Thursday, 9 June 2011

Mammoth Life Update

I have been pretty busy for the past few weeks with Lindy rehearsals for Darwin ball, bridesmaid fittings for my brother's wedding and working random hours due to my wonderful Peter breaking his ankle.  So, this will be a long and rambling post, which I frankly don't expect you to persevere with and finish reading.  There are titles so you can pick and choose what is of interest.

Raaarrr Rare books

I thought that it would be prudent to have a wee introduction to rare books before I left the sacred walls of John’s for good.  Our rare books cataloguer gave me a brief overview of how rare books cataloguing differs from that which I normally undertake. 

Firstly, rare books are books printed in the hand press period, pre 1800.  The Voyager system is used in the same way as for modern titles but there is a greater use of remote downloading of records as well as a variety of different fields completed.  The main emphasis is on provenance and what makes John’s copy unique.  This copy specific material can encompass binding information, previous ownership, annotations and signatures.

First page of Venetian works of Ovid
The previous ownership particularly interested me since there are so many ways to identify ownership: written name/motto; book plates; binding stamps; book labels.  I was also shown books dating from the fifteenth through to the nineteenth century and the change in the construction, binding, title pages, collation, colophons and printing clarity were marked.

My personal favourite was the 1474 Venetian copy of the works of Ovid, minus his Medea (but aren’t most of the collections).  This contained the hand-drawn arms of the Medicis and Marsuppinis and beautiful illuminated first page.  The clarity of the printing was extraordinary and not far from the quality of printing I experienced in the Classics books I read for Greats.

I was then given a quick run through the various rare book catalogues such as STC (short title catalogue for 1475-1640), Wing (1641-1700) and ESTC (eighteenth-century short title catalogue 1701-1800) and of course ESTC (English short title catalogue) online. 

This whistle stop tour of the rare books of John’s gave me an insight into the complexities and interesting nuances of rare books cataloguing and now I can understand a bit more the excitement that sometimes emanates from the RBR.  

Super Librarian...please note the tartan cape
Library School and beyond

I attended two sessions on Library School and further professional qualifications.  After Library School it seems that chartership is the next step forward in professional development.  This it seems, is not the only option.  Indeed membership of CILIP is not a necessity for career progression as long as you can portray your professional advancement within your job.  From the many professional development options, it was the MBA that particularly interested me and was discussed by the deputy librarian of the UL.  This sort of career path focuses on the budgeting, strategy and management of a library.  I was heartened to hear that there is no excuse to become ‘stale’ in a library job but there is always the opportunity to progress.

CLG talk on the Big Society

Sue Hughes, of the soon to be disbanded MLA, came to talk to the Cambridge Libraries Group on the topic of the Big Society and to discuss the challenges public sector colleagues are currently facing and the variety of ways in which services are seeking to respond through the MLA’s Future Libraries Programme Pilots and wider good practice.

I am ashamed to say that I am not really up on public libraries since Cambridge is so full of academic ones that it is easy to focus solely on them.  This talk, however, really opened my eyes to the plight of libraries but in no way conveyed a negative message.  The new approaches to library management and organisation were impressive and innovative as were the various ways that volunteers can be used in libraries.  

Sadly typical public library
Public libraries tend to suffer from cuts because they are lumped together with culture and leisure services in councils rather than with education, where they arguably belong.  But, an upside of the attacks on libraries by cuts, is the amount of support and press coverage they are receiving.  They are more present in the minds of the public than they have ever been.  And, what is particularly important, is the fact that libraries are the embodiment of the ‘Big Society’.

I came away from the talk with a positive attitude towards the future of public libraries.  It will be hard, especially since staff numbers are dwindling and the leaders of the future uncertain but the cuts are forcing re-evaluation and innovation that, as long as the future is kept in sight and actions not just taken for the moment, will result in a more efficient and community inclusive service.

Other news

I am involved in organising not one but two online learning programmes this summer. 

Cam23 2.0 is launching on Friday 17th at the UL (please e-mail me if you wish to attend and is aimed at introducing librarians in Cambridge to Web 2.0 technologies.  Throughout the course the practical application and relevance of the tools to the Cambridge library setting will be explored.  Each week we will introduce you to one of two ‘Things’.  To take part all you need to do is to explore the ‘Things’ with our guidance, and then blog about them as a way of reflecting on and sharing what you have learnt.  

23 Things for Professional Development is the other programme and this pretty much does what it says on the tin.  Each week the CPD23 blog will be updated with details of the next thing to be explored and these will cover concepts such as library advocacy, chartership as well as the more traditional 'Things' including social media and organisational tools.
Please feel free to follow either or both! 
My new alma mater

I have now got my visa, signed a lease and booked flights for Syracuse and just need to sort out the dreaded health insurance.  SU here I come and, as a recent university e-mail was signed, Go Orange! (hmm)


  1. Yay cpd23 and rare books! Do you work with rare books? Also, love the book bench.

  2. I do work with rare books in St John's Old Library and put on exhibitions etc. but I mostly work with students in the working library dealing with enquiries and cataloguing and classifying more modern books. I'll get round to my CPD23 posts soon...I am also doing the Cam23 2.0 online programme so I have a lot of blogging to do! You're in New York, yes? I have never been to NY state so going to Syracuse for my Masters will be quite a change!!