Author Archives: Assocation of Pall Mall Libraries

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

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.