Minutes, 8 March 2007

Rare books in Scotland business meeting

Thursday 8 March 2007, Advocates Library, Edinburgh


  • Jill Evans (SCURL)
  • Sheila Noble (EdinburghUniversity Library)
  • Marianne Smith (Royal College of Surgeons)
  • Colin Duncan (Watt Library Greenock)
  • Marian Kirton (Napier University Library)
  • Julie Gardham (Glasgow University Library)
  • Elizabeth Henderson (St Andrews University Library)
  • Paulette Hill (Historic Scotland)
  • Brian Hillyard (National Library of Scotland)
  • Graham Hogg (National Library of Scotland, convenor)
  • Norma Aldred (RCHAMS)
  • Anne Morrison (Edinburgh Central Library)
  • John Scally (Edinburgh University Library)
  • Victoria Endean (Signet Library)
  • Ian Milne (Royal College of Physicians)
  • Helen Vincent (National Library of Scotland, minutes)
  • Joanna Soden (Royal Scottish Academy)
  • Helen Beardsley (University of Stirling)
  • Ron Livingstone (Aberdeen City Libraries)
  • Lindsay Levy (Advocates Library)
  • Karen O' Brien (Edinburgh Central Library)
  • Joe Marshall (National Library of Scotland).

Brian Hillyard began the meeting by noting that Graham Hogg is now the convenor for RBiS. Graham Hogg began by thanking Andrea Longson and Lindsay Levy for organising the event, and all those who had arranged the tour and exhibition material from the Advocates Library. He also welcomed some new people attending for the first time, Ron Livingstone, Joanna Soden, Helen Beardsley, Paulette Hill and Victoria Endean.


  • Andrew Nicoll (Scottish Catholic Archives)
  • Allison Watson (Paisley University)
  • Jane Hutcheon (Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh)
  • Ellen Peacock (Scottish Accountancy Trust for Education and Research)
  • Andrew Martin (National Museums of Scotland)
  • David Weston (Glasgow University Library)
  • Alan Knox (Aberdeen University Library).

2. Minutes of previous meeting (14 September 2006)

The minutes of the 14 September 2006 meeting were accepted.

3. Matters arising

3.1. 'Britain in print' project
John Scally gave an update on the project. It is on target for its August completion date; the online Shakespeare learning resource is being trialled in schools across the UK and a similar resource on 1707 is being developed.

3.2. Scottish Chapbooks Project
Brian Hillyard gave an update on the UK-wide project being run by the Bibliographical Society and V&A. Brian Hillyard gave an update on the UK-wide project being run by the Bibliographical Society and the National Art Library, V&A, and summarised the web pages that were shortly to become available. He would post the URL when that happened. The web pages would include an online questionnaire surveying chapbook holdings: he encouraged everybody with holdings to fill this in.

3.3. ESTC
ESTC is now freely available through the British Library website; those present were all aware of this. Brian Hillyard will regularly solicit feedback on using ESTC and whether members have noted any rise in the use of ESTC items in their libraries or of visitor figures as a result of its being freely accessible. He will take this feedback to ESTC/UK and Ireland Management Board.

4. Forum update

4.1. Organisation and forum membership

RBiS has three new members:

  • East Lothian Local History Centre
  • Historic Scotland
  • Aberdeen Central Library

4.2. Web pages

Brian Hillyard's briefing paper for SCURL (PDF: 1 page; 23 KB) on training for rare book librarians (see item 7) is now on the website.

4.3. Email list

There are currently around 60 subscribers.

4.4. Workshops

Since the last business meeting the following workshops took place, all at NLS:

November 15 Conservation
January 18 Cataloguing
Bibliographical format
March 7 Latin for Rare Book Librarians

Thanks were recorded to NLS staff who organised the workshops.

4.5 Promotion
Helen Vincent and Marianne Smith were thanked for providing text and images for the feature on RBiS in the Edinburgh libraries TACIT newsletter of 25 October 2006 now online at the new ELISA website.

5. Future forum activities

5.1. Meetings
Future meetings have been agreed: the next meeting will be in Edinburgh Central Library (Thursday 11 October), spring 2008 will be in the Mitchell Library, and autumn 2008 at NLS, during the run of the NLS exhibition on '500 years of printing'. Any offers to host future meetings will be gratefully received.

5.2. Workshops
Suggestions for future workshops were solicited. Responses included Heraldry and Armorials (Elizabeth Henderson mentioned that some elements were included in the previous Provenance workshop and a St Andrews contact runs similar workshops for historians); Moving Collections (it was agreed that it would be useful to capture the knowledge of EUL's recent experience). Existing suggestions are for workshops on Exhibitions (NLS recently ran an internal workshop but would welcome other people's involvement in devising an RBiS workshop) and Disaster Planning (EUL offered to host a workshop based on their own recent planning and documentation). It was also agreed to rerun the Latin workshop and to offer the annual Cataloguing and Bibliography workshops at NLS in January 2008. Brian Hillyard and Graham Hogg will collate these suggestions and work up a workshop schedule for 2007 / 2008.

5.3. Web pages
Graham Hogg apologised for the delays in uploading material to the RBiS website. Material from the workshops on Provenance, Bibliography and Bookbinding is to be loaded. Material from the Latin workshop will be loaded after it has been run for a second time.

John Scally noted that Google searches rank RBiS web pages highly and it is therefore a good site to place material we would like to highlight. It was agreed that RBiS pages could be used to promote '500 years' and other topics (see items 7 and 8).

5.4. Promotion
Helen Vincent distributed copies of TACIT 7 March 2007 which contains material by RBiS members EUL, ROE and RCAHMS.

Forthcoming ELISA events in Edinburgh include an Open Day for librarians on 15 May 2007. This will have a theme of practical ways of managing careers, particularly for people working in small, specialised organisations, including profiles of such librarians. This has relevance to RBiS members: anyone wishing to volunteer to help with organising the Open Day or to speak about the job of a rare books librarian should contact Wendy Ball, ELISA Development Officer (Tel: 0131 242 8106 / email: wendy.ball@edinburgh.gov.uk). The Open Day will be open to RBiS members from outside Edinburgh.

ELISA is also organising an Edinburgh Festival of Libraries on 6 October 2007, to be held in the Assembly Rooms and open to the public. They have asked if RBiS, and/or individual RBiS members would like to participate, whether through hosting an 'Antiques Roadshow' kind of event, displaying items, contributing to the programme of talks during the day, or having a stand. It was agreed that 'Antiques Roadshow' events are problematic, not least because we would not offer valuations. The pros and cons of an RBiS stand at an event for the general public were debated. It was agreed that there should be an RBiS presence at the fair: EUL will lead on this (with John Scally as ELISA contact) including paying any fees for the stand and (re)designing publicity materials. NLS agreed to pay for the production of publicity materials. It was noted that some RBiS members will be involved in their own institutions' stands. Helen Vincent will update Wendy Ball with this information.

Graham Hogg mentioned that the NLS magazine 'Discover NLS' would like to do a feature on RBiS. It was agreed this would be a good thing.

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

6. Scotland and Europe

Brian Hillyard reported on his meeting with Andrew Pettegree of the University of St Andrews 16th-century French vernacular book project whose completed STC will be launched in November. This group is now working on 16th-century Latin books printed in France, and looking at linking up with other extant 16th-century European STCs and developing new STCs for other countries.

Brian produced his estimated figures for NLS books printed in European countries 1500-1900, and was pleased to note that for French books his estimate agrees roughly with the St Andrews project's work. Brian has also calculated the proportions of Latin and vernacular printing per country for France, Germany, Netherlands and Italy. The next step is to extrapolate these figures to a national level: based on the St Andrews figures showing that NLS holds approximately half of the total, his rough estimate is approximately 200,000 European books printed 1500-1900 on mainland Europe held in Scottish collections. He thanked those who have already sent information about their institution's holdings.

John Scally spoke on how these figures could be used to calculate the costs of the cataloguing and interpretation programme along the lines of Britain in Print discussed at the last RBiS meeting. He stressed that interpretative resources would be attractive to funding bodies, but that the role of cataloguing as the 'engine room' of the project would be fundamental. The contrast between the 42,000 English books of BiP and the 200,000 foreign-language books of the new project, with implications for the project and the skills required, was discussed. It was agreed that re-using the successful elements of 'Britain in print' would be helpful. John commented on the development of Google Print and the perceived European need to balance the many English-language digitisation initiatives. In answer to a question about the role of digitisation in this project, he said that the priority would be gaining catalogue records for the material, with 'targeted digitisation' of some material, and the possibility of developing a future digitisation project.

Some potential funding sources have been identified, including HLF, who funded Britain in Print, Europe's Seventh Framework Programme for research and technology development (FP7) or CORDIS FP7 and the Scottish Executive.

It was agreed not to aim for funding for the whole project at the outset. Brian Hillyard said that beginning with the 18th century currently seemed the best option, as this connected to the Enlightenment and would balance the St Andrews project on the 16th century. The question of whether to work by language or by country was debated. Possible use of the project for developing language skills and resources in Scotland was discussed.

Joe Marshall's suggestion of 'Scotland in Europe' as a title was accepted.

Elizabeth Henderson suggested digitising the provenance elements of material catalogued. Brian Hillyard said that high-level work on elements such as provenance might appeal to the AHRC who are engaged with cross-sectoral projects. Julie Gardham raised the question of determining which books now in collections were in Scotland in the 18th century.

Marion Kirton asked what proportion of this material is already catalogued. Feedback from the group suggested that much of it is either not online or only online through basic retroconversion records. The problem of making quality enhancement of records attractive to funders was discussed.

Next steps: It was agreed that the project would begin with a focus on 18th century material. More data on the actual numbers of books in Scottish libraries is needed. It was agreed that John Scally and Brian Hillyard will continue to work on this project, and that subsequently an RBiS steering committee would be set up. A time frame is needed (though there are currently no urgent deadlines) and some basic decisions as to methodologies must be taken. A detailed list of extant European STCs and bibliographies needs to be compiled.

7. Rare book librarianship training issue

Jill Evans reported on this. Following receipt of Brian Hillyard's short paper on rare book training (see item 4.2) by the SCURL Business Committee, it had been decided that the content of library school courses should be a SCURL 'hot topic', and it was discussed at the SCURL plenary of 16 January 2007. Among others, representatives of the library schools at Strathclyde and Robert Gordon universities were present, and Iain Beavan had spoken for RBiS. The need for rare books training has been highlighted, but currently the universities are not in a position to develop such training (and focus on 'up-to-date' rather than 'specialist' skills); the discussion also included other management skills for academic librarians in general. However interest has been expressed by Robert Gordon University in having an RBiS representative speak to students about rare books librarianship. Strathclyde are developing a general module on Museums / Libraries / Archives. A SCURL subgroup for training issues has been set up, of which Jill Evans is a member.

Jill Evans suggested that RBiS might develop training for library students in rare books which could be used by the universities. Elizabeth Henderson noted that at a recent SUSCAG meeting it was mentioned that Dundee University would be interested in attaching such a module to their archives course though again not in developing the module themselves.

The relationship of 'rare book librarianship training' and 'history of the book' courses was discussed. Edinburgh University and St Andrews are both developing masters degrees in 'history of the book' topics, with input from Special Collections staff. The London Rare Book School to be launched this summer was mentioned. Helen Vincent cited Mirjam Foot's essay on UK-wide training in 'Teaching Bibliography, Textual Criticism, and Book History' which advocates a closer connection between professional and academic postgraduate courses.

Placements for students and other volunteers were discussed. Speakers to student groups would highlight the possibility of placements: members are asked to consider if and how they could host such placements for Scottish library students. Jill Evans said that SCURL receives requests for dissertation topics: rare books topic suggestions for future reference can be passed to her.

Next steps: John Scally emphasised the need to build work with library students into RBiS planning. Volunteers to speak at Robert Gordon and Strathclyde are requested, preferably from local institutions. A general presentation about rare books librarianship for LIS students should be developed by RBiS. Graham Hogg will place a call on the RBiS email list for details of institutions who host placements; this list will be put on an RBiS webpage. The development of a teaching module is a long-term goal.

8. 2008 Scottish Year of the Printed Word

The CILIP Rare Books Group conference will be held in Edinburgh, 10-12 September 2008. An organising committee, consisting of Joe Marshall, Elizabeth Henderson, Julie Gardham, Lindsay Levy, Sheila Noble, Brian Hillyard has been set up. The question of whether to schedule the autumn 2008 RBiS meeting to coincide with this conference has yet to be decided as there are arguments for and against.

Brian Hillyard reported on the '500 years of printing in Scotland' website, which is soon to be updated with more events. RBiS members should contact Brian with any events or other material for the website.

The NLS will begin to promote 500 Years on 4 April 2007, exactly one year before the NLS celebration of 2008 begins.

Graham Hogg mentioned the e-mail recently sent by Anette Hagan to the RBiS mailing list, which gave details of current NLS work on tracing the development of Scottish printing and encouraged RBiS members to send any information to Anette.


There was no other business, and the meeting closed at 15:30. Graham Hogg concluded by thanking the Advocates Library again for hosting the meeting.

Helen Vincent
9 March 2007


Rare Books in Scotland meeting minutes


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