Minutes, 28 April 2011

Rare Books in Scotland business meeting

Thursday 28 April 2011, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh


  • Jane Hutcheon (RBGE)
  • Graham Hogg (NLS)
  • Brian Hillyard (NLS)
  • Victoria Peters (Strathclyde University)
  • Julie Gardham (Glasgow University)
  • Joe Marshall (Edinburgh University)
  • Helen Beardsley (Stirling University)
  • Iain Milne (RoyalCollege of Physicians of Edinburgh)
  • Michelle Gait (Aberdeen University)
  • Lindsay Levy (Advocates Library)
  • Anne Morrison (Edinburgh Central Library)
  • Sheila Millar (East Lothian Libraries)
  • Helen Vincent (NLS)
  • Veronica Fraser (RCAHMS)

1. Apologies

  • Enda Ryan (Mitchell Library)
  • Ellen Peacock (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland)
  • Bridget Bell (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland)
  • Karen O'Brien (Edinburgh Central Library)
  • Sandra Cumming (Dunimarle Library at Duff House, Banff)
  • Jill Evans (SCURL)
  • Duncan Chappell (Glasgow School of Art)
  • Marianne Smith (Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh)
  • Keith O'Sullivan (Aberdeen University)
  • Jane Pirie (Aberdeen University)

The business meeting was opened at 14.00 by Graham Hogg (GH). GH thanked Jane Hutcheon (JH) for hosting the event and also thanked Dr Henry Noltie for his talk. GH welcomed Veronica Fraser to RBiS, representing RCAHMS after the retirement of Norma Aldred.

2. Minutes of previous meetings (11 November 2011)

The minutes of the meeting of 11 November 2010 were approved. GH thanked Anette Hagan from NLS for taking the minutes of the last meeting.

3. Matters arising, not covered elsewhere on this agenda

There were no matters arising.

4. Forum update

4.1 Organisation and Forum membership
GH noted that RBiS membership is constant.

4.2 Workshops
On 11 March NLS hosted the 'Introduction to rare book cataloguing' and 'Introduction to bibliography' workshops. Eleven people attended; more had requested to attend so it is planned to offer them again at a future date. GH thanked his NLS colleagues James Mitchell and Robert Betteridge for hosting the workshops. Joe Marshall (JM) reported positive feedback from colleagues at Edinburgh University Library who attended the workshops.

4.3. Web pages
There were no new web pages to report.

5. Future forum activities

5.1. Meetings

Julie Gardham (JG) has kindly agreed to host the next RBiS meeting in Glasgow University Library Special Collections on 24 November 2011. Unlike previous meetings, the business meeting will be held in the morning. In the afternoon, Cristina Dondi of CERL will lead a provenance workshop, which is a repeat of a CERL workshop she organised at Oxford earlier this year. This is in accordance with what was decided at the last meeting – to pursue this kind of event as an alternative to a tour and display at venues which had previously hosted RBiS meetings.

It was noted that the workshop will be open to members of Glasgow University and will probably have a separate sign-up procedure to the business meeting: members were asked to watch the RBiS mailing list for further details.

GH noted that he would be grateful for any offers of future venues.

There was some discussion of the possibility of Innerpeffray library as a venue for a future meeting. All present welcomed the suggestion, especially for a spring /summer meeting, although it was noted that there would need to be logistical planning to enable people to attend – car-sharing and details of train times to Dunblane and / or bus times to Crieff and subsequent taxis.

5.2. Workshops

Helen Vincent (HV) has circulated details of the National Preservation Office workshops on the RBiS mailing list. Those present who had attended some of these workshops gave positive feedback about them. It was noted that the next such workshop in Scotland will be 'Writing and using a preservation policy training day', to be held at NLS on 17 November 2011, with details available from the NPO website.

The possibility of a future repeat of the workshop on matching holdings records to ESTC was discussed: ideally a venue is needed which can use the workshop to update its own holdings records. As the last two workshops have been held in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, a non-East Coast venue would be preferred.

HV reported that the Edinburgh University project on investigating exhibitions of print and archive material mentioned at the last meeting was successful in its application for AHRC funding. This project, now called 'Making our connections: Collaboration, community and the exhibition of the written word', will consist of a workshop bringing together people from different fields (academics, librarians, conservators etc) who may be involved in such exhibitions, which is to produce an ‘advisory document’ on the issues involved. This will be available from the RBiS website, among other locations. The project will pilot training workshops over the summer for those involved in putting on exhibitions, which it is hoped will become part of the RBiS suite of regularly offered workshops. HV asked anyone interested in participating in the pilot workshops to contact her.

Michelle Gait (MG) commented that Keith O'Sullivan's (KO'S) offer of a bookbinding workshop at Aberdeen University Library after the move to the new building is completed still stands.

6. Rare book librarianship training

Brian Hillyard (BH) reported that progress has been made on the drafts of the Rare Books Librarianship distance learning module to be offered by Dundee University: he is waiting to hear from Dundee about the viability of a September 2011 launch.

7. Reports from other libraries

Royal Botanic Garden Library: JH reported that she is writing a funding application for capital funding to convert space to a rare book store.

Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh: Iain Milne noted that the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland are selling their antiquarian book collections at auction via Sotheby’s and Lyon and Turnbull. He reported that the RCPE have employed a Rare Book cataloguer and are currently collaborating with Glasgow University English Department to digitise a collection of William Cullen letters.

Glasgow University: JG reported that the Glasgow Incunabula Project catalogue has been launched, and has received positive feedback, including from colleagues at Gesamtkatalog. GUL also has Wellcome Trust funding for another archival cataloguing project. However GUL has also been asked to make 11% staffing cuts. They have ceased Saturday morning opening, but remain open until 7 pm Monday-Thursday. David Weston, Keeper of Special Collections, is leaving in January 2012 and his post will not be replaced. Glasgow University Centre for Robert Burns Studies is currently planning a new edition of Burns's works. She does not know if this includes plans for a revised bibliography.

Advocates Library: Lindsay Levy reported that the decanting of Abbotsford Library to the Advocates Library would begin in June. Having the books in Edinburgh will assist her greatly in the remaining cataloguing work on the collection.

Aberdeen University: MG reported that the building shell of the new library is complete and they hope to be moved in before the start of the autumn term. Special Collections have hosted some placement students from Robert Gordon University library courses.

Stirling University: Helen Beardsley reported that the main project at the moment is raising awareness of the collections with students and staff, including developing an exhibitions programme, online features such as an 'Advent calendar' which was well received, and promoting the collections for teaching. The Leighton Library is now one of the NLS CERL cluster libraries, and now the question of how to upload its records to the Heritage of the Printed Book database needs to be addressed. She thanked BH for his help with CERL.

NLS: An exhibition on David Hume, co-curated by BH, is about to open in the NLS Visitor Centre. The main summer exhibition will be on 'Banned books'. NLS will still have a budget for acquiring rare books for the new financial year, although it will be reduced from previous years. A round of early retirements, etc., has resulted in a reduction of staffing levels in the Rare Books team. BH reported that NLS has submitted a joint application with Edinburgh City Libraries to the UNESCO Memory of the World UK Register for the Edinburgh Calotype Club albums held by both libraries to be included. He recommended that other libraries consider if they have anything in their own collections which might be submitted to this register.

East Lothian Libraries: Sheila Millar (SM) reported that East Lothian’s publication of the Statistical Account 'East Lothian 1945-2000' has won the CILIP Alan Ball Local History Award 2010. They have formed a new team including books and archives to deliver better service to customers. She is working on the plans to move the collections to a new building in Haddington which will include new storage area and a museum display space for the first time. There are plans to improve cataloguing for plans and photographs and introduce a new online portal. Exhibitions include one on Polish material which will also be displayed in St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh. SM is to retire later this year and does not think her position will be replaced.

RCAHMS: Veronica Fraser reported that Norma Aldred's position has not been replaced on her retirement. She is currently supervising volunteers who are cataloguing the images in printed books. RCAHMS is moving to an updated cataloguing system which will be ISAG-compliant.

Edinburgh University: Joseph Marshall reported that Special Collections are maintaining their opening hours, although he also noted the loss of some experienced staff. However, on a positive note, Special Collections have recently been increasing their acquisition rate of new material considerably, helped by end of financial year money from the College of Humanities and Social Science to spend on purchasing material for all branches of the CoHSS. This means that they have opened up their collections policy — for instance, broadening the range of foreign language material acquired. The rare book collection from Edinburgh College of Art is also to come to EUL Special Collections following the merger of the two institutions.

Edinburgh City Libraries: Anne Morrison reported that the Edinburgh Room and Scottish Library are merging to form one unified Edinburgh and Scottish Collection. The old Edinburgh Room will probably be developed into an exhibition and events space. A new display case has been acquired for the Reference Library. Two interns from an Edinburgh University Masters programme have been working on archival collections and ECL would welcome interns from other programmes. The non-antiquarian part of the Moir beekeeping collection, a deposit currently held at Fountainbridge Library, is to move to the Central Library. Recent acquisitions include a collection of Holocaust material and a collection of drawings given with the stipulation that they should be displayed. Volunteers from EDFAS (Edinburgh Decorative and Fine Art Society) have been working on prints held by ECL.

Jill Evans (JE) submitted a written report from SCURL. This report mentioned that JE had met with the chair of SUSCAG (Scottish Universities Special Collections and Archives Group): SUSCAG's survey of Scottish University archives is to be added to the SCURL website. This prompted some discussion of whether there is any crossover between SUSCAG and RBiS, and of whether we should develop better formal or informal liaison. Victoria Peters (VP) reported that she currently attends both groups: currently there is no great crossover. She was asked to keep the group advised of potential developments and can report on our activities to SUSCAG as relevant. JE also reported that she is co-convening a Legal Issues Group for SCURL. As reported, this group's remit does not refer to legal issues which may affect rare book collections such as those relating to donations and deposits: BH is to express RBiS interest in the group and to mention these issues to JE.

After the reports had been received, there was some discussion of what the bigger picture is for RBiS with regard to present and future library funding restrictions. It seems that several members have just benefited or are about to benefit from capital funding projects resulting in new or enhanced reading room and / or collection storage facilities. Acquisition budgets vary, but currently the overall position does not seem to be that there has been a terrible loss in funding for rare book acquisitions in Scotland. However the real pressure was agreed to be on staffing: many members have been asked to take on more roles, responsibilities and work, and also are under pressure to develop ways of 'doing things differently' in response to funding constraints. There has been a significant loss of expertise overall as senior rare books staff retire and tend not to be replaced, certainly not at the same level.

Inevitably reduced staff complements have led to debates about reducing opening hours and reducing service levels, with different institutions coming to different decisions based on the needs of users and existing staff resources. We are lucky in that our collections attract volunteers and interns, but it was agreed that not all work involving rare book collections can be carried out by them — in particular, they may be able to work on projects, but cannot supply the commitment for the regular running of a reading room. It was also agreed that security of the collections is a concern, especially as the standard of good collections security has been raised in the past few years. It was agreed that we should continue to monitor the situation with regard to the loss of expertise in rare book collections across Scotland.


There was no other business.

GH closed the meeting and once again thanked Jane Hutcheon and the Royal Botanic Gardens for hosting the event. There was no further business and the meeting closed at 3:30pm. The next meeting will be on 24 November (see item 5.1).

Helen Vincent
5 May 2011


Rare Books in Scotland meeting minutes

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