Rare Books in Scotland business meeting
Wednesday 5 April 2006, St Andrews University
- Norma Aldred (Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments)
- Jill Evans (SCURL)
- Julie Gardham (Glasgow University)
- Elizabeth Henderson (St Andrews University)
- Brian Hillyard (National Library of Scotland)
- Graham Hogg (National Library of Scotland)
- Alan Knox (Aberdeen University)
- Lindsay Levy (Advocates Library)
- Valerie McClure (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow)
- Sheila Noble (Edinburgh University)
- Karen O'Brien (Scottish Library — Edinburgh Central Library)
- Norman Rodger ('Britain in print' project — Edinburgh University)
- Helen Vincent (National Library of Scotland)
- Gordon Willis (Stirling University).
Brian Hillyard began by thanking Elizabeth Henderson and St Andrews University for hosting the meeting.
- Iain Beavan (Aberdeen University)
- Jeremy Duncan (AK Bell Library, Perth)
- Jane Hutcheon (Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh)
- Marian Kirton (Napier University)
- Andrew Martin (National Museums of Scotland)
- Karen Moran (Royal Observatory, Edinburgh)
- Anne Morrison (Edinburgh Central Library)
- Andrew Nicoll (Scottish Catholic Archives)
- John Scally (Edinburgh University)
- Marianne Smith (Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh)
- David Weston (Glasgow University).
Minutes of previous meeting (22 September 2005)
The minutes of the 22 September 2005 meeting were accepted.
3. Matters arising
3.1. 'Britain in print' project
The project manager Norman Rodger gave an update on the project. Two additional partners will be added to the project, the libraries of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and Glasgow University, in order to make up the shortfall in the original estimate of numbers of books to be catalogued. There are currently 16 partners in the UK with eight cataloguers in post, problems in recruiting a cataloguer for the London area had led to an agency being used to recruit someone there. So far circa 13,500 books have been covered from the total of 42,000 to be done, so the project is on target for completion by the end date of August 2007. Cataloguers are spending an average of 20 minutes per item, doing a combination of ESTC matching and cataloguing directly into the host library's system. The project cataloguers have already discovered a few unique ESTC items, mostly in English libraries. Two e-learning resources are also being developed in partnership with schools, one of them on Shakespeare, which would be made available via the BiP website. An education and outreach officer is expected to be appointed next week.
3.2. Scottish Chapbooks Catalogue
BH reported that the NLS had completed its chapbook cataloguing project at the end of last year. Julie Gardham confirmed that NLS records have been transferred to MS Access database held by Glasgow University Library. The SCC now contained records for circa 4,000 different Scottish chapbooks which were based on records of c.6,700 copies from the holdings of Glasgow University, Stirling University, NLS, and Scottish Library (Edinburgh Central Library), within these copies there were nearly 11,000 individual titles. There are no funds at present available to continue work on cataloguing and identifying new items but libraries were welcome to match their records with the SCC and add their holdings. Anyone interested in finding out more about the SCC should contact David Weston at Glasgow University. Gordon Willis reported that the Stirling University holdings in the SCC do not include items that are held only at Stirling and not at the other three libraries. There are a significant number of items in this category, which are largely Stirling imprints. Supplying these records in MS Access form instead of MARC records is problematic. BH undertook to investigate whether NLS could assist on conversion of MARC records to MS Access.
BH had attended a meeting of the ESTC UK & Ireland Board last week. An international conference at BL on 30 October (which will be free and open to all) will be held to celebrate the launch of the public ESTC on the BL website. ESTC, however, is expected to be available earlier than that. ESTC will be held on a BL database within the BL ILS and available on a separate OPAC which will be similar to but have more functionality than the main BL OPAC. Initially contributors to the ESTC file will continue to access the STAR file from California via the browser interface as now — there will be daily updates in both directions between BL and California. New contributors are welcome. Yesterday BH visited Paxton House in Berwickshire, where a library cataloguing project is getting underway, to demonstrate ESTC matching.
4. Forum update
4.1. Organisation and Forum membership
There are 27 members listed; Paxton House, subject to confirmation, will be joining as well. Jill Evans confirmed that SCURL would be asking for a brief annual report of the Forum's activities for the SCURL AGM in June.
4.2. Web pages
There is a new document showing what was covered in the January 2006 cataloguing/bibliographical format workshop. Notes of the provenance workshop held at St Andrews would be appearing shortly.
4.3. Email list
A few people had left the list; one or two may have simply suspended their JISCmail which has led to them being removed from the list, Graham Hogg would investigate this.
Since the last business meeting two workshops had taken place, the annual cataloguing and bibliography workshops, which had been fully booked. BH noted that the attendance at these workshops had increased each year.
5. Future forum activities
5.1. Edinburgh libraries fair
Helen Vincent reported that she would be representing RBiS at this event, organised by ELISA (Edinburgh Libraries and Information Services Agency) which will take place on 16 May 2006 at Edinburgh UL. This year's event is a pilot one, aimed at Library professionals, 2007 will be a larger event targeting the general public as well. RBiS will be occupying a 'stall' at the fair, as it will be a good opportunity to publicise the Forum, and conducting a best practice session on looking after rare books and other materials. Volunteers are welcome to help out on the day. HV is planning to produce a simple leaflet, based on the content of the RBiS web pages. She asked for opinions on content, layout, font, etc. JE revealed that SCURL could in future give financial assistance for promotional material. Sheila Noble volunteered to assist in editing the text of the planned leaflet.
The next business meeting will be held in Dunblane thanks to Gordon Willis and Robin Davis of Stirling University, on 14 September, in the morning there will be a chance to look round the Leighton library, the actual business meeting will be held in the Cathedral halls in the afternoon. The Advocates Library will be the venue in Spring 2007; venues are needed for the autumn 2007 and spring 2008 meetings, suggestions should be sent to GH. The possibility of holding future meetings at non-member venues as a means of promoting RBiS was raised and was favourably received. BH recommended that the autumn 2008 meeting should take place at NLS, as it would give members a chance to look at the 500 years of printing in Scotland exhibition which should be running at the time. The difficulties of attending meetings in late September / early October for those working in the HE sector was noted.
A cataloguing/bibliographical format workshop, organised by the Historic Libraries Forum will be held in the NLS on 24 May; almost all of the places had been filled. The conservation/bookbindings workshop originally planned for spring 2006 will be rescheduled for later this year. Workshops for next year will hopefully include again cataloguing/bibliographical format and Latin for rare book librarians. There was general agreement that workshop(s) on general and practical aspects of exhibitions would be very useful. Areas to be covered could consist of exhibition concepts and planning, writing captions/labels, methods of displaying books (cradles and conservation matters). It was noted that a lot of helpful material is in print and on the web and that the museums sector, in particular the Scottish Museums Council, ran training courses which covered much of this ground (e.g. Grampian Information would be running an Exhibition Techniques course later this month). JE suggested that producing a best practice booklet for exhibiting rare books could be a possible project for CILIPS chartership students based in the NLS.
6. 500 years of printing in Scotland 1508-2008
BH reported that although there has been no agreement on a major museums-based exhibition in Edinburgh, SPRAT and NLS have had a meeting with the Director of Culture and Leisure of the City of Edinburgh Council and received strong support. They have also had positive responses from a number of libraries, and the Scottish Text Society, who have agreed to support the celebrations by co-publishing a CD of Chepman and Myllar images with introductions, etc., and by leading the scholarly input into this publication.
On 30 May SPRAT and NLS are planning to host a launch of 2008 as a year of celebration and will be unveiling a website which will include an events page to track planning of events nationwide. The page will include a list of 'supporters': before 30 May BH will be checking with them that they are willing to be listed and that the correct nomenclature has been used. After the formal launch in the NLS those attending will be invited to stay for lunch and for a discussion about how to take the 2008 events forward. There will also be the chance to take a tour of the NLS. Arrangements will be confirmed via emails on the RBiS list.
7. Uncatalogued collections
After raising this issue at the last business meeting, BH mentioned that in the light of last year's Cultural Commission's report the NLS might have some relevant responsibility in recording these. The Survey of Outstanding Material for Retrospective Conversion and Retrospective Cataloguing in CURL Libraries contains an interesting analysis of collections but it is restricted to CURL libraries only. When attending the CERL seminar in Rome BH had learnt about the Hungarian Shared Catalogue of pre-1851 books, MOKKA-R, which was based on a survey carried out in 2003 of rare books in Hungarian libraries. BH suggested that a similar project could also be carried out in Scotland to help libraries plan cataloguing, and so to make the most of their holdings. He was thus anxious to get RBiS opinions on a possible census of catalogued and uncatalogued rare book items in Scotland. BH noted in the document 'Scotland's Culture', which is the Scottish Ministers' response (January) to the Cultural Commission's Report, there was a Scottish Executive commitment 'to the development of its support for collections of national significance in the care of local authorities and other organisations'; this, however, was primarily aimed at the museums sector.
The discussion that followed dealt with the following areas: the feasibility and methodology for carrying out such a census (questionnaires could be sent out, but producing a breakdown of holdings by time periods, as in MOKKA-R, would be difficult). The actual goals behind such a census (BH believed it was important to get an idea of the size of the problem which could inform issues like rare book librarianship training for library students). The MLA's Designation Scheme, which was set up in England to promote the most important and culturally valuable collections in museums, libraries and archives (a proposed extension of the scheme to Scotland was rejected by the Scottish library sector as there was felt to be little demand for it — can this decision be reversed?). Related initiatives were also discussed: JE pointed out that SLIC is currently interested in funding research proposals from member organisations which address content management, sharing of content and the relationship between promoting content and increasing use of resources. Some of the ground of the proposed census had already been covered in the higher education sector through the Research Support Libraries Programme.
It was agreed that BH should continue to plan the census, with a possible cut-off date of 1900. It was important to identify and target the audience for the findings of a such census, these should not be confined to the library sector but should also be aimed at the public and funding bodies.
8. Rare book librarianship training issues
Since the last business meeting, a written report (circulated before the meeting) has now been drafted by BH in consultation with the people designated to look into the issue. BH outlined the main points in the report:
- There is an Appendix comprising minutes of our previous meetings showing the background.
- The first main section addresses the need for training, and argues that there is a case for it both on a very practical level and on a strategic level (at this point BH requested information from RBiS members on posts in Scotland that have been filled in the last five years - not necessarily full-time rare books posts, but those with some responsibility for rare books). BH has drawn from the two relevant recent government documents, the Cultural Commission's report and Scotland's Culture, focusing on comments made about the maintenance and improvement of standards in both non-national museums and libraries.
- The report also considers what kind of training is needed and the need for both 'continued professional development' and pre-professional training
- The next section discusses how to meet the need for rare books librarianship training. The 'continued professional development' kind is something that RBiS is already dealing with, and there is also distance-learning, in this case the Aberystwyth rare book modules. The report identifies the pre-professional training as where the real gap exists and where Library Schools have a role to make provision for it, whilst acknowledging that the profession itself has a subsidiary role by assisting the developing and teaching of courses. The advantages of using the same modules for archivists' courses are also mentioned since it is archivists who are responsible for some rare book collections.
BH asked for comments on the report and the best strategy for taking the report further both within SCURL and in a wider context (he has shown an earlier draft of it to the Secretary of SCURL and asked about SCURL's interest in this). From the ensuing discussion the following points emerged: the report should contain a clear proposal/action which should be placed at the start of it; the report should contain some more precise figures to back up arguments; the gap in the provision of training was not confined to Scotland, it also existed to some extent in England and Wales, students training as archivists were felt by some library managers to have a better grasp of rare book issues than students from library schools.
BH agreed to continue to work on the report following the recommendations in the discussion, members were welcome to e-mail him with suggestions and corrections. A version of the report could be made available on a non-public link on the RBiS website for all members to see and comment on. At some point opinions could be canvassed from other library professionals on lis-rarebooks and other mailing lists.
9. Disaster planning
This subject was identified as a possible future workshop, the opportunity to exchange experiences of disaster planning and disaster plans in action would be useful. It was noted that reciprocal arrangements for use of storage facilities and equipment existed in the museums sector but not for libraries.
There was no other business to report.
26 May 2005