Minutes, 18 March 2005

Rare Books in Scotland business meeting

Friday 18 March 2005, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow


  • Norma Aldred (Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments)
  • Marion Beaton (Mitchell Library)
  • David Buri (Glasgow School of Art)
  • Karen Cunningham (Strathclyde University)
  • John Dallas (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh)
  • Michelle Gait (Aberdeen University)
  • Julie Gardham (Glasgow University)
  • Elizabeth Henderson (St Andrews 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)
  • Joe Marshall (National Library of Scotland)
  • Ann Morrison (Edinburgh City Libraries)
  • Andrew Nicoll (Scottish Catholic Archives)
  • Sheila Noble (Edinburgh University)
  • Karen O'Brien (Edinburgh City Libraries)
  • John Scally (Edinburgh University)
  • Marianne Smith (Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh)
  • Julie Wands (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow)
  • Allison Watson (Paisley University)
  • Gordon Willis (Stirling University).

Dr Hillyard began by thanking James Beaton and the staff of RCPSG for their hospitality and the tour of the building and Library and asked them to pass on official thanks to the RCSPG. He also welcomed new delegates to the meeting from institutions previously not represented at RBiS meetings. Glasgow School of Art would be added to the list of members, as would, subject to confirmation, the RCAHMS.


  • Iain Beavan (Aberdeen University)
  • Caroline Brown (Dundee University)
  • Jane Hutcheon (Royal Botanic Garden)
  • Marian Kirton (Napier University)
  • Andrew Martin (National Museums of Scotland)
  • Elize Rowan (National Museums of Scotland)
  • Ann Sweeney (Strathclyde University).

2. Minutes of previous meeting (14 September 2004)

The minutes were accepted.

3. Matters arising

4.3. Workshops
Following on from the workshop on acquisitions, BH had received confirmation from Elize Rowan that information about the National Fund for Acquisitions was now available on the National Museums of Scotland website. NMS were also considering whether to make the application form also available online.

4.5. Collaborative collection development
BH reported that NLS had been noting instances when they had consulted other libraries about possible acquisitions; over the last 6 months 10 institutions had been contacted, some more than once. He again asked for members to share details of their own collection strengths and interests on the RBiS webpages to increase consultation.

Convener's report on relevant activities since the last meeting

4.1. Organisational
The forum's request for affiilation with SCURL had been granted on 18 November, as could be seen on the RBiS website and the SCURL website. SCURL is considering whether to change the existing practice of asking affiliated group conveners to attend a meeting annually, in order to report on the group's activities, in favour of submitting a written report. BH expressed thanks on behalf of RBiS to Catherine Nicholson, former SCURL Development Director now Head of Information Services at Glasgow School of Art, who had helped in the affiliation process.

4.2. Web pages
As mentioned earlier the list of members would be updated to include the Royal Botanic Garden and other new members. BH was anxious to extend the list and invited existing members to suggest potential additions to the list, e.g. private libraries who had volunteer staff and who could benefit from RBiS support.

4.3. Email list
BH had found out that the NLS could run a JISCmail list provided that there was a principal list-owner with an 'ac.uk' address. Sheila Noble had kindly agreed to take on this role if required to do so. BH invited comments from those present as the best way to proceed, either to stick with the current informal list receiving emails from NLS or to create an RBiS mail list. It was agreed that a JISCmail list should be created which would be for RBiS members only.

4.4. ESTC
BH continued to attend meetings of the ESTC / UK and Ireland Project Board. Work was underway to prepare for the transfer of the ESTC master file to the BL from ESTC/NA, and it was intended that consultation of the file, via the BL website, would be free. This was scheduled to happen in late 2006. The BL was planning to make the ESTC file one of a group of STC files (the others would include the Incunable Short-Title Catalogue and the BL's foreign books STCs) to which access would be provided, searchable either individually or as a group.

The second phase of the Britain in Print Project, which involves the retrospective conversion of pre-1701 ESTC items of a partnership of 15 UK libraries, has recently received HLF funding. The project is led by Edinburgh University Library on behalf of CURL and is due to finish in April 2007. John Scally reported that the aim of the Project was to create 47,000 catalogue records, downloaded from ESTC, and to add provenance and copy-specific information, thus making available online the pre-1701 British books in the participating libraries. As the HLF would not have funded a purely cataloguing project, two e-learning modules would be created, based on similar work done in the first phase of the project. At the end of the project there may be a shortfall in the number of catalogue records created which may result in the 'mopping up' of previously uncatalogued pre-1701 books in other libraries. Members wishing to learn more could contact the Project Manager, Norman Rodger, who was based at EUL.

4.5. CERL
A number of RBiS members were able to attend the 'Books and their owners' seminar on 12 November 2004. The seminar papers will be published by CERL later this year, and the publication will include extended exhibition labels for the 'Private lives of books' exhibition in NLS.

4.6. Workshops

(i) The two workshops on the basics of cataloguing and of bibliographical format were repeated on 19 January 2005, and again were fully subscribed (i.e. 10 persons attended each). Thanks were due to the NLS staff, Eoin Shalloo and Robert Betteridge, who had provided these workshops.

(ii) Workshops on provenance were held at the University of St Andrews on 1 December 2004. Thanks were due to Christine Gascoigne and Elizabeth Henderson for delivering these workshops. Elizabeth Henderson reported that six people had attended each session and that they had received positive feedback; a bibliography and notes relating to the workshops will appear on the RBiS website.

5. Celebrating 500 years of Scottish printing

After meeting with civil servants last year, NLS had submitted a paper to the Scottish Executive, the main objective of which was to ask the SE to name 2008 as the Year of the Printed Word. BH and the NLS's Education and Interpretative Services manager, Nat Edwards, attended a further meeting on 3 February, but due to staffing and organisational changes within the SE, there had been no response from them as yet. In the meantime, after consultation with Patrick Mark, Chairman of SPRAT (Scottish Printing and Archival Trust), NLS had decided to start the co-ordination of a national programme of events to strengthen the case for 2008 as the Year of the Printed Word. SPRAT's role was important as 2008 would also be celebrating the work of the printing industry in Scotland. The current Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport would be visiting the NLS on 21 March and BH would be showing her the Chepman and Myllar prints to remind her of the significance of 2008.

BH was planning to begin a list of planned exhibitions and/or other events for 2008, which could be recorded on an RBiS web page. He invited members to consider serving as library representatives on a national committee to organise events. He was looking for as wide a range of reps as possible from different parts of the country. At this stage reps would have to pay for their own travel. Once there were members of the committee in place a suitable venue could be found, BH hoped to hold the first meeting in June or July.

6. Scottish Chapbooks Catalogue

NLS has received money from the BL Full Disclosure Initiative to fund one year of cataloguing of Scottish chapbooks in its collections. The records were in the process of being added to the Scottish Chapbook Catalogue, a union catalogue of Scottish chapbooks, which was run by Special Collections staff in Glasgow University Library. Julie Gardham reported on the history and current progress of the catalogue. So far GUL, Edinburgh Central Library, Stirling University and NLS had contributed to information which was currently held on an Access database (NLS has developed a program converting MARC records for the db). She invited other Scottish libraries to contact GUL Special Collections in order to contribute to the catalogue, first of all by checking their holdings against the catalogue and sending in copy-specific information and call numbers, then by adding new items. The setting up of the JISCmail list would facilitate reporting on progress on the catalogue.

7. Scotland and Medicine Partnership

BH reported on a new initiative called the Scotland and Medicine Partnership, a 3-year project, funded by the Regional Development Challenge Fund and led by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, that has the objective of promoting medical collections and health connections in Scottish Museums to local, national and international audiences. Although primarily museums-based, it was recognised that Scottish medical publications and the medical collections in Scottish libraries have an important role to play. BH had attended a Management Board meeting and met with Dawn Kemp, Director of Heritage RCSE. A project website is being developed and is expected to become available in the middle of the year. Since next September's meeting is at the RCSE, BH will ask for a brief presentation on this project. Anyone interested in further details should contact Dawn Kemp at the RCSE.

8. Rare book librarianship in library schools

Iain Beavan had been in contact with Robert Gordon University but no progress had been made on this issue (as with Strathclyde earlier). BH invited members to give their views on this matter.

In a lengthy and wide-ranging discussion the following points emerged:

  • The lack of teaching in RB librarianship in Scotland was highly unsatisfactory, courses in historical bibliography for librarianship students at UCL were very well subscribed, something needed to be done.
  • Training in IT has, largely for funding reasons, become predominant in Scottish library schools so that students had little grounding in the history of the book or in dealing with books as physical objects.
  • If the Scottish Library schools wanted help from RBiS members in devising a RB-based module they would have to provide input and sufficient resources to do this.
  • The recently established distance-learning course in Archives and Records Management at Dundee University, showed what could be done, as archivists themselves had taken the initiative in devising training for the next generation.
  • A summer school, taught by staff at UCL or Aberystwyth, could be one solution.
  • Academic staff in Scotland working on the history of the book could be consulted about providing training (e.g. Edinburgh University's Centre for the History of the Book).
  • The workshops being provided by RBiS were in effect forming a RB librarianship training module, a couple of spaces could be kept free for library students, although this may deprive members of opportunities to attend.

BH called for volunteers to form a sub-group to document the issues involved and decide on the way forward; there was the option of lobbying the library schools directly or talking to SCURL or SLIC first. John Scally, Marianne Smith, Elizabeth Henderson volunteered to be part of the group along with BH; Andrew Nicoll also agreed to act in an advisory capacity.

9. Future activities

9.1. Business meetings and visits
The next six-monthly meeting will be at the Royal College of Surgeons on 22 September. A host for the subsequent meeting in 2006 was needed. If possible, BH would like to announce this at the next meeting.

9.2. Workshops

  1. It was agreed last meeting that a workshop on conservation would be useful. In addition to an offer of training from NLS, the Book and Paper Conservation Studio based in Dundee University Library was contacted. The Studio could offer to do a workshop but there would be a substantial fee involved. The NLS's Preservation and Conservation staff could put together a workshop to meet attendees' needs, which could be offered free-of-charge at the NLS, hopefully at a date adjacent to the next meeting in the RCSE. It was agreed that the NLS offer should be taken up.
  2. There is now some information on the RBiS website showing some of the topics covered in the seminar on acquisitions last September. There were no plans to repeat it this year.
  3. It was agreed that a workshop on bindings should be planned for later this year (probably December). BH noted that David Pearson's book on bindings is due to be published in April, and though it is English-focused, it should be a useful textbook for a workshop.
  4. BH raised the possibility of running a workshop on Latin for cataloguers. The workshop NLS has in mind would cover imprint terminology and also standard title patterns (and how to abbreviate excessively long titles) and transcription problems such as reversed C. Those present agreed that this would be a good topic for a workshop of wider interest than for cataloguers alone, e.g. 'Latin for rare book librarians'. BH mentioned that in addition to the web resources for Latin place names, there is already a web page by Robert Maxwell, on the Brigham Young University website, setting out Latin terms used in the imprint.
  5. Another suggestion for workshops was putting on displays and exhibitions; part of this could be covered in the workshop on conservation, but the wider issues such as selection of material and writing of labels could be considered for a workshop.

10. AOB

Uncatalogued collections
Further to what John Scally had reported in Britain in Print about the possible mopping up uncatalogued collections in Scottish libraries, BH would like to collect information about uncatalogued collections/items only available on card catalogues in Scottish libraries in order to get an idea of what the situation is nationwide. Information could be divided into categories such as date (pre-1801) and British books and foreign-language. Some of this information would be helpful in trying to make the record of pre-1701 Scottish books as complete as possible by the time of the 500th anniversary of Scottish printing in 2008. BH would place this matter on the agenda for the next meeting.

Graham Hogg
9 May 2005


Rare Books in Scotland meeting minutes

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