Posts Tagged ‘Library’

Sport and Leisure History
28 January 2013
Dr Michelle Johansen (Bishopsgate Institute)
Good Feeling and Brotherliness: Leisure, the Suburbs and the Society of Public Librarians in London, 1895-1930

800px-SteacieLibraryOn 3 May 1895 the Society of Public Libraries in London was founded with Robert Reid (recently elected chairman of the Free Library Board) acting as its first chair. The members met after hours to discuss library related matters, but largely to promote professional relationships between them. The society lasted 35 years promoting librarian activities but also revealing much about the social and recreational habits of their members.

Michelle Johansen has been using the society’s letters, minutes and ephemera combined with journals, administration records and other sources to get a clear image of the leisure pursuits of librarians at the turn of the century. In this talk she looks at the socio-cultural context – the rise of the free library in the nineteenth-century – before moving on to the shared leisure lives of the chief and deputy librarians.

This is an interesting talk, which connects into the socio-cultural events of the time, as well as leisure activities in general. The librarians are described as curious about the world, eager to learn and to better themselves. They are active in their leisure pursuits which tend to be self-directed and London-focused.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Archives & Society
The impact of digitisation and its implications for the future direction of archives and special collections
Richard Ovenden (Bodleian Library, Oxford)
24 January 2012 

Until recently Richard Ovenden was keeper of special collections at the Bodleian and it is with that hat on, that he talks about the rise and impact of digitisation at Oxford.  Ovenden believes that the Bodleian might well have been the first (or at least one of the first) libraries to own a website which has helped to put them into a position at the forefront of digitisation.  Admittedly, a large portion of that success also relates to the fact that the Bodleian has a large and unique collection upon which companies, including Google, wish to digitalise.  Digitalisation attempts began at the Bodleian in the 1990s with what at the time seemed liked large digital project, but which now look relatively small.  Expectations have changed and this brings with it changes in scholarly trends and some major implications for special collections and archives.  It is these subjects that Ovenden talks about in this session of the Archives and Society seminar.

Working with Google the Bodleian collections, alongside an initial 4 other libraries have had large portions of their collections digitalised and made freely available online.  These have all been books that are in the public domain and out of copyright.  It would seem that after the initial approach by Google that caused outrage from authors, their lawyers proved more cautious in identifying out of copyright material, than Bodleian’s own librarians.  Other projects have involved Proquest amongst others, plus of course EEBO and ECHO, from which the Bodleian has a large representation.  They are now also part of the EEBO Text Partnership project that is trying to semantically mark-up these early published texts using accurate encoding techniques.  Another in-house project for the Bodleian is to try and draw together various digitalisation projects that they have undertaken in the past and now look quite tired, under one updated interface.

When Ovenden moves on to look at changes in scholarly trends he looks at expectation, and of how digital copies of journals are now always expected, and monographs, other books and even original MSS are not that far behind.  Nevertheless, the Bodleian’s physical collection is still well utilised.  The library floors are still busy.  Digital has not yet taken away from the physical.

Ovenden also discusses born-digital archiving and the changes in technical knowledge and expertise that is required to be successful in this regard.  There is also a warning here over the use of commercial social media and cloud computing services – the licences may well one day lead to issues over the ownership of data.  This is certainly something that we should be careful about.

To conclude Ovenden notes the following about what digital archiving needs to consider:

  • How do you add value to the research process?
  • What purpose is there for digitalising?
  • Should scholars be involved at an early stage (i.e. should archives be approaching successful academics for their digital and traditional archives before they have finished using them)?
  • Issues of costs and funding
  • Marketing – justifying existence of archives


To listen to this podcast click here.



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History of Libraries
6 December 2011
Mark Purcell (National Trust)
The Invisible Library; Books, Book Rooms and Inventories at a Northamptonshire Manor House

Abstract: First founded as an Augustinian Priory in the twelfth century, Canons Ashby was for over 400 years the home of the Dryden family.  The history of libraries on the site is complex and many-layered, but one thing is striking: the near invisibility of books in the pre-nineteenth century documentary record.  The paper will discuss the reasons which may underlie this, and will explore the pitfalls of relying on inventories when writing the history of domestic libraries.

This image was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph's page on the Geograph website for the photographer's contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by David Barnes and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

As the abstract states, Mark Purcell investigates the question: was there a library at Canons Ashby long before it was ever documented in inventories?  Through examination of individual books and fragments, Purcell argues that there is clear evidence that books were to be found in Canons Ashby in the early eighteenth century and from circumstantial evidence that there might well have been a library even if it was not necessarily called that at the time.  As books became more prevalent it became more difficult for inventories to list all titles individually and sometimes books were ignored for that reason.  In other country homes it is known that a separate library catalogue had been produced meaning that it was not necessary for books to be included on a main inventory.  Nevertheless, if such a catalogue was written for Canons Ashby it no longer survives.

Canons Ashby House is an Elizabethan manor house located in Canons Ashby village, Daventry in Northamptonshire.  It was built on the land of a former priory church (as per its name) and was traditionally the home of the Dryden family; the most famous of whom was the poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright John Dryden (1631-1700).  The house, along with its formal garden came to the National Trust in 1981.

 To listen to this podcast click here.

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History of Libraries
The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland – Five years on: a review
Peter Hoare (Nottingham)
11 October 2011

Peter Hoare was not there at the very beginning but not long after – in fact he became editor very soon after Robin Alston had decided it was worthwhile doing a history of libraries as well as a history of the book.  Alistair Black was then brought in not long after and then the proposals began.  The title changed various times.  In 1994 for example the publication was to be called A History of Libraries in the British Isles.  Ireland was added in to the title not long after as it was an important element of the work.  Eventually Cambridge decided that it should become one of the Cambridge histories and thereafter it became known as the Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland.

This talk by Peter Hoare himself, looks at the three volumes five years after the final volume was published and gives insights into the creative process, purpose, and also the elements that fell by the way.  For instance, there were various ambitious related activities that never saw the light of day.  At the time ideas were thrown around of joining with the Institute of Historical Research in a similar way to the Victoria County History.  The idea was to produce a continuous series similar to the county histories.  Although that never came to pass the History of Libraries seminar is a partial benefactor of those initial discussions.

There were also long discussions on where divisions between volumes should occur and it was even considered that this should be a 4-5 volume set purely for chronological reasons.  Quite late in the day a 4th volume on statistics and appendices was abandoned.

Volume 1 was worked upon by an editorial group, volume 2 by Robin alone, and volume 3 brought in Giles Mandelbrote around 1996.  In about 1998 Robin Alston decided he had too many ‘irons in the fire’ and felt that he should drop out.  This meant that Mandelbrote was on his own for a while, until Keith Manley was brought on board as a second editor for volume 2.  Volume 3 was easier being edited by Alistair Black and Peter Hoare.

The accolade of being accepted as a ‘Cambridge History’ rather than one of their normal publications was a decision that truly showed the importance and high quality of the work.  The second half of the podcast looks into the process of publication, the costs involved and the commercial success of the history.

Note: Ian Willison and Keith Manley add an appreciation of the late Professor Robin Alston.

To listen to this podcast please click here.

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