Monday, 26 November 2012

Visit to Cambridge University Press Museum

On Thursday 8th November, members of the Library Group headed to Cambridge University Press to learn about and view the recently opened Museum within the Press’ vast Edinburgh Building. The space is not usually open to the public, so the opportunity to visit was a real treat. The evening began with some much enjoyed tea and biscuits, kindly provided by the Press. Once these were consumed, we were led through the Press’ labyrinth of corridors towards the Museum. The space that greeted us was inviting and attractive; its layout, furnishing and lighting created the feeling of a high-quality exhibition space, and the professionally presented exhibits within the cases immediately sparked our curiosity. Before exploring their contents however, we sat down to an enjoyable talk by Ros Grooms, the University Press Project Archivist.

Ros began by telling us about the Press’ history: the University was given the right to appoint printers in 1534 by Letters Patent of Henry VIII (this document is held in the Archives); however it was not until 1584 following the appointment of Thomas Thomas as University Printer that printing really got underway (against a backdrop of fierce resistance from the Stationers’ Company in London). The site of Thomas’ press was opposite Great St Mary’s church, on what is now the Senate House lawn, meaning that the current CUP bookshop is virtually situated on the same spot as the University’s first press! We were told about the fascinating development of the Press over the centuries, with an array of illustrations taken from the archive. One particularly fascinating episode occurred in 1877, when the Press declined the proposal to publish what went on to become the Oxford English Dictionary. In a surprisingly informal letter, Furnivall (one of the founders of the new dictionary) confidently promised great profit from the project; however he sought a great outlay from the Press and admitted considerable delay before their investment would be returned – given the tone and demands of this initial proposition, the Press’ decision to decline the venture is perhaps not such a surprise!

Photograph by Annie Johnson
Ros also talked to us about the creation of the Museum. The Museum showcases the Press’ history and highlights its achievements and activity. It was envisaged that a key use of the exhibition would be for staff to show visitors to the Press. Given that a visitor’s time to view material may be limited, it was decided to organise the material thematically so that each case could be viewed and understood independently. These themes include the Press’ early religious printing, some of its most notable works such as Newton’s Principia, its international activity, historic printing equipment, John Baskerville’s 1763 folio Bible, and material relating to staff activities and social events. In relation to this latter theme, it was very interesting to learn about the oral history archive, a project currently in its early stages. This has involved interviewing long-serving staff in order to record experiences and memories of working at the Press. Ros told us that this has given new insights and different perspectives on events that are often found recorded in the archive. For example, some of the interviews have described the nervous excitement that was felt during the preparations for The Queen’s visit to officially open the new Edinburgh Building in May 1981. These personal accounts will offer a valuable new dimension to the Press’ archive.

Photograph by Annie Johnson

A wonderful evening was had by all, and our thanks go to Ros and others at the Press who made the visit possible and so enjoyable.

By Sarah Fletcher, Assistant Librarian at St Catharine's College Library.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Roots, Branches and Llama Biscuits

I joined the Cambridge Library Group too late for last month’s visit the University Library Maps department tour and then noted, with trepidation, that the first meeting I could attend was the AGM with an accompanying talk on restructuring the Cambridgeshire Libraries and Archives service. Good grief, what had I let myself in for. Thoughts of previous interminable AGMs crossed my mind, but within minutes, and as I settled into a cup of wine and a llama biscuit, I realised this group knows how to do things.

In actuality the AGM was breezy and brief (just how they should be) with lovely refreshments and being new to both Cambridge and libraries it was largely an opportunity for me to chat with some interesting people. Within ten minutes of arriving I had already been signed up to cover the events of the evening for this blog. The AGM completed, we swapped rooms for Sue Williamson’s talk: “Cambridgeshire Libraries, Archives and Information Service 2010-11: an examination of a root and branch library restructure”. Sue is the Libraries Operation Manager for Cambridgeshire and was well placed to guide us through their approach to the very important, sometimes painful, process of dealing with the financial reality that many of us find ourselves in these days.

Photograph by Annie Johnson
  In Austerity Land it is inevitable that to some degree or another cut backs will be asked for, economies will need to be made. Often small trimmings can be made here or there, maybe a few people might retire, perhaps a few posts might not be filled, but when the cut in budget that you are asked to make nears 50% small measures cease to make any sense. It is then that two dreaded terms appear; restructure and streamlining. So often these can lead to loss of services, loss of expertise and a bad deal for the library user.

Sue’s talk covered in fascinating detail the progress that was made in Cambridgeshire in a relatively short span of a year and a half. The changes here show that with proper project management, clear aims and a commitment to two-way communication with users, restructure can actually result in a more joined up service for library users and a more efficient administration behind the scenes. In a telling note at the end of her talk Sue said that at one point there was a very real chance of thirteen of the counties libraries closing, in the end none did. As the title implied, the restructure really did seem to touch every level of staffing, from senior management to one hour a week, small contracts. However, the key seems to have been that they took a phased approach to this and had a rationalised structure to move into. In some areas new frontline permanent posts were actually created by cutting down on temporary contracts.

Services were maintained, but obviously affected by the restructuring, but again it seems that they were able to review and rationalise aspects of the delivery. Using management information and consultations with local communities, the library opening hours were reviewed and a standardised approach was created, enabling libraries to stay open when their users need them. Mobile libraries were cut from 7 to 4, with a reduced frequency of stops, but all the stops were maintained. New approaches to library stock rotation and its distribution amongst Library Access Points were also implemented.

There was more detail in the talk than I could possibly cover in this article. Hopefully some of these examples illustrate the points that Sue was making. Sue ended the talk looking to the future and what was yet to be achieved and this was encouraging in what it revealed about their approach:
“We have provided a base core offer that we can afford… and opportunity for communities to take this and build it with us”. 

Let’s hope that there are better financial times around the corner for libraries and if that is the case then it seems that Cambridgeshire have a rational, stable core around which can be built the services and delivery that users need and want there to be. I look forward to seeing them grow.

By Tom Sykes, Graduate Trainee at the Classics Faculty Library

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Visit to the UL Map Department, 21st September 2012

A very dreary, wet Friday evening was brightened up by the first CLG visit of the academic year (and my first trip with the group!). After the wonderful refreshments, we were very kindly introduced to the Map Department of the University Library by Head Librarian, Anne Taylor, and Deputy Head, Andrew Alexander. Andrew gave a masterfully succinct summation of each item in the exhibition, which was very helpful in understanding the breadth of their map collection. The exhibited items themselves ranged from sixteenth century technicolour maps of Cambridge, to aerial maps used as decoys for the enemy in World War Two, to interesting modern map paraphernalia. It was a sheer delight!

My personal favourite was Abraham Ortelius' map, Islandia (ca. 1596), depicting Iceland itself, but also the hazardous beasties that were imagined to live off the coast. Each unusual monster was marked by a letter, which led the reader to an index with descriptions of their fearsome attributes. I was disappointed I didn't get time to read through the entire page!

The Soviet Military map of Cambridge, dating from 1989 (!), was equally fascinating. Areas of industrial or military interest were highlighted, along with vulnerable points, such as bridges. It really demonstrated the importance of mapmaking in a broader context.

Despite the fact that I was an MPhil student in Cambridge and spent half my time in the University Library, I had never dared to enter the Map Department. Now I'll certainly be going back to chart my next holiday!

Thank you to the committee and to Anne and Andrew for a brilliant evening. I look forward to the next CLG event!

By Kirsten Southard, Library Graduate Trainee at Newnham College Library

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Garden Party at Newnham College

Thank you to everyone who came to our Garden Party yesterday at Newnham! The weather gods smiled on us and we had glorious weather for the event. Here are a few photos from the party, more to come in August's edition of Reflections.

Photos by Annie Johnson

Saturday, 9 June 2012

It's nearly garden party time!

Preparations are underway for CLG's annual garden party, which this year will be held in the beautiful surroundings of the Newnham College gardens. The party, complete with plentiful refreshments, will take place on Wednesday 11 July, from 6pm to 7.30pm.

Tickets are £7 for members and £10 for non-members. To buy your ticket please send a cheque, payable to 'Cambridge Library Group', to Katie Birkwood at Cambridge University Library, by Wednesday 4 July. Please indicate the address (within the University where possible) to which your ticket should be sent. Hope to see you there!

Newnham College, by SteveCadman on Flickr

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Needham Research Institute Visit

A select band of GLG members found their way to Sylvester Road on Friday evening 4th of May, to a hidden and surprising building: the Needham Research Institute. We were greeted by the enthusiastic librarian, John Moffett, who is a graduate of the Chinese Studies Department, Edinburgh University. He has been Librarian of the East Asian History of Science Library at the NRI since September 1992.

John explained that he had been diverted into Chinese studies at Edinburgh because the History lectures were too crowded. After our usual refreshments (including Chinese rice crackers) John gave us an entertaining talk about Joseph Needham and the history of the Institute which bears his name. It was an adventure story, of expeditions into unknown territory, dalliance with attractive young ladies, and a card catalogue of all the people Prof. Needham met in China with their interests and publications all cross referenced. He was assisted by his wife Dorothy (also a biochemist), his Chinese lady friend, and many Chinese scholars in collecting thousands of offprints on subjects scientific, technical, medical and cultural.
On his return to Cambridge, Prof. Needham began to write up his findings, with the CUP willing to publish one volume. This expanded steadily over the years and is so far into its 23rd volume, the work continuing after Joseph Needham’s death.

From the NRI website:
“OVER HALF A CENTURY AGO, Dr. Joseph Needham embarked on a long-term project to investigate the scientific and technical contribution that the Chinese people have made to human culture.

THE NEEDHAM RESEARCH INSTITUTE, which houses the East Asian History of Science Library, is the home of the Science and Civilisation in China project, and welcomes researchers from all over the world with an interest in the history of science, technology and medicine in East Asia.

The library now holds about 30,000 titles, including a number of important collections, and about 20,000 offprints. The library subscribes to a wide selection of journals, many of which are Chinese publications rarely available elsewhere in Europe.

Scholars working in the Institute typically include collaborators on the Science and Civilisation in China project, established academics on sabbatical, doctoral and post-doctoral researchers on one-year fellowships, and other shorter term visitors from around the world. In addition there is a constant stream of academics from the wider Cambridge environment.” 

We had a fascinating glimpse into a world we had hardly heard of, and which is now becoming so much more important with the resurgence of China and all its many manufactures which have entered our homes in recent years.

 By Jillian Wilkinson, Library Assistant at Divinity Library. Photographs by Annie Johnson

Friday, 4 May 2012

Senior job opportunity in Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire County Council are recruiting a Support Services Manager. Salary: £35,616 - £46,467 per annum.

This new post brings together responsibility for managing all the support functions for the County Council’s Libraries, Archives and Information service including stock management and distribution, business specific IT systems, management information, research, planning and policy, and infrastructure development. 

For more details see the job advert on the Jobs in Cambridgeshire website.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Radzinowicz Criminology Library

Ground floor and stacks by libatcam on Flickr
Located on the Sidgwick site, the Radzinowicz Criminology Library is another one of those Cambridge University collections that you might have heard about but wouldn't normally have the opportunity to visit if you weren't a member of the university. So it was with great interest that I got to see inside this unique library.

I don't know what I really expected but considering that the Radzinowicz has the 'most comprehensive criminology collection in the United Kingdom' with over 60,000 books, I knew it would be substantial. And substantial it certainly is. They have collections that range from modern day social work and prison regulations back hundreds of years to early foundations of law and order. One book I looked at related to the Gaols of Britain in 1766. The entry for Cambridge's County Gaol at Castle Hill states the number of debtors being held, the wage for the jailer and also the cost of the alcohol license he required. It also mentions the gallows in the courtyard, a reminder of this country’s capital punishment that continued right up to 1964.

What you might not expect is the large amount of artwork all through the Library created by inmates all over the country. Large numbers of drawings and painting but also some sculptures including an Egyptian bust and a Hippo called Asbo! These lend a very different feel to the library, breaking up the workspace and providing a more vibrant environment but also embedding a wider understanding of those people living by the rules and regulations shelved in the Library.

Morning Smile (Asbo the Hippo) by libatcam on Flickr
We were lucky enough to have two of their more unusual collections laid out for us. The first was a collection of letters and paperwork from the Acid Bath Murderer, John Haigh. This included letters from him to friends before his crimes but also whilst he was in prison, but especially a large number of letters to his parents from people showing their condolences. There is even a Christmas card from one of his future victims.

The second was a selection of Banned Books from the Library’s collection. These books came from the old Home Office in the lead up to the creation of the Justice Department in 2007. The wide selection on display ranged from an 18th century book on flagellation, to guidebooks on Homosexuality and many novels with what would now be considered very tame sexual content. These books were either banned or books that were sent by people to the Home Office in order to get them banned. Unfortunately the number of books taken by the Radzinowicz is a tiny part of what the original collection was comprised of as the majority 'disappeared' but also there is no record of when the books came into the Library, who sent them, were they actually banned and if so when and why. This means it cannot be assessed in a way that we would undoubtedly want to do with such a collection but it is self-evident in places as to the social mind-sets of the time that considered these books outrageous and unsuitability for the public and as such forms a very valuable peek into another side of our past.

By Kevin Symonds, CLG's Secretary, and Library and Information Services Manager at MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Twelfth Night Party, CUP Bookshop

On a very windy 5th January, the CUP bookshop opened its doors to CLG members for our annual Twelfth Night Party. 

We had a good turnout and it was lovely to catch up with everyone, whilst browsing the shelves with a glass of wine in hand. CUP had also provided lovely nibbles including my new favourite flavour combination - paprika and chocolate covered popcorn! Sadly after spending far too much money over the Christmas period I had to hold myself back from buying half the shop’s stock, how easy would it be?

Many thanks to the wonderful staff at CUP for hosting the event.

By Annie Johnson, CLG's Reflections Editor, and Library Assistant at Newnham College Library