Friday, 3 November 2017

October talk: John Wagstaff, “Not born in the USA: a career journey to America and back”

Following close on the heels of the AGM, John Wagstaff, currently Librarian at Christ’s College, Cambridge, gave a fascinating talk on his career journey, specifically his appointment as Librarian of the Music Faculty Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.  During his time in the US, he saw the transition of the Music Faculty Library to becoming the Music and Performing Arts Library, absorbing the theatre and dance collections.

John explained how he got the job, the value of having a specialism and being able to use the services of a professional group, in this case the Music Library Association, the professional association for music libraries and librarianship in the United States.  Networking proved a huge boost.  He had responsibility for several staff, as his library is one of the larger music libraries in the US. The University also houses the top library school in the US, and he regularly had four graduate assistants from the library schools to work on specific projects.

John’s talk was peppered with interesting nuggets about our neighbours across the pond. We also learned that a Green Card is not actually green in colour, it’s white with a green stripe on the back. His dry wit was evident throughout his talk, especially when he talked of how misunderstandings can arise with different words for things. My favourite was his explanation of chocolate pitfalls:

UK Mars Bar = US Milky Way

UK Milky Way = US 3 Musketeers

And, despite a huge Kraft factory in Champaign, and John being resident there at the time of Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury’s, he confirmed that their Cadbury’s chocolate tastes nothing like the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk in the UK.  Who knew that a CLG talk would be so educational in confectionary!

Getting back to library matters, it was interesting to hear the difference in management styles.  He found that his American colleagues were sometimes uncomfortable with him asking for their opinions – they expected to be told what to do. The donor culture was also quite different – you are expected to go out and get financial support for your library, and the donor then gets a substantial tax break, so it is more attractive to them to make donations in support of libraries.

Summing up, he advised the whole experience was something he could recommend.  His top tips were the value of having a specialism, trying an internship or job-swap first, and cautioning against travelling to the US and then looking for a job, as you need an institutional sponsor first.

- Post contributed by Helen Snelling, Pendlebury Library, University of Cambridge

Saturday, 30 September 2017

September Visit: The Oldest Trading Bookbinders in the UK

Our first event of the new CLG year was a visit to J. S. Wilson & Son, the oldest trading bookbinders in the UK.  The knowledge of Craft and Thesis Binding has been passed down through generations since 1830 when the firm was established in Trinity Street, Cambridge.   We visited the bindery in the present premises off Wadloes Road where we were warmly greeted by Eric who is the current owner of the firm.

The room was filled with all kinds of different machinery varying from ancient presses to ultra-modern lettering machines. 

Eric showed us the processes a book goes through when it comes in to be bound.  We all took turns to peer in to the sewing machines, watched as he showed us the scarily heavy and extremely sharp guillotine (a piece of machinery costing tens of thousands of pounds which fortunately knows when you are at a safe distance to operate it unlike the older  mechanical version which looked like an instrument of torture!), saw how the end papers are attached, admired the huge range of buckram colours and beautiful leathers used to bind the books and theses and  the presses which ensure the books are ready to be returned.

It was evident that Eric and his colleagues are dedicated craftsmen and each of them has their specialties within the team.  Eric was at pains to show us that his binding is of a high quality and showed us how each book spine is rounded by hand to ensure the book opens without damaging the binding.

Books, journals, papers, theses are all treated to the same careful craftsmanship. The earliest recorded bound and catalogued dissertation held at Cambridge University Library dates back to 1901, and was bound by J. S. Wilson & Son.

We all had a fascinating and extremely interesting evening.  Eric was a wonderful host and has kindly  offered our members the chance to return and make our own books if we would like to have a go.  Do contact the committee  for more details.

Our thanks go to J.S.Wilson  & Son for a most enjoyable visit.

- Post contributed by Kathy Young, Squire Law Library, University of Cambridge

Friday, 8 September 2017

Exciting new programme for 2017-18!

Roll up, roll up for a magical year of library love with the Cambridge Library Group! We have a wonderful programme of talks, visits and meet-ups for the 2017-18 season. Check out the programme tab for more details. A very warm welcome to new and returning members from all of the committee. Fancy joining? It's just £10 for a year's membership, all you need to know can be found on the membership tab above.

Librarians in London: A trip to the Linnean Society

In June, the CLG ventured outside Cambridge to visit the Library and Archives of the Linnean Society of London, housed in the beautiful Burlington House.

The Linnean Society, a renowned biological society founded in 1788, is home to much of the collections of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish naturalist and botanist world famous for his groundbreaking work on taxonomy.

The Linnean society’s founder, Sir James Edwards Smith (1759-1828), purchased the collection from the then deceased Linnaeus’ wife in 1784. According to Librarian Lynda Brooks, who was kind enough to give us a tour, legend tells that the King of Sweden was so outraged that the collection was leaving its native country he ordered a ship after it in an attempt to bring it back.

The collection itself is a rich mix of books (both Linnaeus’ own publications and his personal library), manuscripts, and natural specimens, including insects, butterflies and plants - even dried fish! Giant beetles, colourful butterflies, and delicate flowers are all strikingly well preserved. 

 As well as seeing the Linnean collection, we had the chance to look round the society’s elegant library, home to much old and modern material on natural history and related sciences.
Many of the items in the Linnean collection have been digitised and can be viewed online, via the Linnean Society’s website:

-          This blog post was contributed by Emily Downes, former CLG Membership Secretary