Seminar Retrospective - Monday, 22 May - Ideas Stores & Special Collections

The seminar's weekend was unscheduled free time for us participants. I know several people went away for the weekend, but I stayed in Oxford. I spent Saturday wandering around (many of my photos of Oxford were taken that Saturday), and I spent Sunday nursing a head cold (which you probably don't want to hear about, so I'll say no more about the weekend). Monday was a return to the more regular seminar schedule of presentations and tours, and after a quick debrief about what did and didn't go well the first week we were off and running.

Ideas Stores - The New Face of the Public Library

The first presentation was by Heather Wills, Ideas Store Programme Director, London Borough of Tower Hamlets who explained the concept of the Ideas Store, which some public libraries in Britain are converting to in the hopes of increasing library use.

The Ideas Store concept is the result of an intensive market research effort to discover what kind of atmosphere and services library patrons (and perhaps more importantly, people who weren't library patrons) wanted to see libraries offer. The result was to create storefront-style libraries in major shopping areas (because that's where people congregate) and to offer computers for patron use and expansive educational opportunities (for all ages - kids to adults). These libraries still have traditional collections and services, of course, but they're just as focused on being centers for community gatherings as on being lending libraries.

The concept has been particularly sucessful in the area of East London that Heather Wills oversees. This is an area with a large immigrant population that did not make much use of the old style libraries. However, as libraries are being reformed to the Ideas Store concept, library visits have increased dramatically, proving that understanding and providing for the needs of the community is a good thing. If you'd like to know more about Ideas Stores, head to the following website: http://www.ideastore.co.uk/

I think what I found most interesting about this presentation though, was how much Heather Wills reminded me of Tucson's own Public Library director, Nancy Ledeboer. Both are some of the best public speakers I've encountered, and both are passionate about improving library services so that libraries better serve the communities they're based in. I think more libraries need folks like this in charge (not just public libraries, either, all libraries).

Rare Books from the Bodleian's Collections

Monday afternoon's presentations focused on various special collections that the Bodleian possesses. It started out with 3 people (Alan Coates from the Rare Book Section, David Helliwell from Oriental Collections, & Martin Kauffmann from the Western Manuscripts Section) from the Bodleian showing off some of the items in the particular special collection they work with. The rare books and the western manuscripts section folks both brought manuscripts (ie from the days before printing) of religious texts, although I can't tell you exactly what because I didn't write it down. These were nifty, although since my knowledge of such things is miniscule, I'm not sure I was in the best of positions to appreciate what I was seeing. The item from the oriental collection was a Chinese book made using the Chinese printing technique. This was really nifty - and I know enough about Chinese printing that I could appreciate what I was looking at.

Next we split off into seperate groups to get a tour of some of the other special collections areas of the library (well, to some extent, one of the tours was of technical services, which wasn't exactly a special collection, but I didn't go on that tour). The tour I chose was of the John Johnson collection of printed ephemeria. John Johnson was printer to the university and collected a great deal of printed material (both his and other's, if I'm remembering correctly). The collection itself is quite a bit of a mish-mash - it contains things like playbills, resturaunt menus, advertising broadsides, leaflets, and so on. The tour was conducted by Julie Anne Lambert and we got to see quite an array of items from the collection. However, my memory of specifics is a little fuzzy - I was still in the midst of my head cold at the time, and by mid-afternoon my energy level was seriously waning.

One other cool thing about the collection though - they're in the process of digitizing part of it (it's large and their budget is small, so I'm not sure they'll manage to digitize the whole thing for awhile). Anybody who's interested in seeing what they've got so far can point their browser to http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/johnson/