Monday, 15 June 2015

Pressed flowers in books revisited

One of the things I'd like to change about my working life is that I don't currently find time to keep up with the research that's being done about, and using, rare book collections.  This is a pretty major omission, really, given that supporting research is one serious why 'my' collection exists and is made available. I'm sure I would be making much better decisions about all sorts of procedures and practices if I had a greater understanding of what academic readers would like to know and the research questions they're trying to answer. And I suspect I may not be the only one who feels like this...

So imagine my delight when a historian friend of mine stumbled across my post from last year about discovering, preserving and describing preserved plant specimens in rare books.  She writes:
I was fascinated by how librarians deal with the issue and just want to say that it would be great if catalogues did mention specimens enclosed in books. You will see why from the attached paper I wrote some time ago - the bit about loose specimens in books is towards the end of the article. The idea that librarians can decide whether a specimen is 'relevant' or not, fills a historian like me with dread! As does moving the specimens from their locations in the book without noting their original location. But I can see that loose specimens would seem a problem to librarians. 
I completely take your point about librarians and lack of time, and the difficulty of coping with something so out of the ordinary realm of cataloguing practice.  But perhaps if they knew that these scraps of plants might have significance this might make them feel it was more worthwhile to add the info to the entry.
The attached paper was:
  • Anne Secord, 'Pressed into service: specimens, space, and seeing in botanical practice', in David N. Livingstone and Charles W. J. Withers, eds, Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2011, pp. 283–310.
So there you have it folks - it *is* worth carefully recording and keeping this things when we find them. If only there were time and staffing enough to describe all these copy specific features in the detail we'd like to.

If you have other examples of where going the extra cataloguing mile has helped research or other outputs, I'd love to here them.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Cambridge Library innovation and enterprise Centre

It's come to light today that Cambridgeshire Council has Big Plans for Cambridge Central Library. These plans were agreed at Tuesday's meeting of the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee.

The report presented to the committee and the summary of decisions are both available online. I've had a very quick read through, and these are some of what I think are the salient points:
  • '1.4 The Council was approached by Kora to create a Cambridge Library innovation and enterprise Centre (CLEC)'
Kora are these folks, I think.
  • '1.5 Services are aimed at students, young people and adult career changers, those returning to work or growing their business, entrepreneurs, start-ups, corporations, individuals and groups.'
  • '1.6 The creation of CLEC is envisaged as an enhanced offer for customers, creating an opportunity to re-position the Adult Learning and Skills, Careers and Youth Support Services to more prominence' 
OK, so services for people who might want services from a library, and making those services visible...
  • '2.3 Kora would manage a large proportion of this floor, charging for the use of the entrepreneurs lounge, co-working and individual workspaces, and some events.'
Mmm-hmm. Private company managing part of the library space, and charging for it's use? Not so fond of that.
  • '2.4 ... current café would be replaced with a small, high quality coffee-bar style refreshment service' and in 2.9 'tailored to the needs of business users'
Current café is cheap, friendly, welcoming, sort of place parents can take squalling children, or older people can sit all morning, or people without anywhere much else to go can stretch out a cuppa.
  • '2.10 ... it would take 8 weeks to install the enterprise centre on the third floor and require at least one week closure of the whole library (three weeks maximum).'
Unless they find more structural problems like with the major refurb, I guess...
  • '5.1    Resource Implications
  • The Business Plan assumes returns from CLEC or a similar venture.  If it is not developed, further savings in the business plan will be required to make up the shortfall.'
The council's relying on the money from this, so if it doesn't bring in returns that's not good. But private collaborations like this always turn out fine, eh?

Anyway, I'm not perfectly sure what I think, but it seems to have sprung from nowhere rather quickly, which isn't great. And I don't like the idea of private running of library spaces, or of serious charging for space use.

There's a protest organised by the local MP and a  petition.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Handy hand-out: fold an octavo sheet

I took a handful of books to a medical museum object handling session on Monday 17 November, and made a fancy handout to go with them.

I wanted visitors to be able to take away the details of the books on show, but thought it might be fun if the handout was also a practical demonstration of one element book construction, namely of imposition and sheet folding.

So the fold-your-own-octavo-sheet handout template was born.

There are two main parts, which I'm happy for you to use and reuse as you wish. CC By 4.0 - you can do whatever you like, but please attribute the original to me:
  1. The template for creating your own handout.  This is put together in Powerpoint, and set up for an A4 page. You'll probably need to adjust the position(s) of the grid of boxes on one or both pages to allow for the peculiarities of your local printer: it might not print the pages exactly lined up on each other without a bit of fiddling.
  2. A how-to illustration showing how to fold the sheet into a booklet.
    1. As a Powerpoint file that you can fiddle with and substitute the 'FIRST PAGE' text with the actual first page/image of your handout, or add page numbers into the corners, or signatures into the other corners, if you want to.
    2. As a .png image file (use this link for full size file) ready to insert into any document.

There's also a bonus third part:
  1. The pdf of the handout I used for the event itself as an example and a prompt for you to create something better. It's set in house-style Calibri font, which doesn't give the most rare books vibe, it has to be said. 

Someone will doubtless point out that Powerpoint is a ludicrous choice of programme to do this in, but it worked for me when I was in quite a rush to get this done, and I'm pretty happy with the result.

And there's a non-zero chance that I've actually got something technically wrong with the layout and imposition, in which case, do please yell! It took an embarrassing number of attempts to get watermarks right. (The elephant is Briquet 5948, by the way.)

I'm going to write up further thoughts on museum-style handling sessions using rare books in due course, and I'll be hoping for contributions and thoughts from other people who are doing this already or who would like to. So get your thinking caps on!