Minutes, 19 March 2008

Rare Books in Scotland business meeting

Wednesday 19 March 2008, Mitchell Library, Glasgow


  • Marianne Smith — Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh
  • David Weston — Glasgow University
  • Julie Gardham — Glasgow University
  • Norma Aldred — RCAHMS
  • Joe Marshall — Edinburgh University
  • Bridget Bell — Scottish Accountancy Trust for Education and Research (SATER)
  • Graham Hogg — National Library of Scotland
  • Helen Vincent — National Library of Scotland
  • Brian Hillyard — National Library of Scotland
  • Andrew Nicoll — Scottish Catholic Archives
  • Karen O' Brien — Edinburgh City Libraries
  • Anne Morrison — Edinburgh City Libraries
  • Lindsay Levy — Advocates Library
  • Colin Duncan — Watt Library
  • John Scally — Edinburgh University
  • Norman Rodger — Edinburgh University
  • Iain Milne — Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh
  • Enda Ryan — Mitchell Library.

Graham Hogg began by thanking Marion Beaton and Enda Ryan for organising the event, and for the tour and exhibition in the morning.


  • Paulette Hill — Historic Scotland
  • Jill Evans — SCURL
  • Ellen Peacock — SATER
  • Elaine Bird — Signet Library
  • Marian Kirton — Napier University
  • Sheila Millar — East Lothian Local History Centre
  • Andrew Grout — Edinburgh University
  • Ron Livingstone — Aberdeen City Libraries
  • Jane Hutcheon — Royal Botanic Garden
  • Helen Beardsley — Stirling University (attended morning only).

Minutes of previous meeting (11 October 2007)

The minutes of the 11 October 2007 meeting were accepted.

3. Matters arising

3.1. Scottish Chapbooks Project
Brian Hillyard reported that the webpages relating to the UK-wide project being run by the Bibliographical Society and the National Art Library, V&A are now online at www.nls.uk/about/partnerships/rarebooksinscotland/2007-10-11-min.html. He encouraged all to fill in the questionnaire about institutions' chapbooks holdings linked on this webpage, even if their holdings are reported in the Scottish Chapbooks Catalogue. David Weston pointed out that the SCC is not mentioned on the V&A webpages. John Scally noted that they give a figure of 200,000 chapbooks printed in Scotland per year in the 18th century: there was some discussion about the source of this figure.

3.3. ESTC
Brian Hillyard reminded the group that he welcomes any issues to take to the ESTC national forum.

4. Forum update

4.1. Organisation and forum membership
Graham Hogg reported that membership and numbers of people on the JISC mailing list had remained the same. Joe Marshall, now of Edinburgh University Library, will be taking over the JISC mailing list. GH thanked Joe, and also thanked Norman Rodger for his work as interim owner.

4.2. Promotion
Graham Hogg had given a presentation on RBiS at a recent SCURL chartership event.

5. Future forum activities

5.1. Meetings
The next meeting will be in the National Library of Scotland during the run of NLS exhibition on 500 years of printing in Scotland. The date is to be confirmed: probably the week beginning 6 October 2008. John Scally offered to host a meeting at Edinburgh University Library: however, the group agreed that any alternative offer for the first meeting of 2009 would be welcome, to avoid two Edinburgh meetings in a row. Graham Hogg will send an email to the mailing list to this effect; in particular, new venues are welcomed. GH said that formats for RBiS meetings other than the usual day-long extended tour/lunch/afternoon meeting format could be considered.

5.2. Workshops
The next workshop will be on Latin for Rare Book Librarians, to be given by Brian Hillyard at NLS in May (21 May or 28 May 2008, to be confirmed). The workshop on heraldry at St Andrews in 2007 was agreed to have been excellent. The annual cataloguing and bibliography workshop was held at NLS on 10 March 2008. It was noted that demand is down for this workshop, perhaps because most interested people have attended it in recent years. It was agreed that it would not be held in 2009; instead new workshops would be developed. John Scally said that EUL will host a Disaster Planning Workshop after the EUL Disaster and Recovery Plan goes live, probably in November. This workshop will reflect EUL's experience of setting up their Plan, involving a large multi-site university library. Lindsay Levy reminded the group that an Exhibition Workshop had been suggested, and it was agreed that it should focus on writing for exhibitions: BH will investigate developing this with NLS Education and Interpretative Services staff. BH also mentioned the possibility of developing a workshop on ESTC, in particular to encourage institutions to add their holdings to ESTC records; it was agreed that this would be valuable. Helen Vincent suggested that some people might like to organise an 'information sharing' session rather than a formally-led workshop, for instance on issues relevant to rare book collections in the public library sector. As always, any future suggestions for workshops and offers to host them will be welcomed.

5.3. Promotion
The Edinburgh Festival of Libraries 2008 will take place 8 to 14 November 2008: further details can be found on the ELISA website. It was agreed that there would not be any direct RBiS involvement; however Edinburgh members are encouraged to contribute to the programme.

6. Scotland and Europe

John Scally, Brian Hillyard and Norman Rodger presented an update on this project.

Number of items
BH reported on 18th-century holdings in Scottish libraries: 77,000+ items were reported. It can be estimated that the total in all publicly-available collections is around 100,000 items. The largest numbers of items are (based on reported items) from France 33%, followed by Germany 30%, The Netherlands 12% and Italy 6%.

Standard of cataloguing
It is estimated that full-standard MARC records exist for less than 10,000 items, and even where the cataloguing is full-standard, the records may not contain provenance information. Some form of MARC record exists for up to 90% of items, but mostly in the form of retroconverted records with no more information than would be found in manual finding aids. Working on the basis of an average of 30 minutes per item gives a total of 50,000 hours (@ 1,540 hours per person year = 32 years of work).

The best way of proceeding would be to put high-quality records of participants' books into the project database, participants could then copy them into their own databases. This option is preferable because it does not exclude participants if they do not have a local system capable of holding records meeting the required standard. The project would aim to be inclusive, with all libraries with relevant collections benefiting from it.

Pilot study
A pilot study would enable better estimates of the figures for items and time the project would take, in particular with how many items would share a bibliographic record and the development of a methodology for the main project. Before the pilot study could take place the following tasks would have to be carried out by those running the project:

  • Prepare a project database into which remote participants can catalogue items from scratch or download and then upgrade records, adding a library and shelfmark location. NLS to investigate this?
  • Agree on the project database protocol: will there be strictly one record per edition or will we accept multiple records?
  • Agree on a cataloguing standard (including provenance description) for this database
  • Consider if any 'full' records should be loaded into this database as a start providing records that can then be used)
  • Identify participants.

Pilot tasks for participants to include:

  • Checking items against the CERL HPB database
  • Load records into project database
  • Enhancing records to agreed standard
  • Possibly copying records to local database
  • Record timings for all this activity.

Any volunteers to join a project steering group are welcomed, particularly anyone with technical cataloguing expertise.

Questions arising from this presentation

  • What demand would there actually be for this database?
  • What the aim of the project is, other than enhancing catalogue records?
  • Is there a European demand for these books?
  • Is there any overlap with European books project at St Andrews University?
  • What is the spread of the 77,000 items across the libraries who participated in the census?
  • How does this project fit in with European national cataloguing projects and the standards they are using, and what about using OCLC records?
  • Would project cataloguers come to the collections, or would collections come to the cataloguers, or would libraries' own cataloguers be trained?

Responses from John Scally and Brian Hillyard
Demand for such a project has not been tested yet. The growth of the study of the History of the Book has increased demand for this information, which could be used for online learning resources for schools, universities and language teaching. Items become more accessible through full cataloguing. The St Andrews project has different aims and methodologies (in particular, the St Andrews project is concentrating on the 16th century). The French 16th-century vernacular books project had shown a high proportion of books surviving in Scotland but not in their country of origin. If this also holds true for the 18th century, this would be of interest to other European countries. Approximately 44,000 of the 77,000 items were in NLS, some libraries reported 10,000 to 12,000 items, and others small numbers from 25 to 100 items. Getting agreement from CERL to use HPB records was probable, but using OCLC records has not been explored. Institutions would not have to bear overheads for the project cataloguers; experience in running the Britain in Print project has taught that it is easier to find cataloguers for the project with the appropriate skill-sets, and then to arrange for them to travel to collections and for collections to travel to the cataloguers on a case by case basis.

Possible funding
Norman Rodger reported that:

  • He had investigated applying for funding from Europe's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and E-content Plus, a subset of FP7, but neither of these options seemed suitable.
  • There is a current Heritage Lottery Fund round for projects under £50,000 to 'conserve and encourage our diverse heritage': it should be possible to submit a pre-proposal to see if it is worth applying to this for funding for the pilot. JS and NR are in favour of applying to HLF owing to previous success with 'Britain in print'. In response, Andrew Nicoll mentioned the Pilgrim Trust / Esme Fairbairn Foundation as a possible funding source.

7. Rare book librarianship training issue

There has been little progress, as the research using the SCURL award has been delayed. Marianne Smith has stood down from the working group: Brian Hillyard thanked her for her involvement. Jill Evans has been kept informed of developments.

8. 2008 Scottish Year of the Printed Word

Brian Hillyard circulated copies of the events brochure and the most recent newsletter. The brochure is to be revised and reissued mid-year. BH encouraged all to visit the '500 years of printing in Scotland' website, sign up to receive the newsletter and to keep Helen Williams, Programme Manager, informed of events (hwilliams@500yearsofprinting.org). There will be a celebratory dinner hosted by Edinburgh University's Centre for the History of the Book in the Playfair Library Hall on 4 April 2008: booking forms are available on the 500 Years website. Graham Hogg thanked BH for all his work in setting up and co-ordinating this programme.


John Scally asked if anyone had news of projects involving their rare book collections. Andrew Nicoll mentioned that projects to clean and catalogue the collections of the Scots Colleges in Salamanca and Rome are underway. David Weston mentioned that Glasgow University Library has almost completed cataloguing of the Scarfe-LaTrobe collection of Golden Age Spanish plays, almost 2,000 items, all with high-level records. This was done thanks to the involvement of former GUL member of staff Jack Baldwin.

There was no other business, and the meeting closed at 3:15pm. Graham Hogg concluded by once again thanking Enda Ryan and the Mitchell Library for hosting the meeting.

Helen Vincent
20 March 2008


Rare Books in Scotland meeting minutes


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