Having worked in the IHR library for a while, it can be easy, perhaps, to lose sight of how the library may come across to our readers. In an interesting exercise suggested by our graduate trainee, Siobhan Morris, each member of the library staff played the role of a hypothetical reader for a day to see how easy it is to use the library and find any relevant material for their subject.
For a while I have also been curious to see if the library could meet the needs of someone whose primary research interest is not history. So my imaginary reader is a politics student currently studying an MA very similar to the masters in EU Politics currently being taught at the London School of Economic. Besides looking at the coverage in the IHR’s collections relevant for my imaginary course, I will also attempt to get an understanding of how easy it is to use the space and resources within the library and identify any obstacles that may arise.
For my morning session (1st August) I chose to work in the basement since this is where the International Relations collection is currently housed. Although by no means loud, the noise from the reception above and the lift meant that this spot is not as quiet as one might think. Thankfully connecting to the Wi-Fi with my laptop (using Windows 10) was very easy. The main obstacle I did face, however, was the inadequate lighting in the International Relations room – hopefully this can be rectified soon. During this morning session I also used a variety of e-resources from the library PC also in the basement. I did not have any major problems using resources like J-Stor or the Times Digital Archive and, in this instance, there were no problems printing or photocopying.
For my afternoon session (2nd August) I had intended to use one of the reader spaces in the main reading room on the second floor but all were taken at this point; there were still seats free in the smaller reading rooms on that floor but I went across the landing to the North American room, which was empty at this point. Locating the material I needed in the various European history collections was largely problem free, and it was particularly helpful having so many complementary collections on open access (locating local contemporary political works in the Italian collection, for example, with the catalogue alone would have been quite difficult).
Using the catalogue on my laptop I initially did a number of keyword searches using terms such as:
“European Economic Community”
This did result in quite a few hits. Yet this type of search was bringing up a lot of internet resources that were only accessible via MyILibrary, even though I had limited it to an IHR library only facet. The current position of access in the library has been made clear, however on the library page about Electronic resources.
Next I carried out a number of subject searches with the name of a country suffixed with terms such as “politics and government”, “foreign relations”, etc. Therefore the terms I used for France were as follows:
France Politics and Government 1945-
France Politics and Government 1958-
France Politics and Government 1969-
France Politics and Government 1981-
France Foreign Relations 1945
France Foreign Relations Germany 1945-
This might be construed as cheating, slightly, since these terms are Library of Congress Subject Headings and hence something only librarians tend to be familiar with. However it was a useful type of search to employ, giving a useful impression of the strengths within the various collections investigated, and is a strategy I will recommend to new users in the future. Yet no search strategy is perfect, which is why, as mentioned above, my third method for discovering material was just to browse the open shelves.
Throughout the course of my searches the bulk of the material I found for the post-1945 period centred, perhaps unsurprisingly, on Britain, with also significant holdings for France (especially post-1945 international relations) and Germany. A smaller number of titles were retrieved for Italy, Spain and Portugal, and very little, if anything, for the Netherlands and Belgium, Ireland, Austria and Scandinavia. Also the material currently in the library tends to concentrate on the c. 1945-c.1970 period with diminishing returns for later periods. This is something both myself and my fellow collection librarian, Mette Lund, are aware of, and as new works are published about the post-1970 or post-1989 period, which fall into the collection remit of the library, we will acquire them.
Although this exercise did flag-up a few issues regarding collection coverage, overall I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of material that could be found in the library for the hypothetical politics student. Coupled with some of the IHR’s other activities, such as its varied seminar programme, this makes it clear that the IHR and its library is not for historians alone.
The IHR Library recently hosted a one day workshop examining emerging research and current trends in Library and Information Science. The event, held in the IHR’s conference suite, attracted over twenty participants and was comprised of two panel sessions – the first examining the ‘Changing Face of Libraries‘ and the second ‘Impacts of Technology.’
The day began with a welcome and introductory remarks from the IHR’s Librarian Dr Matthew Shaw. Following this, Anne Welsh (UCL) opened the series of talks with a paper exploring ‘Cataloguer as Distant Research Collaborator: Implications of the Use of Catalogue Data in Humanities Research.’ Joanne McPhie (Brunel) then presented a paper on ‘The Evolution of the Librarian: developments and experiences at Brunel University.’ These engaging presentations examined how differing aspects of librarianship interact with users and researchers and both presentations drew interesting questions from the audience.
After a brief interlude for refreshments, the second panel session on ‘Impacts of Technology’ began with Tom Pink (City) asking ‘Has the Internet Changed the Way We Think? The effect of the network on user behaviour’. Emily Nunn (Sheffield) then addressed ‘Researching Open Access: thoughts from a LIS PhD.’ Following this, David Phillips (City) presented on ‘Robots in the Library: gauging attitudes towards developments in robotics and AI, and the potential implications for library services.’
Upon conclusion of the presentations, time was then devoted to questions, with the panel members engaged in debate ranging from the practicalities of open access, the effects of Brexit on university libraries and the potential benefits and drawbacks of robots acting as security guards within libraries. In this regard, the workshop was an exceptionally varied and diverse arena for emerging research. The event consequently facilitated crossover between disciplines, topics and researchers, as presenters comprised lecturers, library professionals, PhD candidates and Masters students.
The workshop drew to a close with a few final closing remarks and a heartfelt thanks to all of the presenters and attendees for making the workshop so thought-provoking and engaging. The future of the discipline of Libraries and Information Science very much appears to be ever-changing, richly diverse, and multi-faceted.
For further information, the full workshop programme can be consulted here. An account of the event as depicted through tweets containing the workshop’s hashtag #ihrLIS can be viewed via Storify here.
Following the success of the workshop and the stimulating debates that it generated, the IHR Library intend to host a similar workshop in the New Year. Details will be posted on the IHR blog, website and social media platforms in due course. If you would like to receive any further information regarding the event, or contribute topics for discussion at future IHR Library Workshop Series events, please contact Siobhan Morris (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kate Wilcox is Reader Experience and Technical Services Manager at the Institute of Historical Research Library.
The IHR library staff have each been researching a topic, in an experiment designed to improve our understanding of what it’s like to use the collections. I’ve been looking at our holdings for the historiography of women historians, something I didn’t know much about and thought would be interesting. As a starting point I searched the catalogue, using ‘Women historians’ as a keyword and a subject.
The library’s collection policy for works on historiography extends beyond its usual remit of primary sources, so I found secondary works as well as sources. They are shelved either within the relevant geographical collections, or, for more general works, within the historiography section at classmark E.1441. Examples include:
The whole library is reference only, so you will usually find open-access items available on the shelves. I found a couple of secondary works that I wanted to read fully, and because Senate House Library also held them, I was able to borrow them to read on the train home. This was also an opportunity to use a library that I’m less familiar with and think about the experience of shelf labelling and signage.
The IHR library has a lot of specialist bibliographies, but I only located one focussing on women historians, Scritti storici di donne italiane : bibliografia, 1800-1945. The comprehensive online Bibliography of British and Irish History is always a useful resource, though I found it hard to find closely defined search terms for my subject and it was more productive to browse through the results from a wider search. As well as material directly on women historians, BBIH helped me locate material on the wider context, such as women in education.
I also tried a biographical approach. The catalogue search had retrieved a specialist work, American women historians, 1700s-1990s : a biographical dictionary. For the UK, the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography allows searching by the ‘field of interest’ of its subjects, so by using the drop-down menus I was able to search for ‘Scholarship and research: history: historians (general)’ and filter by gender, finding 103 female historians (compared to 922 male historians). The list of names is an obvious starting point for researching individual careers.
As another way into the topic, I was interested to see how many of their published works are held among the IHR’s collections. As examples, we have works of some of the earliest women historians, including Lucy Aikin (1781–1864), who edited Memoirs of the courts of Elizabeth I and James I, the prolific editor Mary Anne Everett Green (1818–1895) and the pioneering castle archaeologist Ella Armitage (1841–1931).
University records and Histories
Another biographical approach is to think about the educational background of women historians. The library has outstanding collections on the history of British, European and American universities, with many biographical registers. The relevant areas are:
Biographical works, British universities, colleges, schools (B.27)
Histories of individual universities, within the regional collections, for example Oxford under Oxfordshire (BC.76), Scottish universities in Scottish Local collection (BSL), European universities (E.8) and United States universities (currently UF.52, undergoing reclassification).
While invaluable for researching individual careers, the registers are not particularly usable for a systematic review, usually being organised by name, from which gender often has to be deduced. It would be useful to have the data in a more structured format. However many include useful information about parents’ occupations, whether the mother had attended university, and the student’s subsequent career.
Looking for female reviewers and authors in long-running journals and the IHR’s Teachers of history and Theses lists could be an interesting approach. Early volumes of these series often follow a standard approach of using initials for men and forenames for women.
I found that for using the registers and other sources that some background information was essential, such as knowing when history became a separate discipline in different universities, and when women were admitted to study it. The IHR library has useful holdings for researching the background including parliamentary material, collections of letters and diaries and newspapers.
Using the library
I found the library rooms generally a pleasant place to work. There are some noise issues that we are already aware of and trying to address. Although we want to be welcoming, we try to keep the enquiry office door closed so that we don’t disturb readers in the main room, and we ask that when rooms are used for meetings the doors are kept closed. We’ve also been trying to get the landing doors adjusted to stop them slamming.
Like many of our readers, I found it difficult to browse series shelved in the rolling stacks. The reason why the library now has rolling stacks in the largest rooms is to allow more of the collection to stay on open access in what has become a reduced space. When we were planning the new library rooms, it was not possible to use the rolling stacks for the less browse-worthy parts of the collection without disrupting the sequence of shelfmarks and making items difficult to locate. For similar reasons of space, the European university histories/registers are held in closed access, but we are always happy to meet the needs of readers who want to browse runs of closed-access material by bringing them to the library. We are continuing to think about ways of making the rolling stacks less of an issue.
Beyond the library collections, the IHR archive is a valuable source of material about women historians. Membership records, seminar registers and correspondence contain useful information for understanding the place of women in the history profession. We are currently fundraising to catalogue the archive and improve access to it. The IHR also hosts seminars in several related fields, including Women’s history, History of Education, and Gender and History in the Americas. There are occasionally other events such as the forthcoming lecture and book launch “Keep the Damned Women out”: The Struggle for Coeducation (31 Oct 2016). All in all, I found the IHR a good place to start research on the topic I’d chosen, and what I discovered here made me interested in finding out more.
Following the IHR refurbishment, the Wohl Library now benefits from a number of bespoke display and exhibition cases which will be used to highlight the breadth of the collections and the range of work undertaken at the Institute.
Recognising the potential importance of exhibitions and public engagement for Early Career Researchers (ECRs), the library team has announced an annual competition for History Lab Plus members, offering the winner the opportunity to curate an exhibition within the IHR. Working with the library team, you will gain experience in exhibition curation, design and conservation, as well as showcasing your subject. It offers the opportunity for ECRs to display their research in new and innovative ways to the diverse range of historians who visit the IHR. No prior exhibition experience is required, and you will work alongside IHR library staff in producing the exhibition.
The winning exhibition will make creative use of the IHR’s holdings and explore a historical topic, theme or area of research in an engaging and scholarly way. It will also be aware of the range of audience that the IHR services, which includes professional historians but also the general public. There are five cases available, suggesting an exhibition list of 20-25 items. The exhibition can also include facsimiles of materials held elsewhere, and can include display boards within the cases (the IHR library will arrange the printing of these). The winning exhibition can be complemented by an online version of the exhibition hosted on the IHR website, and should also have outreach or launch event as part of the exhibition programme (for example a workshop, lecture or curator’s tour).
One of the most important and unique aspects of the IHR Library is the quantity and range of works available on open access. Over the course of the last year, the IHR Library has been able to have forty books specially repaired and conserved due to generous donations to the IHR Library Conservation Fund, in particular from the Friends of the IHR and American Friends of the IHR. These invaluable donations have helped support the work of the Library in ensuring that volumes can be specially treated, repaired and where necessary, rebound. This work enables the volumes to be quickly returned to the library’s collections and also ensures that they are preserved for years to come.
A selection of the works that have been repaired in 2015-2016 due to money received by the IHR Trust Conservation Fund are listed below.
IHR Library Workshop Series: Emerging Research in Libraries & Information Science
Friday 19th August 2016 1pm-4pm Wolfson Room II
The Institute of Historical Research Library will be hosting a half-day workshop examining current and emerging research in Libraries and Information Science on Friday 19th August from 1-4pm.
The workshop will provide an opportunity for current researchers to showcase their research and provide a platform for engaging debate on the future of libraries and the discipline more broadly.
The first set of presentations will focus around the theme of the ‘Changing Face of Libraries‘ with presentations examining cataloguing and the changing role of the librarian in an academic library.
Following this, the second set of presentations will address ‘Impacts of Technology‘ and will include presentations on the effect of the internet on user behaviour, open access, and the development of utilising robotics and artificial intelligence in libraries.
A major project is underway to introduce a new generation library discovery catalogue and management system for the Senate House Library and School of Advanced Study’s libraries. As part of that important project we need to undertake some essential maintenance all day on Tuesday, 16th August 2016 requiring the Library Catalogue, and other related services to be offline whilst the work is being carried out. This means you will not be able to:
Search the catalogue
Access e-resources (e-journals and databases) authenticated via the catalogue
Login to the UoL-open Wifi network
General information about our holdings will continue to be available during the upgrade on COPAC and the Search25 Library Resources. We aim to have all online services, including access to e-journals and databases, back up and running by 9:00am Wednesday, 17th August, 2016. This is the final phase in a number of critical steps to move us from the existing system to Sierra & Encore Duet. We apologise for this disruption, and for any inconvenience this may cause.
Professor Lord Stern of Brentford at the EUI – 16 October 2015. Image: European University Institute from Italy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Research Excellence Framework Review, an independent review of university research funding undertaken by Lord Nicholas Stern, was published by the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation on 28 July 2016. It will now move to a further stage of consultation in late 2016, with the results published in 2017.
The entire Higher Education sector is under review, not just academic historians, but as part of our work supporting the profession, the IHR Library has started to collect relevant material and websites relating to the Review for those interested in understanding some of the implications of the proposals.
The text of the Review is available via Gov.uk. The call for evidence drew over 300 responses from across the sector; these are summarised here.
The Times Higher Education Supplement provides an overview noting that ‘all research-active academics should be entered for the next research excellence framework, and the work of academics who have moved should be claimed by the institution where it was carried out’, but that the number of submissions would vary as a ‘function of staff numbers’. It suggests non-portability of outputs would take ‘the heat out of the traditional pre-REF “transfer market”. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/stern-review-submit-all-researchers-next-ref (limited paywall). There is also a live blog.
An initial analysis of ‘portability’ from the view of a ‘Fantasy REF manager’ by Adam Goldberg, ‘The Stern Review – Publications, Portability, and Panic’, Cash for Questions: social science research funding, policy, and development blog http://socialscienceresearchfunding.co.uk/?p=936 [28 July 2016].
Two members of staff from the IHR Library recently attended a workshop examining techniques in basic book repair hosted by Senate House Library’s Conservation department. SHL’s conservator, Alexandra Bruce, delivered a short presentation explaining the importance of investing in small book repairs and the practical benefits this can bring to institutions. It was noted that, ‘basic repairs carried out as soon as a book shows signs of damage can extend the life of the book at very low cost and prevent the need for more complex repairs or costly re-binding.’ In addition, undertaking basic repairs in-house allows for volumes to be returned to the shelves more quickly.
Practising hinge-tightening using EVA glue
The Conservation team then demonstrated a range of basic repair techniques, including hinge tightening, spine re-attachment, re-sewing pages, tipping in loose sections and consolidating corners. It was exceptionally useful to see the level of detail and range of different implements used according to which repair was being undertaken (including using a knitting needle to apply glue to the spine of a book!) After watching the demonstrations, we were afforded the opportunity to put these techniques into practice ourselves in a hands-on practical session.
Following the workshop, the IHR library is initiating the setting up of a ‘bindery’ where such basic repairs can be carried out. The Institute previously had a dedicated bindery located in the basement of the building before constraints on space necessitated that the bindery be closed. It is envisaged that repair work will commence in September in order to begin clearing a proportion of the backlog of books that are in need of repair and return them to the shelves as quickly as possible.
The ‘Old Bindery’ 1986
Materials and pressing boards in the new ‘bindery’
However, it should be noted that many of the volumes currently in repair require much more extensive work, with many in need of complete re-binding or specialist conservation. The expertise and time taken for such work means that this can be extremely expensive.
A selection of works in need of repair
Consequently, the Institute would greatly welcome support for it’s Library Conservation Fund to help preserve the library’s invaluable collections. Donations of any size would be greatly appreciated, with roughly £50-£70 funding a basic rebinding and £160-£200 facilitating restoration of a historic binding. For more information see:
The work comprises two volumes bound together, with Volume I published in Calcutta by A.G. Balfour in 1824 and Volume II published from the Government Gazette Press by G.H. Huttmann in Calcutta in 1826. However, it is noted that both works were ‘originally compiled by W. Blunt Esq. (formerly superintendent of police) to the year 1818; and continued by H. Shakespear, Esq (superintendent of police in the lower provinces).’
The Library’s accession registers record that the volume arrived into the Library’s collections in March 1925 after being transferred from the India Office in the House of Lords Library. The work is relatively rare with only three other copies in the UK, held at the British Library and SOAS respectively.
The volumes document regulations and administration in British colonial India. As the abstract notes, the work comprises ‘the Regulations enacted for the Administration of the Police and Criminal Justice, in the Provinces of Bengal, Behar and Orissa, from the Year 1793 to the end of 1823’. Consequently, the work serves as an invaluable resource in documenting not only colonial administration and the implementation of vehicles of power, but also the social history of life in these provinces. For example, the work records the names of witnesses at trials and a regulation of 1823 to prevent the ‘Establishment of Printing Presses without License; and for restraining under certain circumstances the circulation of Printed Books and Papers.’ Similarly, the work illuminates the economic history of the regions during this period, with many regulations concerning revenue collection, trade provisions and ‘what gold coin is to be considered a legal tender of payment.’
The IHR’s copy holds additional interest however, due to the signature in the top right-hand corner on the frontispieces of both volumes I and II. The signature appears to be that of Thomas Fisher, an artist and antiquary who worked in India House. As the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records, ‘at the age of fourteen Fisher was given employment by the East India Company at East India House, Leadenhall Street, in the City of London. In 1789 he was appointed as an extra clerk, and in 1816 he was placed on the establishment in the newly created post of searcher of the records in the examiner’s department.’
In the 1820s and 30s, Fisher wrote extensively for the Gentleman’s Magazine, penning several memoirs of Anglo-Indians and missionaries. In addition, Fisher was a supporter of the campaign to abolish slavery in the British colonies and in 1825 he published ‘The Negro’s Memorial‘, or, ‘Abolitionist’s Catechism‘ a copy of which is held in Senate House Library’s Special Collections. It is likely therefore that the IHR’s copy of ‘An Abstract of Regulations…’ was of interest to Fisher for the regulations on slavery in colonial India documented within the two volumes. The work contains a regulation from 1811 entitled ‘Preventing the Importation and Sale of Slaves from Foreign parts’ which records that ‘the importation of slaves by land or by sea prohibited. Offenders liable to be criminally prosecuted.’ It is further documented that ‘Captains of Ships or Vessels (except the Company’s) importing at Calcutta, shall previously to landing their Cargo, execute a penalty Bond for Rs. 5000, not to sell slaves.’ (Vol. I, p 127, 1811 Regulation X)
Fisher died in London in April 1836 with his collection of drawings, prints, and books sold at auction at Southgates in 1836 and by Evans in May 1837 and dispersed.