Minutes - 14 September 2006

Rare books in Scotland business meeting

Thursday 14 September 2006, Leighton Library/Cathedral Halls, Dunblane


  • Colin Duncan (Inverclyde Libraries)
  • Anne Edgar (Innerpeffray Library)
  • Jill Evans (SCURL)
  • Veronica Fraser (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland)
  • Elizabeth Henderson (St Andrews University)
  • Brian Hillyard (National Library of Scotland)
  • Graham Hogg (National Library of Scotland)
  • Lindsay Levy (Advocates Library)
  • Joe Marshall (National Library of Scotland)
  • Andrew Nicoll (Scottish Catholic Archives)
  • Karen O'Brien (Scottish Library — Edinburgh Central Library)
  • Norman Rodger ('Britain in print' project — Edinburgh University)
  • Enda Ryan (Mitchell Library)
  • John Scally (Edinburgh University)
  • Marianne Smith (Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh)
  • David Weston (Glasgow University)
  • Gordon Willis (Stirling University).

Graham Hogg began by thanking Robin Davis and Gordon Willis for organising the event, and all those who had arranged the interesting tour of the Leighton Library.


  • Margaret Harrison (Strathclyde University)
  • Ellen Peacock (Scottish Accountancy Trust for Education and Research)
  • Valerie McClure (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow)
  • Norma Aldred (Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments)
  • Jane Hutcheon (Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh)
  • Andrew Martin (National Museums of Scotland)
  • Allison Watson (Paisley University).
Minutes of previous meeting (5 April 2006)

The minutes of the 5 April 2005 meeting were accepted.

3. Matters arising

3.1. 'Britain in print' project
Norman Rodger gave an update on the project; about half the target of 41,000 books had now been catalogued, with a year of the project remaining. Six out of the 17 partner libraries had completed their contributions. EUL staff had given training for cataloguers in Belfast. There were still difficulties in recruiting a rare books cataloguer in London. By the end of September, an online learning resource about Shakespeare would be available through the BIP website. There would be promotional work at various educational shows and conferences.

3.2. Scottish Chapbooks Project
Brian Hillyard gave an update. More Stirling chapbooks records had been added to the Scottish Chapbooks Catalogue. Brian reported that he had been invited - the only Scottish representative - to join the Steering Group of the Bibliographical Database of Chapbooks Printed in the UK and Elsewhere in the English Language [first meeting on 21 November]. David Weston stressed the need for detailed cataloguing of chapbooks to record individual song titles etc; he also reported that new chapbooks kept being discovered. There was a discussion of the advantages of digitising chapbooks.

3.3. ESTC
Brian Hillyard reported that ESTC was to be launched as a free public resources through the British Library's website. This was likely to happen before the ESTC conference on 30 October; he would send an e-mail with the link when it was available. Brian distributed copies of a breakdown of the figure of Leighton Library books in ESTC. He recommended using ESTC to produce statistics which could be useful for visitors / enquirers. For this reason he encouraged contributing to ESTC and said that NLS Rare Books staff would be happy to discuss this further with anybody interested. NLS staff would help with searching ESTC if required. Brian explained that the new interface would have similar functionality to the Eureka interface, and that the STAR interface would continue for the forseeable future. The management of the database would now take place in the British Library, but the current Riverside staff would remain in California.

4. Scotland and Europe: a proposed new rare books project in Scotland

John Scally introduced this new idea. Following from the success of Britain in Print, he suggested that it would be useful to have a survey of continental books in Scottish libraries. At the core of the project would be recording holdings and cataloguing, but there would be other educational outputs which would meet Scottish Executive targets in terms of language learning. John argued that it would be a valuable Scottish project uncovering the country's hidden assets. He asked for comments and expressions of interest. A discussion followed. Points on which more detail is needed include: should there be a chronological breakdown, and if so, by what periods (e.g. pre-1801, up to 1707, pre-Copyright Act 1710)? Would books be grouped by language or place of publication?

David Weston suggested that books catalogued for this project would need full provenance cataloguing, so more time would be needed than the 20 minutes per book for Britain in Print. Jill Evans suggested that this would be something to take forward to SCURL. Joe Marshall pointed out that there was existing relevant work by William Kelly on German and Dutch books in Edinburgh libraries (and Gordon Willis noted that Kelly's survey included the Leighton Library). Elizabeth Henderson noted that the French Vernacular Books project at St Andrews was also relevant.

John asked for those interested to contact him or Norman Rodger.

5. Forum update

5.1. Organisation and Forum membership
The Watt Library, Greenock had joined, and Colin Duncan from Inverclyde Libraries was welcomed as the representative. Anne Edgar from Innerpeffray Library was also welcomed

5.2. Web pages
Notes of the provenance workshop held at St Andrews, the PDF of the RBiS leaflet, and the SCURL briefing document on training for rare books librarians, would be appearing shortly.

5.3. Email list

There were currently around 60 subscribers. Graham Hogg reminded people not to post attachments to the list.

5.4. Workshops
Since the last business meeting one workshop had taken place on 24 May 2006, on cataloguing and bibliographical format, this one organised through the Historic Libraries Forum.

5.45 Promotion
Helen Vincent was thanked for running the stand at the Edinburgh Libraries Fair on 16 May 2006/ Thanks also to Sheila Noble and Norman Rodger for designing the leaflets and providing a PDF file, and to everyone else who had helped make the event a success.

6. Future forum activities

6.1 Meetings
The meeting in spring 2007 would take place in the Advocates Library; Lindsay Levy proposed the week starting 5 March. Karen O'Brien offered Edinburgh Central Library as the venue for autumn 2007, and Enda Ryan offered the Mitchell Library as the venue for Spring 2008. In autumn 2008 the meeting would take place in NLS.

6.2. Workshops
A workshop on conservation would take place in November, but only six people could be taken at one time in the Library's conservation workshop. A workshop on bindings could take place that afternoon. In January 2007 there would be a re-run of the workshops on cataloguing and bibliographical format. Brian Hillyard reported that a workshop on Latin for rare books librarians would also take place. Dates for all these are to be confirmed.

Graham Hogg reported on courses by the National Preservation Office, and subsequently emailed the list about these events on 20 November and 4 December.

Possible future workshops include one on exhibitions and on disaster planning. David Weston drew attention to courses on document recovery offered by Harwell Document Restoration Services — the next one in Glasgow on 27 September 2006. Andrew Nicoll and Elizabeth Henderson stressed that disaster planning needed to be practical.

Graham Hogg reminded everyone that anyone could initiate and organise a workshop, and warned that NLS facilities for talks would be limited over the next few months while the front hall is redeveloped.

6.3. Web pages: see 5.2

6.4. Promotion
Next year's Edinburgh Libraries Fair would be a larger event, more focused on the public, and there would be a charge for exhibitors, NLS Rare Book Collections staff were keeping in touch with developments in case RBiS would have a stall there.

6.5. Other suggestions
Other suggestions for the activities of the Forum and its promotion are welcomed.

7. Rare book librarianship training issue

Brian Hillyard reported that following his meeting with Elizabeth Henderson and Jon Purcell of St Andrews, and further discussion between Jon and Jill Evans, it had been decided to take this issue to the SCURL business committee, for which Brian wrote a short paper. Jill Evans reported that this had received support at the committee, and that the recent SCURL plenary meeting had also been supportive. Sheila Cannell of Edinburgh University Library would be discussing it further with Brian. The SCURL meeting had raised other concerns about current provision of librarianship training, and representatives of the library schools at Strathclyde and Robert Gordon universities had been invited to the next SCURL meeting. Both the short paper and a revised version of the report tabled at our last meeting were circulated.

8. Uncatalogued collections

Brian Hillyard circulated a sheet giving some figures for early books in Scottish libraries, derived from ESTC and Bloomfield's Directory of rare book and special collections. There was a discussion about how we could be consistent in our various attempts to map Scottish collections, e.g. in terms of using the same chronological periods. Brian asked for further figures that might not be included in Bloomfield.

9. 2008 Scottish Year of the Printed Word

Elizabeth Henderson reported on the CILIP Rare Books Group conference at Coleraine, in which it had been announced that the 2008 conference would be held in Edinburgh. There was a discussion of the merits of other locations. Lindsay Levy noted that if it was in Edinburgh, various institutions should share the responsibility. Brian Hillyard would raise the question at the next RBG committee meeting on 10 October.

Brian recommended that everyone look at the '500 years of printing in Scotland' website, which had been launched at NLS on 30 May 2006. NLS was working on a website called the 'Spread of Scottish printing', which would chart the arrival of printing across the country. Brian asked people to contact him if they wanted to get involved.

10. Designated status for Scottish libraries

Brian Hillyard pointed out that there was no system for drawing attention to key Scottish collections, unlike the Designation Scheme run by the MLA in England and Wales. Brian and Jill Evans would investigate further. Andrew Nicoll reported that based on experiences south of the border there were fears that designation could lead to a two-tier system.

11. Promoting historic libraries

There was a general discussion about ways of promoting historic libraries without jeopardising their collections. Anne Edgar described how Innerpeffray visitors enjoyed handling historic books as part of their visit. Gordon Willis noted that it was useful to have a key personality associated with a library, such as Robert Leighton in the case of the Leighton Library. Elizabeth Henderson stressed the importance of relating collections to the current school curriculum. Andrew Nicoll suggested that in the case of the Leighton Library, the basement could be used as an interpretation centre.

12. AOCB

Graham concluded by thanking Robin Davis, Gordon Willis, the Trustees of the Leighton Library and all who had worked for the day's event

Joe Marshall
15 September 2006


Rare Books in Scotland meeting minutes

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