Book Sandwiches

by Clare Playforth

bookshelves

 

Classification is a big part of my job and certainly the part that I find most enjoyable and challenging. The other day I was looking in vain for a resource that would provide me with a table of ‘date letters’ that are sometimes used when classifying collected works. After a couple of discussions about this it became clear to me that there are many practices in cataloguing and classification that might seem like they are needlessly complicated and opaque. I want to explain that there is a reason for things to be done this way.

Every time we make a decision about how to classify something we are doing it with the collection and ultimately the user in mind. When someone has looked up a book on the catalogue we want them to be able to find it easily on the shelf, but when they get to that shelf we also want them to find a load of other books that are relevant on either side i.e. we want to enable browsing. We want them to arrive at the shelf and first find the general books about a topic and then to be able to walk down that stack seeing how the subject narrows and becomes more specific as the classifications are expanded. In an ideal world we would want each classmark to represent only one book – this is part of the reason for doing the reclassification projects which you can read about here.

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Reading the Booker

By Katy Stoddard

In a former life I was a librarian at the Guardian, answering queries from journalists and, among other things, blogging historical content from the digital archive. In 2011 I wrote a blogpost about the history of the Booker Prize, the UK’s biggest prize for literature but also its most controversial.

2011 was the year the Booker was criticised for being too mainstream, as if a book cannot be ‘great literature’ and also a cracking read. Some even suggested setting up a new, ‘proper’ literary prize, though in the event the traditionalists prevailed and the prize was awarded to Julian Barnes, the only ‘proper’ author on the shortlist. Continue reading

A galaxy far, far away? The challenges of archive access in the here and now

By Eleanor King

I am a graduate archive intern working for the University of Sussex’s Special Collections held here at The Keep, and until a few years ago, I had never visited an archive. Looking back, I am not sure what preconceived ideas I had about what might go on in a building like this. Whilst I had no doubt as to the intellectual and cultural value of the collections stored here, I don’t think I had any real idea of the range of material, or the variety of ways it can be used or interpreted. I must admit though that my lack of knowledge of archives, or how to navigate an archival catalogue had, in the past, made me apprehensive about engaging with archival material. But then I had never been to The Keep!

Since joining the team here, I have been inspired by the variety of work that goes on, and the range and depth of skills and knowledge possessed by the people who work here. As I consider furthering my career in the archive sector, I am now in a better position to recognise there are many challenges that the sector, and therefore the individuals working within it, face and one of these is user access.

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Why I work in a library (and other questions I get asked at parties)

By Lizzy Pennock

Picture the scene – you’re at a party, a gathering or any occasion where you might meet someone new for the first time. You greet each other with awkward smiles, you swap names and as the rules of small talk dictate, you must find out each other’s jobs. That’s just what you do. He works in digital marketing because of course he does, it’s Brighton and he has a beard. You take a breath and you say “I work in a library”.

A flicker of something you can’t quite make out flashes across his face. “Oh wow, that’s cool”, he says, nodding a little too enthusiastically, “So…do you just get to sit and read all day?” Your mind flashes back to the mountain of invoices you typed out yesterday, the student sobbing at the front desk, the time you sang Baa Baa Black Sheep to 40 uninterested parents and babies. “Yeah, something like that”.

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Introduction to the University of Sussex Rare Book collections

By Rose Lock

We are lucky at the University of Sussex Special Collections to have a number of fabulous and varied rare book collections, which are now part of the wonderful collections held at The Keep. As well as individual researchers ordering in our reading room, academics from Sussex and other universities use the books to teach their courses, running seminars in our education rooms where the students can get first-hand experience of handling rare volumes.

Our largest collection is the University of Sussex Rare Books, formed in 2003 from our library’s stock and including donations from Harold Foster Hallett, Sir Henry D’Avigdor-Goldsmid and Bishop George Bell. The range of dates and subjects in the collection is wide, and with nearly 2000 volumes it is our largest collection of published material. A highlight of this collection is The works of that famous chirurgeon Ambrose Parey (SxUniversityRareBooks/784 ) from 1678 was at its time a revolutionary book of surgery, not just for the skills and techniques developed by the man considered the father of modern surgery, but also because he did not publish in Latin.

The Travers Collection was donated to the University by Joy Travers and represents a selection of the collection of Michael Travers, a book collector with wide ranging tastes. It showcases a range of different printing and binding techniques from the 15th to 19th centuries. The themes of the development of modern culture and of the impact of the printing press run through this collection. It includes the first book printed in England in the English language, The Polychronicon (SxTravers/7) printed in 1482 by Caxton, and first editions of The workes of Benjamin Jonson, (SxTravers/226) 1616 and Hobbes Leviathan, (SxTravers/250) 1651. Demonstrating its variety, the collection also includes the largest book in our collections, a reprint of the second volume of Audubon’s Birds of America, (SxTravers/335) printed in Double Elephant and has pages 23×28 inches. Known as ‘the most expensive book in the world’, our 1970’s reprint allows researchers to see the rich, full size illustrations close up. Continue reading

A room of one’s own (kinda)…

By Karen Watson & Sam Nesbit

A Room of One's Own (Hogarth Press 1929) book jacket designed by Vanessa Bell from The Monks House papers, University of Sussex Special Collections at The Keep SxMs-18/5/191.

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”
― Virginia WoolfA Room of One’s Own

In response to feedback from the Library Staff Conference and comments from colleagues about quiet working spaces across campus, the Innovation Group approached Sussex researcher Dr Catherine Pope to facilitate a writing retreat for Library Staff. Our aim was to provide staff with a set of writing techniques that would help them structure their work, but more importantly, to provide a suitable space to knuckle-down and apply them. There were no rules about what to write: the idea was to be as open and inclusive as possible.

Part 1: the Workshop

Catherine scheduled a preparatory workshop in May, a half-day series of exercises at Jubilee, where we learned about (amongst other things): the Pomodoro technique, freewriting vs. generative writing, anti-procrastination techniques, and the sage wisdom of many professional writers (sample quote: “If you want to be a [professional] writer, you must do two things about all others; read a lot and write a lot. There is no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no short cut.” – Stephen King).

The attendees came from all sections and grades in the library, and the span seemed to emphasise the inescapable fact: writing is hard, no matter role you do.

Catherine emphasised the need to just write: it doesn’t matter what the first draft looks like, the process is the thing, get it out – all variants of the same command: stop faffing! It was refreshing to hear such direct, sensible advice – confronting the simple nature of the task made it easier to stop worrying about all the complexities, analogous to moving house: get everything in, then start to tidy the rooms.

The 5 hours flew by (most of it spent actually writing), and the group came out buzzing, and looking forward to applying what we’d learned. Continue reading

The Library Staff Blog

By Ed Hogan

Dear colleagues,

Much of the feedback from the Library Conference focused on how great it was to chat to colleagues in other departments, and find out what they’ve been up to.  Many of you have also taken part in the recent round of writing workshops, and produced great work.  A library blog seems like the ideal way to harness your enthusiasm for writing, while continuing the conversation with other library staff.

We hope you’ll contribute, and we’ve anticipated some questions:

Where will it be, and how do I post?

The blog will have a nice big link on the Library Intranet homepage.  You’ll be able to subscribe to emails alerting you to new content.  It’s publicly viewable, but you’re in control of how your work is promoted.

You can send your posts to us, at library.innovation@sussex.ac.uk and we’ll put them up for you. Continue reading