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About the APML

APML logoFounded in 2004 the Association of Pall Mall Libraries grew out of an informal gathering of librarians working in the gentlemen’s clubs of London, but has grown to incorporate other club libraries, and also a number of independent and subscription-based professional libraries, both at home and abroad.

The APML aims to promote the sharing of skills, knowledge and resources between members, and to increase knowledge of the collections held by their respective institutions and, in doing so, to develop its potential as a lively, multi-talented and innovative group.

You can join in discussions of a professional nature, by applying to join our JISCMail group.

Designing a New Archive at Lambeth Palace: Reflections & Translations

A guest blog by Wright & Wright Architects


As new foundations are being poured at Lambeth Palace this summer, we reflect on the other ‘groundworks’ that set the foundations of the project with the Library Team. Moving a collection to a new building takes years of planning and preparation; translating a brief into reality. At this point of physical emergence we share some tips, travails, and innovations encountered along the way.

Located on the edge of the Lambeth Palace site; the new building is conceived as a thickening of the red brick boundary wall of the Palace. It will both provide a protective edge to the street and will open up views to the garden. Crowning the building, the upper room represents an outward-looking aspect; reinforcing the historic connection between Church and State with views to Westminster on the north side of the river.

Site overview showing new library and archive

Site overview showing new library and archive (Wright & Wright Architects)



MacDurnan Gospels [MS1370 f.4v-5r.] (Lambeth Palace Library)

MacDurnan Gospels [MS1370 f.4v-5r.] (Lambeth Palace Library)

Defining the need to move

Typically there are three drivers that lead to a project to restore, extend or build a new library or archive:
1. the inadequacy of existing facilities to meet conservation standards;
2. additional space needed for growth;
3. the desire to consolidate multiple facilities into one.
… in the case of Lambeth the brief emerged from all three.

In fact, thirteen locations within the existing Grade I listed Lambeth Palace were assessed and measured, including the beautiful 15th century Morton’s Tower; and also the Church of England Record Centre (CERC), the Library’s sister repository, which is housed in a warehouse in Bermondsey.

Supported by the library team we carefully recorded the various existing conditions: where stores had been put under considerable strain over time, with structural reinforcement required to support the weight of the collections; others where little buffering from fluctuations in temperature and humidity had been provided, and instances where parts of the Collection were at increasing risk from atmospheric pollutants inherent in the urban sites.


Example of large-scale media

Example of large-scale media (Wright & Wright Architects)

Understanding the Collection

Lambeth Palace Library is the historic library and record office of the Archbishops of Canterbury and the principal repository of the documentary history of the Church of England. The material held at the Library dates from the 9th century to the present day, and its broad scope reflects the office of Archbishop as head of the Province of Canterbury, his national and international roles in leading the Church of England and the Anglican Communion worldwide.

The books, manuscripts, and archives that it holds are of the highest quality and significance. The Library holds many important archival collections, including Archbishops’ Registers from 1279 and the Archbishops’ Papers, the official papers of the Archbishop of Canterbury. These are wide-ranging, covering political and social issues as well as ecclesiastical history in Great Britain and more generally throughout the Anglican Communion.

The papers mainly date from the mid-19th century onwards, although there are small collections for some earlier Archbishops. Individual items of note include the MacDurnan Gospels, produced in Ireland in the 9th century and presented to King Athelstan as a diplomatic gift by the Archbishop of Armagh and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, the earliest book printed in Europe using moveable type.

The Church of England Record Centre holds the archive of the central bodies of the Church of England: Church Commissioners, Archbishops’ Council, National Society, and Church of England Pensions Board, as well as the records of their predecessor bodies. The core collections date from 1704, following the creation of Queen Anne’s Bounty (but there is earlier material). The collections reflect the multitude of roles the Church has played in the social, religious, and economic history of England and Wales. The collections also include extensive photographic collections and detailed care files on 16,000 parish churches, many containing guidebooks, postcards, and photographs.

How the collection was measured, boxed, and rationalised.

The new archive spaces will house over 20,000m linear metres of archive shelving for manuscripts, early printed and modern books, records, and deeds.

The librarians measured the existing collections to provide a tabulated matrix for each constituent part: defining linear metre length, depth, and height. From these figures multiplication factors were applied to optimise storage conditions and assign allowances for growth.

Practical considerations of finger space and air flow requirement were meticulously planned and space set aside in the overall array for oversized volumes to be laid flat. An allowance for 25 years future growth was established through an iterative process of briefing and review.

As the design of the archive shelving was developed it became apparent that significant efficiency saving could be made if parts of the printed books collection were re-sequenced. Not only allowing gaining capacity, it has a conservation benefits to place volumes of similar size next to one another.

PD5454 was used as the basis for the standards of the design, along with reference to other documents such as PAS198.   Peer review was used to supplement and interrogate strategies and design decisions. Whereas the detail of the systems and monitoring for control is complex, the architectural and structural solution is simple: an air-tight concrete structure housing each archive, providing 4 hours of fire integrity and excellent seals to each archive.

Preparing for the move
The purchase of a new box-making machine was a catalyst for the library team’s long-term project to pack and sort the collection. It is estimated that around 35,000 items needed to be boxed. As of April 2018, around 16,000 bespoke boxes had been made. The boxing project is on course to be completed on time and in advance of the move.


Range of study sheets and schedules for the archive stores

Range of study sheets and schedules for the archive stores (Wright & Wright Architects)

Five lessons learned
1. Strategic planning – feasibility studies were carried out as a first step – to assess sites, determine capacity and define the vision.
2. Ambition – the client set high standards for low-energy and low maintenance that have been worked through the design
3. Conversation & Collaboration – open conversations and forums for debate have allowed permutations to be tested and trialled.
4. Timeframe – from peer review and precedents realistic periods have been set for drying-out and acclimatisation prior to move in.
5. Sense of humour – on such a long term task the project has benefitted from a spirit of inclusion, participation and no shortage of good humour along the way.


10 things you might want to remember when you have to move your library

Getting ready

1. Calculating what will fit isn’t hard – just decide on an average number of books to a linear metre or however long your shelves are, and do the maths.  However, books are generally expanding – new books are bigger, fatter and annoyingly taller than older books so adjust accordingly

2. Keep the faith! If you have counted all your books and journals at least 4 times and done the space calculations they WILL all fit.

3. Putting sticky dots on books is not a good idea. Especially if you are likely to move again – there are only so many different colour combinations. Coloured paper tags worked well for us with a pencil mark on the label and a note on the catalogue.

4. Relax all your rules about loan numbers (if you loan them) before the move. The more books your patrons take out, the less you have to pack and move.

5. Anticipate filling all your shelves to a maximum of 75%, probably less. You will always have books which mysteriously reappear, and you will also have growth. And if you have neither of these, you will at least have a nice face-on display option.


6. Companies who call themselves ‘library moves specialists’ generally aren’t and rarely understand sequencing, especially if you need to interfile. They will probably be ok at packing but you might as well do the unpacking/reshelving yourself. If so, make sure you have someone hefty around to help you shift crates.

7. Number all your crates 1,2,3 etc. Don’t bother with Class numbers. Remember, if crates are in stacks numbered 1-4 when packed, they will be loaded on to the van 4-1, then unloaded 1-4 again with the first crate you need at the bottom of the pile. (Hence point 6). Or start from the end.

Your new library

8. Don’t believe everything you are told about the design. No matter how many times you’ve discussed it, when the design is completed it will not reflect everything you asked for. They will have put the shelves in the wrong place, blocked up the wrong door or built your desk the wrong way round. Get in early to inspect while they are working if you can to check what’s happening, even if it means donning a hard hat.

9. Nobody understands about library security. Initial designs will almost certainly include your secure entrance/exit and a variety of other unsecured ways in and out of the building.

And finally……

10. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you about dates. I joined the RHS in December 2014 with a specific brief to plan for a move at Easter 2015. That soon became September, then Christmas, Jan 16, then Easter again. We eventually publicised our move for March 6th 2017 and it was still delayed for a week – we finally moved on 16.3.17.

New training course: how to apply for HLF funding

If you’ve ever considered applying for HLF funding in your library, this course may be of interest to you!

Knowing and Growing Your Audiences to Achieve HLF Funding
Thursday 10th August 2017, 10.30am – 4.30pm
Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly
Trainer: Claire Adler

The course will cover the following areas, and will consist largely of workshop activities:

  • Knowing your current audience – techniques for finding out more about your current audiences.
  • Finding out who your potential audiences are – interest groups and local communities etc.
  • Developing projects to target these new audiences.
  • An outline of the different HLF grant programmes.
  • How to apply to HLF for funding – what HLF are looking for in a successful application.

About the trainer: Claire Adler is a Museum and Heritage Consultant who specialises in researching, writing and delivering HLF applications and projects; and mentoring and monitoring projects as an HLF-appointed Expert Advisor on Learning and Community.

The fee for the course will be between £65 and £80 per person, depending on numbers. Lunch is not included.

Please contact Kay Walters to book a place.

A day in the life of…

Karen Syrett, Archivist/Librarian/Curator at the British Academy

Friday 5 May 2017.

I wear many hats at the British Academy but I’m starting today in my curator’s hat. Since Christmas I have been collecting together a series of articles on the art displayed at the British Academy. Lisa Milroy wrote a great piece about her painting Ugliness, Dawn Adés and Patrick Hughes made a short film about Patrick’s wonderful Studiolo, and members of the Pictures Committee contributed terrific pieces on various other artworks in the Academy’s collection. These are now available on our new webpage which was launched this week. The plan is to add at least one new item each month, so my first job today is to send out some nudging emails to next month’s contributors.

New art webpage www.britishacademy.ac.uk/art

Time now for my archivist’s hat. Over the past few months I have been cataloguing and repackaging the Secretary’s Papers. Yesterday, I completed the last file so this morning I shall finish off the top level description and add the location details to the catalogue. Then, I’m off down to the basement to spring-clean the archive store room – a job that has been on my ‘to do list’ for ages. It takes well over an hour to hoover between all the uneven bricks but by the time I finish I have 3 hoover bags full of dust and detritus – as I said, it has been on my list for a while!









After lunch I pull on my librarian hat and catalogue some books. The books in the Academy’s library either come from our Fellows or from our research award holders. Books that have been deposited recently include Does Terrorism Work? by Professor Richard English FBA and Sleep in Early Modern England by Sasha Handley. Handley’s book was written with the support of a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship and has been nominated for this year’s Wolfson History Prize.

Books catalogued and ready to go on to the library’s shelves

Finally, I set up my first display in our newly acquired display case. I share the case with the Publications Department and it is now my turn to put it to use. Having spent quite a bit of time recently cleaning and repackaging the Secretary’s papers, I have decided to do a display on Caring for the Academy’s Archives. I’d saved some rusty paper fasteners and dirty smoke sponges so I put them into the case along with a blunder trap, a data logger and some melinex. I also include a pair of white gloves with a caption stressing that they are only ever used for handling photographs!

New archive display for the lobby

After all that, there is only one thing left to do – put on my party hat and head for the bar!

A day in the life at the National Aerospace Library

Guest blog by Tony Pilmer, Librarian at the National Aerospace Library, Royal Aeronautical Society, London

One of the National Aerospace Library’s goldmines is our pamphlet collection. It contains  marketing and technical material from around the world. Much of the material was issued by the great names in aircraft manufacturing such as Junkers, Handley Page, Hawker Siddeley and De Havilland. We also have reports from the Air Ministry, Ministry of Munitions and Ministry of Aircraft Production, early airline timetables, aeronautical research papers and much, much more. As with all of us, as they have got older, they have acquired some aches and pains – a snagged cover here, a rusty staple there, etc. So late last year we started a project to help stabilise our delicate material so it would be around for future generations of researchers.

In the depths of December, a group of intrepid volunteers from the RAeS Farnborough Branch turned up for a day’s training course at the National Aerospace Library. Thanks to some help from the RAeS Foundation we had all the equipment that the group required and the National Trust’s Adviser on Libraries Conservation, Caroline Bendix, as our trainer, to give us all the key skills we needed. What became apparent was that this was not an ordinary assignment for Caroline. Normally faced with the cream of National Trust volunteers, she was not used to a group of retired aeronautical engineers, model makers and aero enthusiasts asking questions relating to feathering techniques and the strengths of differing materials – these were not the typical questions raised at Blickling Hall or Cragside!

Volunteer training  Volunteer training

Despite this our volunteers’ skills and experiences have really enhanced the project whether by using magnets to identify stainless steel staples that will not rust and do not need replacing or using a drill to make cleaner, smaller and more accurate holes in paper that a needle could ever do. As Caroline said, drills are not normal conservation equipment but they have worked really well for us!

Aerial Derby before preservation

So what is our band of volunteers doing? A typical donation to the NAL was a 1913 Aerial Derby programme. Packed with photographs, maps and biographical snapshots of competitors and manufactures, it paints an amazing picture of the intrepid days of early aviation. However, rusting staples had started to eat away at the paper and the covers had become torn and scuffed.

So our volunteers removed the rusty staples, cleaned the pages, repaired the tears and holes and then re-sewed the pamphlet. Once placed in an acid-buffered envelope and a box, it should be available for researchers and enthusiasts for many decades to come.

Aerial Derby after preservation   

However, some of the material we have found is beyond our volunteers’ training. We have found a large number of books that require professional work and so we have put many of these items into our Adopt a Book appeal. The RAeS Foundation grant also enabled us to buy some box board and inert polyester which allows our librarians to make boxes and covers to help protect some of our other delicate material.

As well as a steady supply of coffee, our volunteers have enjoyed working with a steady stream of amazing and sometimes weird material. A technical report that described experiments using circular runways caused a lot of discussion and so did experiments showing that supersonic aircraft did not seriously harm the built environment. Recently we discovered a plan of a D shaped aeroplane which someone pointed out would have saved Armstrong-Whitworth a large amount of money when they were sued by an American company after the Second World War for “copying” their D shaped aircraft designs – our plan dates from 1932. We’ve also enjoyed repairing some beautifully designed marketing material from Rolls-Royce, though the US Government Printing Office’s use of large industrial staples has not won many friends in the Farnborough area. However, the big danger is getting too caught reading some of the amazing material rather than repairing it. Perhaps the toughest assignment was attending our Volunteer Garden Party. It was a tough job celebrating our work whilst job sitting in the sunshine, drinking tea, eating home-made cake and watching the aircraft taking off and landing at Farnbrough Tag Airport – but somebody had to do it.

Volunteer Garden Party  

Update: After two years the project is still going strong. A crack team of our finest volunteers have started to look at some of the rarer material held in our collection and one of our volunteers has also received training to repair bindings, so work will soon start repairing some of our hardbacks. So far we have filled over 250 pamphlet boxes and reviewed around 30% of our reserve collection……… just don’t tell them that we have over 40,000 technical reports to look at too!

Originally published on the CILIP Local Studies Group in October 2015.

A day in the life at the Royal Astronomical Society

Guest blog by Sian Prosser, Librarian and Archivist at Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London (Twitter: @astro_librarian)

The Royal Astronomical Society Library holds one of the most comprehensive collections of works on astronomy and geophysics, both ancient and modern, as well as a significant archive containing institutional records, and working papers by astronomers like William Herschel. Our users are mainly Fellows of the RAS, external researchers, and visitors from astronomical societies, schools, and college groups.

This morning a Fellow is bringing a group of summer school students to the library to look at textbooks used by students in medieval and early modern universities, such as the 1485 edition of De sphaera by Johannes de Sacrobosco, which was used by the Fellow to demonstrate that astronomy students were taught that the earth was spherical, not flat. One student asks about the presence of holes in one book, and learns that ‘bookworm’ is not just a figure of speech! Education and outreach are key activities of the RAS, and the Library is seeking to host more such visits in the future.

Once the group has left I have a chance to catch up with my colleague, Beth Gaskell, who works in the Library for one day per week, helping to keep the current journals up to date and carrying out invaluable work to maintain the historical journals collection. The rest of the week I am a ‘solo librarian’ and carry out a variety of tasks, from shelving to digital scanning. I deal with many enquiries from users all over the world, asking for information about astronomy and geophysics, or about the history of the Society and its members, which often require some archival research. The library can be a valuable resource for Fellows who are not affiliated to a HE institution.

The library is always acquiring new books in astronomy and geophysics. I’m not doing any cataloguing today, but do need to update the library website links to the online catalogue, as I’ve upgraded to an externally hosted version. I also need to spend some time looking after our collection of astronomical instruments, many of which are on loan and require the paperwork to be kept up to date, and others which are in house and need to be cared for properly.

At the moment I’m working with two Fellows, Dr AEL Davis and Dr JV Field, to put together a display of major works by Johannes Kepler. They are visiting this afternoon to look at the exhibition space and choose which pages the books will be opened at. This will be the last exhibition of the summer. After that, I’ll be putting together a different display every month to correspond with the themes of the public lectures.

The title page of De stella nova (1606) by Johannes Kepler

Although I’m a solo librarian most of the week, it’s not a solitary job, as I work closely with colleagues in events management, IT, education and outreach. I am also regularly in contact with fellow librarians, especially my neighbours in the other learned society libraries of Burlington House.

Originally published in the Geological Society’s Librarians e-newsletter in autumn 2015.

All change at the British Academy library!

Guest blog from Karen Syrett

The hiring out of our public rooms provides an important source of revenue for the British Academy. Although the bayed library with its views over The Mall meant that I had a fantastic office, it was a very under-used room. So, it came as no surprise when the Academy finally decided to re-configure the library in order to add the room to its portfolio of event spaces.

To enable the necessary building work, a total of 8,944 books had to be moved out of the library but, as the work took place in various stages, they didn’t all need to be moved in one go. The project took place over the summer, our quietest time of the year, so neither storage nor time was an issue. I decided to undertake the work myself and to factor in a bit of a spring clean as well! The move also provided an ideal opportunity for a long overdue stock-check.

To start the project, new bookcases were built in two rooms on the second floor – the meeting room and the new Fellows’ Room. Once these rooms were ready, I was able to load up my trolley and begin moving the 3,442 books designated for the new shelves. Working out how to arrange the book collection was the hardest part of the whole project. The British Academy Fellowship is organised into 18 academic sections and the library follows that structure. I wanted to make sure that books belonging to one section stayed together and that the new arrangement was coherent – this involved a lot of maths! Luckily the two literature sections fitted into the meeting room, so they were the first books to go to their new home upstairs. History and archaeology form the majority of the Academy’s books so I wanted to keep these books downstairs in the new library. That left the rest of the collection for the Fellows’ Room. Trying to figure it all out was like doing battle with a complicated jigsaw – especially when some last minute changes to the rooms meant I suddenly had fewer shelves!


The old library


Making a start


That didn’t stay clean for long!


The first trolley load is ready to go

It took 2 weeks to move the books upstairs but once they had all gone, it was time to pack up the remaining 5,502. When boxing up these books, I was careful to label the boxes as I went and to make sure that the boxes were all packed in the same way so that re-shelving the books later would be as straightforward as possible. In addition to giving the books a bit of a clean, it was also very satisfying to get them back into their proper order – needless to say I’m a bit tetchy these days when I notice that someone has put a book back in the wrong place! During the stock-checking process I identified around 500 books that could be disposed of, so I contacted Dan at The Book Rescuers to arrange for the unwanted books to be collected. The Book Rescuers work with charities in Africa to give children the vital chance of an education – none of the books end up in landfill. You can read more about them here: http://www.bookrescuers.com. The remaining boxes were stored in the Reading Room until the new library was finished, fortunately there was help on hand to move the boxes – there were well over 200. The last thing to move out of the library was me – I now occupy an office on the third floor. It took several weeks to transform the library space which gave me plenty of time to recover from phase 1!


I was busy packing boxes when the Queen went by!


Inevitably the building work overran so I didn’t have much time to get the books back on to the new library shelves before the first event was due to take place. Although I managed to get all the boxes emptied in time, there was still some fine tuning to do. Eventually all of the books were accommodated and there is even some room to allow for growth. Needless to say, the new library has proved incredibly popular, in its first year it has been used for everything from conferences to fashion shows!

The new library set up for its first dinner