Lessons from a year in an historic library

In 2013 I spent the year in alien territory. After nearly ten years in local studies, I undertook a maternity cover contract at an historic library housed in a think tank-cum-learned society. So, what lessons would I bring back to the world of local studies?

  1. COPAC & ESTC. We had an excellent Associate Library Fellow who was a retired rare books cataloguer. Surprise, surprise, our rare book cataloguing was brilliant, however he also put our pre-1800 stuff onto the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) and were in the queue for COPAC. An important part of local studies is to help scholars, so surely our scholarly material should be listed where scholars look for them? COPAC seem to do all of the work for you and you just need to find your rare book on ESTC, log in and say that you have a copy (okay, things get more interesting if it is not on ESTC and you have to check pagination etc is the same as your copy).
  2. NADFAS. I have always worked with volunteers, but had not come across NADFAS. Not only will they do conservation and listing projects, they elect their own leader and manage themselves, taking some of the stress out of volunteer management. You do have to pay expenses. For more info see the second post on this site: http://ow.ly/xgJUE
  3. How close the world of heritage/specialist collection librarianship is to local studies. Okay, you perhaps don’t get the emphasis on community engagement, but you do have volunteers, specialist users, conservation, event management, ephemera, stockwork etc. After all, local studies is heritage librarianship with our geographical patch as our specialist subject.

And most importantly……

4. The power of shiny things. I had a lot of snazzy things in my collection and those above loved it when I brought some out for their important guests. Shouldn’t we be doing similar things for our political masters? Would Mayors like to see some pretty illustrations when they are hosting important visits from twinned towns? Would County Council Chairmen like to see a display of maps before an official dinner…. and most importantly, an enthusiastic person to talk about them. That will get us those all-important brownie points.