Tag Archives: SCOLAR

Unexpected opportunity for a cataloguer: exhibiting Arthur

This week sees the ‘unveiling’ of an exhibition in SCOLAR our special collections department on the subject of Arthur: King of the Britons.  I’m really excited about it because I have had an integral part in the curating of it.  This is one of those ‘unexpected opportunities’ that I didn’t actually manage to talk about in my presentation at the CILIP CIG conference on 11th September because I over ran and had to skip it!

The opportunity came about for two reasons.  Firstly, my job now involves working on the Cardiff Rare Books Collection one day a week, alongside our Rare books cataloguer.  I was familiar with the collection anyway, due to taking part in the listing of material prior to acquisition from the public library.  Secondly, over the last couple of years I’ve taken a few evening classes with the University’s adult education department, purely because they sounded really interesting (one of which was on Arthurian myths and legends). In conversation with the tutor, Dr Juliette Wood, I’ve mentioned at times to her various items in the collection prior to them being catalogued, because I thought she would find them interesting or useful for her teaching and/or research.   She has a book coming out this autumn on the holy grail, and one way or another we decided it would be really great to have an exhibition on Arthurian material, and the head of SCOLAR agreed that we could do so.  SCOLAR has about four exhibitions a year, sometimes tying in with anniversaries or topics of current interest.

Arthur in the centre of his roundtable (from Malory, 1634)

Stage 1: We met up in SCOLAR to discuss what kind of themes we would focus on, and what kind of items we wanted to use.  I had identified some items that I thought might be relevant, and made a list based on our catalogue.  For me, one of our prize exhibits was going to be the 1634 copy of Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur.  Produced by the London printer William Stansby (1572-1638) this version was based on the earlier editions by Wynken de Worde and William Caxton, and was the only edition available for two hundred years.

Juliette was able to suggest a whole host of authors, and books, that might be of interest.  Working with a specialist in the subject was really interesting, as she has such depth to her knowledge.  Yes, I could have pulled out lots of books about Arthur, but I wouldn’t have known any of the intricacies, the historical foibles, or the really pertinent texts to use.

Part way through setting up

Stage 2: Using my scribbled notes from the discussion with Juliette I was able to search our library catalogue and identify a further list of items of interest.  Next time we met up I had retrieved a large selection of items from the collection.  Using paper slips to indicated the seven themes we had decided upon (we had seven cases to fill) we were able to go through items and add them to our proposed cases.  Throughout this process we were trying to be aware of what would be visually appealing.  A book might be a key text but if it has no illustrations and a modern binding it risks being of little interest to the majority of observers.  Luckily we had a wealth of material to choose from in SCOLAR and could mine various collections within it such as the Cardiff Rare Books collection, the Tennyson collection, and the Salisbury collection etc.  At times we had almost too much to choose from and also had to be wary of being repetitive and not include too many examples by the same illustrator for example.

Part of the ‘Arthur and local archaeology’ case

Stage 3:  I wrote up a list of all the items we had chosen, assigned to their particular themes, and ensured I included full details of each book, especially classmark and location, in order to make it easier to retrieve them when we wanted them.

Stage 4: We met again to look at all the items and to doublecheck which illustrations, or pages, we would be displaying.  At this point we also chose a key image for each theme/case which would be used on the SCOLAR website, and I scanned these illustrations.

Stage 5:  Juliette took responsibility for writing all the captions – so I was let off the hook at this point! As she had the expert knowledge it made sense for her to do so.

Stage 6: With some proofreading and tweaking from all parties the captions were ready, and thanks to Alison Harvey, the archivist in SCOLAR who is used to curating the exhibitions and helping others do so, they were set up in text boxes that were the correct size for the plastic caption displayers.  Thus ensuring a unifying harmony in the display.

Arthur doll amidst ephemera

Stage 7: The setting up!  I don’t think either of us was quite prepared for how difficult or challenging we found this stage (even though we realised it wouldn’t be easy).  I’d expected this to be one of the fun bits (although I’ve enjoyed all stages); and it was fun and satisfying  but needed quite a bit of thinking too, as you can’t just plonk the items down randomly in the cases.  We had to assess how all the items in each case would relate to one another.  We also had to ensure that the books were displayed in a manner that wouldn’t damage them; some were more fragile than others.  We had a variety of foam wedges, snake weights, and plastic stands – but there were several occasions when we didn’t have quite the right size or type of stand that would have been ideal, so we had to be inventive!  In all, it took us about 4 1/2 hours to set up the seven cases and to do a bit of tweaking after asking the opinions of Alison and Ken (the rare books cataloguer).  Its really quite thrilling to see an exhibition come together in the flesh, after all the preparatory work.

Guinevere figurine

The exhibition will be running up to December and can be viewed 9-5 during the week; you can also see an extract on the SCOLAR webpages.  The books used are predominantly from Cardiff special collections, although Juliette supplemented the display with a few items, including some ephemera from her own collection.  Hence, we also have a lovely Arthur doll and an exquisite Guinevere!


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The delights of the Private Press

Since October I’ve been spending approximately one day a week cataloguing books in SCOLAR – the special collections and archive side of the library service.  Although we employed a Rare books cataloguer earlier in the year, the rest of the cataloguing team are getting a chance to help out with cataloguing the Rare Books Collection.  To ease us in ‘gently’ we have started on Private Presses because they are relatively modern, most likely to be in English, and just not as complicated as something from the 16th century! 

I’m really enjoying the work, although there’s been a bit of a steep learning curve, even with these books; extra fields to add, new vocabulary to get my head round in describing things, and lots of attention to detail (even more attention to detail than normal!).  I’m finding the Presses fascinating, and want to go off and do bits of research on them all, though there isn’t really time.  Luckily there is time for a bit, especially when it can be tied into a blog – and we do have a special blog for SCOLAR which I am able to contribute to.  I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks to add a few posts on some of the Presses we have been doing, and will possibly sneak a few pics onto this blog as well.  I love the whole idea of the Presses, small run enterprises, interested in beauty, art and literature rather than mass production; giving poets and illustrators wonderful outlets for their art.  Although I do wonder at times who could afford them!  Often these books are printed on hand-made paper, which gives such lovely impressions of the cottage-industies behind them.

Many of the books we have in our collection have been signed by the author, the illustrator, or even the printer, which adds another lovely slice of history to the book.  I’m hoping to do a blog on the signed books at a later point; so far the most ‘famous’ one I’ve spotted since we started cataloguing them, has been T. S. Eliot  – that was quite exciting, and I know there are many more in there.

The illustrations are often quite beautiful, engravings or woodcuts done specifically for the publication, and looking at the collection as a whole you get a good impression of the illustrative art movement from the end of the 19th century up to the 2nd World War.

I’m looking forward to continuing to work on the Presses, and to be able to blog about some of them in more detail.  As there are several of us working on them its not possible to handle everything, so I am relying on my colleagues to alert me to anything particularly interesting that they come across too!

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Here are a few of my favourite Things! (Thing 19)

Thing 19 already (ahem, yes I haven’t actually done Thing 18 yet…), it doesn’t seem that long since we embarked upon the whole 23 Things journey, and look we are nearly at our destination.  I’m feeling quite sad, I enjoy being given a new task (or tasks) each week, ok I haven’t done all of them yet, but I fully intend to go back and plug in those gaps!  At the beginning it seemed to stretch away ahead for weeks on end, and now, now, eek what will I do in a couple of weeks time without my cpd23 fix (yes, ok I know…plug in those gaps!).

So, since the start, the Things I have mostly embraced…(apart from raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens)

A blog – well, the most obvious one, I now have a blog, and once cpd23 is well and truly over (sob), I plan to carry on using it, to talk about work related stuff, and embrace my inner blogger.

Since the start I have also started contributing to another blog (work related) on the rare books collections housed at Cardiff University; and currently have plans to set up another blog with the team I work with in the Cataloguing department.

Twitter – I joined Twitter, was overwhelmed at the party I had walked into, hid in a corner with my drink for awhile, but am gradually making new friends, and I think, have just about come out of the kitchen.  I’m trying to keep it mainly work based, just a few odd friends, and the occasional celebrity/author thrown in for some light relief.  Followed my first conference within days of joining (Umbrella) and am hopefully making some good links.  Follow me on @Darklecat

Events – we had a local meet up in Cardiff, in a Yurt ( a yurt!!!!) and it was great to meet some real life people, some I already knew, some I had vaguely seen at staff development events, and some were brand new.  I hope we can do this again soon (in fact I must start agitating for it).

I am also feeling more confident about trying to arrange a get together of Cataloguers in Wales (see this blog soon!!!)

Making contacts/networking – this wasn’t a ‘Thing’ as such, but it has been quietly happening since I started cpd23.  In many ways librarianship is a small world, especially in the local area where you work, cpd23 has been highlighting this, in a good way.  At the “Yurt up” one of the people I spoke to used to be involved with Cardiff Libraries In Co-operation (CLIC) – I am now the chair of the staff development sub-group, and we’ve been trying to sort the website out (getting into the website for a start was a major problem) – turned out she used to be one of the administrators.  Brilliant – suddenly we had the right contact, I passed her details onto the person trying to sort it out, and now we have a Website subgroup.  I think we’d still have been floundering if it hadn’t been for that connection.

I haven’t really fully tried out many of the tools that have been mentioned.  Partly this is a time thing, I know they will take a chunk of time to play around with, and partly because I haven’t had a real reason to use one – I think when an opportunity arises I will be more aware of some of the tools out there, and will be able to try them out in a practical way.  I am looking forward to the Prezi Thing, as Prezi presentations look really interesting (although too many in a row and I start to feel travel sick).  Coming up in the future with CLIC we are having a Social Media event in November (I will blog about that nearer the time) and I have volunteered myself to do a presentation on my experience of cpd23 – I am hoping to use Prezi for this (gulp!).

So, a  few cpd23 Things have filtered their way into my worklife, a few more will gradually do so in the future.   But so far, I have found it mostly really useful and interesting.

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…and Doctors will wear scarlet

I contribute to another blog at work which showcases the rare books and archives held by SCOLAR (Special collections and archives) at Cardiff University.  At the moment I am mainly posting about the Human Genetics Historical Library, a project I have been involved in since 2007 (I am the only cataloguer for this collection).  Although in months to come I (and the rest of the team) will be getting chance to help the Rare Books Cataloguer, so I am hoping I may get to blog about books that are older than the 20th century!

My latest post is on one of the Darwin centenary books we have acquired.


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A day in the life (round 7) – 26th July : morning

I’m a Cataloguing Librarian (with special responsibility for the medical and healthcare libraries) who works for Cardiff University, I’m not actually based in a library (sadly), as about 5 years ago they relocated the Acquisitions and Cataloguing department from the basement of the Arts and Social Studies Library to an admin building about a mile away.  [Incidentally the basement now houses SCOLAR – Special Collections and Archives].  Although we get to see all the new books passing through we don’t get to see them adorning the book shelves in the libraries. The reason for this blog post is that I’m taking part in the “Library Day in the Life Project Round 7

My attention was drawn to this project by Girl in the Moon who commented on an earlier blog post where I had mentioned a “Day in the life” piece that I wrote in 2008 for an internal project in the library service at Cardiff.

Today there are no new medical or healthcare books waiting for me to catalogue.  The rest of the cataloguing team no longer have special responsibilities for a school or library, as a few years ago it was deemed more efficient to have everyone catalogue everything.  I was the exception as I my post is funded differently.  There are pros and cons to this approach, and not everyone was happy with the decision to go this way.  Having a specialist subject means that one is usually able to catalogue a book on that topic faster than someone who doesn’t, and that one is aware of any local idiosyncrasies connected to that area.  Anyway, that is the way it works at the moment. 

Today it means that while there are 5 metres of new stock waiting to be catalogued, none of them are my responsibility!  I start the day with participation in cpd23 looking at Thing 8 – Google Calendar and I blog my response to it.  An hour is spent on some confidential paperwork. 

Next up I tackle some of the theses I have waiting, it seems they are universally hated in my team, as adding keywords on highly specialised topics can be a severe intellectual stretch at times!  This issue was discussed at our last team meeting and the option to forget about adding keywords was raised.  Should the authors of theses include keywords (well yes it would be helpful!), and if so should we just use these even though they might not conform to either LCSH, or MeSH; should we ask the schools to provide keywords, perhaps getting a postgrad to add them to our records; should we continue as we do, adding what we can – we at least are familiar with LCSH and MeSH even if the topic of the thesis is beyond our comprehension (you know  – when you’ve read the abstract 10 times and you still don’t have a clue what they are talking about) I’d be interested to know what other places do with their theses.  Anyway, today I managed to do a selection of the ones on my shelf without too much problem – though I was cherry picking a bit.

Next I moved on to books I have waiting to add to the Human Genetics Historical Library.  This ‘library’ is housed in SCOLAR and is part of a project to preserve the history of human genetics.  All the items have been donated, either as individual copies, or as part of larger collections (from medical libraries and personal collections).  The main driving force behind this project, Professor Peter Harper, is also donating his personal book collection; however, he is keeping his books at home for the time being as he is still active in research, but to ensure they are added to the library he brings me a couple of bags worth every few weeks.  The library will eventually contain the complete collections of three main individuals (including Prof Harper), as a consequence there are quite a few duplicates being added to the library.  Today I found was no exception, and of the eight books that passed through my hands before lunch, only one needed cataloguing as a unique copy.  After lunch I am hoping to continue with the genetics books, I have several on a shelf that are all foreign language items donated by Prof John Edwards (another one of the three main individuals) – they are in languages such as Russian and Japanese so I have been putting them off for awhile – might try to tackle a few of them today.

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