marianne Smith (Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh)
  • Ann Sweeney (Strathclyde University)
  • Helen Vincent (National Library of Scotland)
  • Julie Wands (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow)
  • David Weston (Glasgow University).

Dr Hillyard began by thanking Iain Milne and staff of the RCPE for the tour of the building and library in the morning and for the excellent lunch.


  • Iain Beavan (Aberdeen University)
  • Christine Cain (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig)
  • Karen Cunningham (Strathclyde University)
  • Jeremy Duncan (A K Bell Library, Perth)
  • Christine Gascoigne (St Andrews University)
  • Anette Hagan (National Library of Scotland)
  • Marian Kirton (Napier University)
  • Karen Moran (Royal Observatory Edinburgh)
  • Catherine Nicholson (SCURL)
  • Andrew Nicoll (Scottish Catholic Archives)
  • John Powles (Glasgow Caledonian University)
  • Audrey Walker (Signet Library).

Minutes of previous meeting (31 March 2004)

The minutes were accepted.

3. Matters arising

3.1 Email list:
BH noted that there was nothing to report as yet. It would be appropriate to take it forward when/if RBiS has formalised the forum and may be useful for providing information of possible acquisitions.

3.2. Rare books librarianship in library schools
BH reported that there have been no further developments on this. Robert Gordon University had yet to arrange meetings to discuss the issue. It may be worth pursuing when / if RBiS becomes affiliated to SCURL and Catherine Nicholson is attending. (NB: The BSc distance-learning course offered by the Department of Information Studies, University of Wales Aberystwyth, includes two optional rare books modules, an introductory module (now three years old) and an advanced module (now one year old)).

4. Convener's report on relevant activities since the last meeting

4.1 Web pages
The underlying structure of the NLS web pages had been updated and 'Rare Books in Scotland' was much more visible as a sub-heading of 'Professional information'. If the RBiS organisation becomes formalised, further work can be done, developing sub-sections on events, workshops, etc. There is a small backlog of material to be put up arising from past workshops.

4.2 CERL
There are now 6 members in the NLS cluster (Advocates Library, National Museums of Scotland, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Perth Libraries, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig) and there are a couple more memberships in progress. Any queries about the cluster should be addressed to BH; other membership queries to David Shaw at Secretariat@cerl.org

BH reported on the CERL Seminar 'Books and their owners: provenance information and the European cultural heritage', taking place in the National Library on 12 November (http://www.cerl.org/news.htm). Those interested in attending (there is no charge) should contact the CERL Secretariat at 40 Bowling Green Lane, London EC1R 0NE, Secretariat@cerl.org or fax +44 (0)20 7970 5643. Following the Seminar, at 5.30pm, there will be a reception, also free of charge, to mark the opening of the National Library's new provenance-related exhibition, "The Private Lives of Books".

4.3 Workshops
The workshops programme had been continuing. 6 people had attended a workshop on Acquisitions held in the NLS yesterday (13 September). The workshop had highlighted opportunities for applying for funds to the National Fund for Acquisitions, which is administered by the National Museums of Scotland. BH offered to email an applicant's guide, currently not available on the web, to anyone interested. Elize Rowan revealed that NMS was upgrading its website and agreed to contact Hazel Williamson about providing online access to the NFA applicant's guide. It was noted that very few libraries had used the NFA up till now, but that should not preclude applications.

A workshop on provenance in St Andrews University Library will be held on 1 December. It will be offered twice, morning and afternoon, with a maximum of 5 persons per session. 16 people had expressed interest so far. In view of the numbers interested attendance may have to be limited to one person per organisation. BH will send out an email asking for definite bookings and then discuss arrangements with Christine Gascoigne. BH expressed his hope that all workshops would become regular events and that therefore anybody missing out this time will get another opportunity to attend. The workshops on bibliography and cataloguing, last held on 21 January, will be repeated on 19 January 2005. They are already fully subscribed, but BH invited further applications to be added to the list of reserves in case others have to drop out.

4.4 English Short-Title Catalogue (ESTC)
BH is continuing to contact libraries from which ESTC would like to have full records for rare or unique pre-1701 British books. He has also visited a number of libraries with books not known to ESTC and demonstrated the use of ESTC's web-matching interface (which requires no special software) which enables libraries to add their holdings to the ESTC file and then, in due, course, receive back MARC records that can be loaded into local systems. BH or one of his colleagues in Rare Book Collections would be happy to describe these processes further to anybody who is interested.

BH also reported that the ESTC file will in the next few years move back to the British Library from Riverside, California, and as part of these changes to steer the future direction of ESTC the British Library has set up an ESTC/UK Project Board, which held its first meeting (which BH attended) on 7 September. BH will be reporting to this Board on the Scottish contribution to ESTC and how it can best be supported. Several ideas might be worth pursuing with the Board: one is to support any proposals that the ESTC file be moved out of the charged environment and become freely available. BH thought this would be a particularly helpful development for the libraries and their users represented in RBiS; his view was unanimously endorsed by those present. Another idea, following on from this potential development, is that the National Library holds, and makes available as a separate catalogue, a Scottish sub-set of ESTC, a Scottish STC, which could be split up into further subsets if required. Current NLS work on updating Aldis would be unaffected. This was also agreed to be a good idea.

4.5. Collaborative collection development
Following on from 4.4 BH thought that a Scottish STC that fully represented Scottish holdings of Scottish books would be a major tool for collaborative collection development in the early books field, he invited those present to add their collection development policies to those already present on the RBiS web pages. David Weston pointed out that having a formal collection development policy was essential when applying for funds; funding bodies usually requested to see them. The NLS was now monitoring the consultation with other libraries that arises in the course of collection development, and would be considering what scope there is for building on this.

4.6 Celebrating 500 years of Scottish printing
The NLS is continuing to plan for this event; BH and the NLS's Education and Interpretative Services Manager, Nat Edwards, had had an informal and positive discussion with civil servants at the Scottish Executive. As a result of this a joint proposal is being drafted by the National Library and the Scottish Printing Archival Trust for a nationwide celebration of the Printed Word in Scotland during 2008. Essentially this proposal seeks Scottish Executive endorsement and support for a national initiative, thus providing a framework within which a strong programme of events nationwide could be developed. There will be a big emphasis on education and community learning as well as on current printing in Scotland. BH will keep everyone informed on future developments.

5. Future status of the group

BH circulated a handout outlining the proposal for SCURL affiliation and showing the information that could be made publicly available about RBiS on the web pages (see Appendix). He reminded everyone of developments since the last business meeting in March. SUSCAG, the Scottish Universities Special Collections & Archives Group, had discussed the 'Rare Books in Scotland' initiative at their meeting of 6 May 2004 and had not expressed any opposition to these plans. BH then drafted a proposal and discussed the proposed SCURL affiliation with Gordon Hunt, SCURL's Secretary. Thanks to the good offices of Catherine Nicholson the SCURL Business Committee was aware of developments, and BH was advised that no obstacles could be foreseen to affiliation.

The NLS now proposed to facilitate the setting up of a forum to continue the collaborative work already being carried out by the present informal 'Rare Books in Scotland' organisation; and further proposed that if set up, this forum would formally request SCURL affiliation. If the proposal was agreed a request for affiliation would be submitted to SCURL to be approved at the next SCURL Business Committee meeting on 6 October, and then recommended to be ratified at the next full SCURL meeting on 18 November. Subject to the proposal being approved, BH hoped that all the organisations already involved would quickly confirm their wish to become members.

There was some discussion of the advantages of SCURL affiliation and the option of staying an informal group. BH noted that affiliation would give the forum a more official voice in rare book-related matters in Scotland, e.g. provision of training in rare books librarianship in Scotland. As a unified body RBiS could express opinions and seek funds; moreover, whilst acknowledging the role NLS currently plays in RBiS, it would be useful to keep some organisational distance from NLS.Elize Rowan reported that from her experience as a member of the Scottish Visual Arts Group, which had been seen as useful model to follow, SCURL affiliation had been only advantageous, leading to increased co-operation and sharing of information. BH stressed the inclusive nature of RBiS, it was hoped that RBiS would attract more and more members from a wide range of organisations, including private libraries; size of the rare book collections was also unimportant when determining membership.

A show of hands to support the proposal was unanimous in favour of setting up the 'Rare Books in Scotland' forum and seeking SCURL affiliation. BH also recorded support for the proposal from: Iain Beavan, Aberdeen University; Christine Cain, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig; Christine Gascoigne, St Andrews University; Marian Kirton, Napier University; Andrew Nicoll, Scottish Catholic Archives; John Powles, Strathclyde University; Audrey Walker, Signet Library.All the organizations represented wished to be members. It was also agreed that BH should continue to act as Convener. BH thought it would be simplest to delay any public announcement until after the SCURL meeting of the 18 November so that the SCURL affiliation (if approved) could form part of the announcement.

6. Future activities

6.1 Workshops
Ideas for future workshops were discussed. At the last meeting it had been decided that a workshop on conservation would be helpful, and Rab Jackson, who has responsibility for Preservation and Conservation in the NLS, had confirmed to BH that his staff could help provide this. The Book and Paper Conservation Studio based in Dundee University Library was also suggested as a possible location. BH will contact Caroline Brown at Dundee University about this.

Other suggestions for workshops were heraldry and identifying bindings. BH will canvass views on these suggestions. David Pearson, now Director of the University of London Research Library Services, was in the process of completing a handbook on bindings, which would be a useful reference tool; however, there could be scope for a seminar with actual examples of bindings to illustrate binding terminology.

6.2 Future meetings
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh have both offered to host meetings. It was agreed that the next meeting will be in Glasgow next spring followed Edinburgh in the autumn. BH will liaise with both institutions to discuss arrangements.

7. Any other business

BH thanked Iain Milne once more for hosting today's meeting.

Graham Hogg
17 September 2004


Appendix: Handout distributed at meeting

Proposal for a 'Rare Books in Scotland' forum

Page 1

Following the two meetings of 'Rare Books in Scotland' (RBiS) that have already taken place (3 September 2003, 31 March 2004) enabling librarians within Scotland who have responsibility for rare book collections to come together to discuss issues of collaboration and mutual support (see http://www.nls.uk/about/partnerships/rarebooksinscotland/), the National Library now proposes to facilitate the setting up of a Forum which will continue the collaborative work being carried out by the present informal organisation, and which indeed can continue to use the name 'Rare Books in Scotland', unless a better name can be found. If set up, this Forum will apply formally to become one of SCURL's affiliated groups.

For this new Forum — as for the present informal arrangements — the National Library will continue to accept the responsibility for providing administrative support and will also, depending on members' wishes as expressed at Business Meetings, continue to provide a convener and play a leading role in organising meetings, workshops, and other events.

At our previous meetings we have agreed on wanting to keep bureaucracy to a minimum. Part of this is keeping events free-of-charge, and this affects membership. We propose that membership would be on an organisational basis, and eligible organisations would be those who have responsibility for collections of 'rare books' in the broadest sense (e.g. identified as requiring some special care and/or unsuitable for inter-library loan). Attendance at meetings and other events would be open to any of the staff of member organisations. It is not proposed to make membership available to organisations such as bibliographical societies or centres for the book that are not responsible for managing a collection of rare books, for this would provide a loophole whereby, for example, somebody not in employment as a librarian but seeking a post would be able to access free workshops (as opposed to those that are commercially available) by virtue of joining some such 'book' organisation. By restricting membership to Scottish organisations responsible for rare book collections, we can continue to organise workshops free-of-charge for the benefit of the collections we curate.

Overleaf you will find a draft text that, if this proposal is accepted, would form the basis for a 'Rare Books in Scotland web page.

Page 2

Rare Books in Scotland

Rare Books in Scotland (RBiS) is a forum facilitated by the National Library of Scotland for members of staff in Scottish libraries and other organisations (of all sizes and in all sectors) who have responsibility for collections of 'rare books' in the broadest sense (e.g. identified as requiring some special care and/or being unsuitable for inter-library loan).

RBiS shares SCURL's aims of

  • improving services for users and maximising resources through collaborative action (e.g. sharing skills through workshops, working together in cataloguing
  • contributing to the building of a co-operative library infrastructure in Scotland (e.g. by developing collaboration in collection development)
  • lobbying funding and planning bodies on matters of shared interest (e.g. preservation, library schools curricula)
  • providing mutual support for members (e.g. by facilitating the development of contacts between individuals and / or libraries)
  • Membership of RBiS is open to all libraries and other organisations within Scotland, small or large, from whatever sector, provided that they have rare book collections in their care. RBiS's activities are open to all staff from member organisations.
  • Business meetings are held twice yearly at different members' institutions throughout Scotland. Workshops are also held at frequent intervals.
  • RBiS has a strong practical focus, and administration is kept to a minimum; administrative support is provided by the National Library of Scotland. There is a Convener but no committee structure. The Business meetings hear reports of activities and discuss plans for future activities. The Convener reports to the Forum at Business meetings, and at other times keeps members informed, and consults them, by email.
  • There is no budget. Events organised by RBiS for its members will be free of charge except where there is a need to recover costs, e.g. if an outside trainer is employed.
  • RBiS is affiliated to SCURL [to be confirmed]. The Convener presents an annual report on RBiS's activities to SCURL management, and SCURL consults RBiS, or asks for expert advice from it, as appropriate.

[Current list of members]

Anybody wishing further information about RBiS should contact Rare Book Collections, National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW, email rarebooks@nls.uk, tel 0131 466 2806.


Rare Books in Scotland meeting minutes


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