Category Archives: apml

2013 Review

2013 was a busy year featuring some excellent talks from guest speakers including: 

Simon Bell, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Licensing at the British Library, on The Future of the Book; and Charles Hill, a former detective with Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Unit, enlightened us about the links between antiquities thefts and Organised Crime.

In addition, the Training Sub-committee organised sessions on a range of topics ranging from Cataloguing of Rare Books to Copyright and Marketing, and continued to organize sessions in conjunction with the Historic Libraries Forum.

A New Vision for RUSI’s Library of Military History

A Library of Military History has been an integral part of the Royal United Services Institute since 1831. It houses a unique collection of historic and rare books and makes an important contribution to the preservation of military history. Under its new Librarian Laura Dimmock-Jones, the Library is about to undertake a major strategy to preserve its collection and highlight its importance to the wider community, as she explains in this short film.

You can read more about this at the Institute’s website:

A New Chair

1st July 2010
Following today’s meeting we are pleased to announce that the Chair of the APML has moved to Catherine Hume of the Commonwealth Secretariat. We wish her all the best in the new position. The outgoing chair will take up the new position of webmaster on his return from the Andes. We wish you all a very happy summer.

Report from the Historic Libraries Forum 2009 Conference “You’re Nicked” – Security in the Special Library

17 November 2009

1. Judith Barnes, Collection Security Co-ordinator, British Library, spoke on COLLECTION SECURITY

They have a policy of ‘zero tolerance’ – they will always prosecute theft, however embarrassing.

What are the risks that you need to be aware of?

a) Poor housekeeping – items mis-shelved etc.

b) Flawed processes

c) Poor compliance

d) Delayed discovery – BL have lost plates, illustrations etc. from within books, not entire books – that is the main challenge they face.

e) Reputational damage – they feel it is best to be as open as possible about thefts that have occurred, even if it is embarrassing.

There is the suggestion that if you are a victim of theft then you are likely to be a victim again e.g. Dulwich Picture Gallery was targeted several times.  Sometimes criminals can consider you a ‘soft touch’ if they have been successful once.

Who does this?

  • Career criminals
  • Opportunistic thieves
  • Collectors


  • If they have the means and opportunity
  • Sometimes planned
  • Sometimes they try to win the trust of staff

A thief will go to the British Library to look at a particular book, then steal pages from the best BL copy in order to make their own copy more valuable.  They will ‘case the joint’ – look at where CCTV cameras are, which security guards are vigilant or lax etc.  One thief handed some cash in to staff – said he had found it on the floor – just to get their trust. 

Three convicted thieves who have stolen plates/maps from books:


All three were esteemed academics and they stole mainly loose leaves, not whole books.  Fallon had his jacket specially adapted to hold papers inside.

How to mitigate the risks?

  • Get senior management commitment
  • Accept and manage risk
  • Make continuous improvements to processes
  • Build and maintain good relationships with the police and the CPS
  • Zero tolerance

A process review was undertaken – all processes were grouped under 3 headings:

  • Reader use
  • Staff use
  • Exhibitions and loans
  • Processing
  • Security

And the question was posed – can any of those processes be tightened up?

In terms of access, each person is required to have a valid pass with their name and address, a digital photograph, and provide 2 proofs of identity (original documents only & bills must be less than 3 months old).

Each user must sign to say that they agree to the Conditions of Use; these specify that damage or removal is forbidden, and inform the reader of the consequences of non-compliance.  All data is kept permanently and is admissible as court evidence.

Anything taken into the Reading Room must be in a clear plastic bag.  No coats or large bags are allowed in the Reading Room.  CCTV is kept for 12 months. All bags are searched on leaving the BL, also laptops (readers have been known to hide documents inside a laptop).  They also do random bag searches of staff.

In the Reading Room invigilation is by plain-clothes staff and in certain rooms there is controlled access.  Staff are encouraged to take short cuts through the Reading Room and check for problems.  They also ask readers to report problems – and that was how they found that plates were missing from one volume. One thief mentioned during police questioning that glass topped tables would have been a deterrent to him. 

The British Library funded a project to digitise maps in early books.  They identified and selected vulnerable maps in early books and put an ownership stamp plus a watermark on each map; this information also enhanced the catalogue record for those books. 

Investigation Once they have identified that a plate/map is missing from a book, the next task is to find out who has referred to that book. And what else have they read?  Are any other items damaged or missing?  Does a subject or format pattern emerge?

Contact the police.  Remember that any emails/documents on the subject will have to be disclosed to the defence.  Also remember that the aim of the CPS is to get a clear conviction with the minimum of expense whereas the library’s main aim is to obtain the return of all items.

The British Library received a lot of co-operation in its investigations from book restorers and the book trade.

In one case, circumstantial evidence (a warning from a library on the continent) was enough to allow them to suspend a reader.

2. Bob Johnson, Technical Survey Manager and Clare Pardy, Fine Art Underwriting Manager, Ecclesiastical Insurance spoke about THE INSURER’S PERSPECTIVE.

Re Out of Hours security – recommends putting as many obstacles in the way of thieves as possible.  Remember that electronic locks may cause a problem if there is a power failure – the doors will automatically stay open because of fire regulations.  CCTV is a deterrent if the system is monitored, and always record in a secure area.  You must check that the CCTV is actually recording – in several cases companies have thought that they had CCTV of an incident only to find that tapes for the previous six months were clear.

Fire safes are, as their name implies, designed to protect against fire – they are relatively easy to break into.  In general, the older the safe and the more brass in the framework, the less safe it will be.

Valuations.  What have you got, and when was it last valued?  It is very important to get a reputable book dealer or auctioneer to value your library.

The valuation of Bishop Philpott’s Library in Truro was a disaster – the dealer, John Thornton, bought the entire library for £38000 and sold it for £500,000. 

One of the librarians present pointed out that one of the problems with valuations is that librarians and insurance companies have completely different views on the ‘value’ of a book.  If a valuable book goes missing, the Library would not necessarily want to replace it but recover and repair it – because the book is central to the whole collection and a replacement will not have the same intrinsic value.  It is the provenance of the book that is important.  However, in many cases the insurance company is interested only in the cost of a replacement.

3. Historic Libraries Forum AGM

A visit by a member of the Friends of Hartlebury Castle to the HLF AGM three years ago was a turning point in saving the Hurd Library.  Richard Hurd, Bishop of Worcester built the Library in 1782, for his fine collection of books.  

4. Peter Hoare of the National Trust spoke about Security Marking

Useful information is found on the following website

5. Sheila Hingley, Head of Heritage Collections, Durham University Library, spoke about ‘Lessons learnt from the theft of the First Folio’

Durham University Library owned a copy of the First Folio that was stolen from an exhibition at the library in 1998; this copy had the longest provenance of all the copies in existence. 

An arrest has been made and the book has been recovered – but with no covers or binding, no title page and no end page. 

Sheila spoke about the improvements to their exhibition space and cabinets since that time.

6. Kathy Lazenbatt, Librarian at the Royal Asiatic Society, spoke about their experiences of theft.

Oliver Fallon, one of their members, targeted the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society in February 2007.  He was a teacher and Sanskrit scholar.  He visited the RAS Library and asked to view particular books and documents.  Another RAS member alerted the Library some days later to the fact that plates were missing from a book.  Mr Fallon was subsequently arrested; he returned the material as he had not had time to dispose of it.

Lessons learnt:

a. On the days that he visited, the librarian was off sick and the assistant librarian was also ill so other staff had stepped in.  In hindsight, the Library should have been closed.  But this idea that ‘the show must go on’ now comes second to security concerns.  On two occasions since then the Library has been closed due to staff shortages.

b. He targeted items that were not fully catalogued because it would be difficult for RAS to prove ownership.

c. Warning Signs:

i. he edited and updated lists of material that were included with the documents that he viewed – this was to make himself helpful to staff and encourage them to trust him

ii. he asked for a lot of photocopying in order to divert a member of staff

iii. he asked for material that was outside his subject area – researchers are normally very focused on their subject area

iv. He looked through pages and pages of material very quickly – obviously just checking what was worth stealing. 

d. You are just as vulnerable from scholars as from ordinary citizens.

7. Panel Discussion

Christine Penney, the Hurd Librarian at Hartlebury Castle also spoke about the need to check contractors who come to do maintenance work in the library.  In one instance a contractor was given the keys of the cupboard containing rare books so that he could do electrical work – he was working at the weekend and it was felt that this would be less disruptive.  However, he stole some books and this was not initially noticed.  Later on he was arrested on a motoring charge – a search of his house revealed the books that he was going to sell to feed his drug habit.

Renae Satterley, Rare Books Librarian at the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, spoke about tracing stolen books.  They have 9000 early printed books in the library.  In 2003 they hired a conservator who was subsequently sacked.  After he had left they found that he had stolen many books or razored out maps or plates.  Having searched online for ‘Middle Temple’ together with relevant dates and price ranges, they found that many items were coming up for sale on ebay etc.  In this way they have found many of the stolen items.

Another solution that is used in some libraries to identify an individual document stolen from a pile of papers is to weigh the entire pile of papers before and after.  However, thieves can replace valuable items with ordinary sheets of paper.  In the case of coins, some libraries have just done a visual check – only to find out later that the valuable coins have been replaced with worthless ones (this happened to a library that allowed an ex-member of staff to view them).

Over 600 books were stolen over a period of 13 months by a member of staff at Manchester Central Library, so there is also the ‘threat within’ to be considered.

Mary Duffy [Librarian Army & Navy Club 2009]

“Poverty is no Excuse: Disaster Preparedness for the Small Library”

Historic Libraries Forum Annual Conference
20 November 2008

This conference was extremely interesting and informative, and attended by about 50 people. The morning sessions consisted of two talks, one by Alison Walker, Head of the National Preservation Office, on Creating a Disaster Management Plan and the second by Professor Graham Mathews on Safeguarding Heritage at Risk.

1) Creating a Disaster Management Plan 

Many sources are available, including the National Preservation Office, Emergency Planning College, UK Resislience and teh M25 Disaster Managament Group websites. A template from one of these sources can be adapted to meet individual needs. NPO (part of the British Library) provides an independent focus for the preservation of and continuing accessibility to cultural heritage materials held in libraries, archives and museums in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Government’s centre for running short seminars, workshops and courses on an inter–agency basis in the field of crisis management and emergency planning. Provided by the Cabinet Office. Provides a resource for civil protection practitioners, supporting the work that goes on across the UK to improve emergency preparedness. M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries, which has a disaster control plan template in its members’ area. Another useful source is Blue Shield (the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross) that deals with cultural heritage preservation.

The main components of a plan are manpower, supplies and procedures. Once a plan is written it needs to be constantly updated and evaluated.

2. Safeguarding Heritage at Risk

Small Libraries tend to share common problems:

  • Low staffing levels
  • Lack of expertise in DP
  • Lack of funding
  • Lack of time
  • Senior Management do not consider that DP is a priority
  • Lack of space

Why bother about Disaster Planning?

  • There is an unprecedented scale of threat from Terrorism, Natural Disasters and Vandalism
  • We have a duty of care
  • Valuable / irreplaceable items
  • Service continuity – impact on our users

Examples of disasters that have had a major impact on cultural sites include the Windsor Castle fire, Cutty Sark fire, the floods of 2007 and 9/11.  And there is the new threat of climate change.

The afternoon sessions consisted of three case studies:

a.  Norwich Library fire of 1994

b.  The development of Rapid Response, a regional heritage disaster network for Yorkshire’s libraries and museums, following the disastrous floods of 2007

c.  The Belfor Rapid Response Scheme – used by the Royal Academy of Music Library

The Norwich Library fire took 2 days to put out and destroyed most of the books and other items held in the building.  It was started by an electrical fault and the building was completely gutted. In this particular case the items in the basement were the ‘safest’.

The Yorkshire Rapid Response network was set up with Heritage Lottery funds (£56K) following the floods of 2007.  The floods had affected 25 heritage organisations.  Training will be provided on all aspects of disaster response, including practical and management issues.

The Belfor Rapid Response Scheme

The flood at the Royal Academy of Music was due to a combination of factors: flat roof, high winds, heavy rain and seeds from nearby plane trees accumulating in the gutters.  The RAM pays £395 each year to Belfor Rapid Response and therefore was able to call on their expertise to repair the damaged books.

Miscellaneous Facts

The staff at Norwich Library borrowed shopping trolleys from a nearby Marks & Spencers – these were used to transport ‘rescued’ material to awaiting vans.  They used a nearby RAF aircraft hangar as a temporary store for damaged material.

Don’t just keep your Disaster Plan on the computer!  It may be damaged by fire or flood.  Have colour coded laminated sheets on display throughout the building.

Keep a torch in your Disaster Planning boxes – the electricity may fail.

Mary Duffy [Librarian Army & Navy Club 2008]

“A Visit to Eton”

30 October 2008Page from the Eton choir-book

A small group of APML members were guests of Eton College Library on a bitterly cold late Autumn morning. Arriving a little early we took the advice of a remarkably opportune chance meeting with the headmaster to dive into the beautiful and well heated 15th century Henry VI chapel, prior to our appointment with Rachel Bond (College Librarian) and Katie Lord (Deputy College Librarian).

Following a warm welcome and an introduction to the history of the College, its remarkable Library and its collections, we were provided with the opportunity to view a choice selection of its holdings.  These included an example of early Caxton printing, a remarkable Copernicus edition, a selection of drawings after the antique from the collection of Richard Topham, and a copy of the earliest, though perhaps not the funniest, “comedy” in the English language. Entitled “Ralph Roister Doister” it had been written by the College’s own Headmaster Nicholas Udall back in the 1530’s. Udall would later be jailed for homosexual offenses, but cleared on charges of theft, ending his career ultimately at that other school of early theatrical tradition, Westminster.

Of the items on display the highlight was certainly the Eton choir-book, a richly illuminated manuscript collection of sacred music composed during the late fifteenth century, one of very few collections of Latin liturgical music to survive the Reformation and one of only three large choir-books surviving from early-Tudor England. A joy to look at, it also brought back memories of singing plainsong as a youthful choirboy myself.

An opportunity for discussion of librarian-ship issues then arose, on such matters as cataloging and software. Our visit concluded with Eton College’s Library of World War One Books, and the pupil’s own working library, an intriguingly converted miniature Radcliffe camera.

A particularly worthwhile visit, I would like to extend my thanks on behalf of the APML to Rachel Bond and Katie Lord for giving up so much of their time. Our thanks also to Stephen Massil for making the arrangements for the visit.

Marcus Risdell (APML Chairman 2008)

Page from the Eton choir-book reproduced by permission of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College  

“The Man Who Loved China”

24 September 2008
Royal College of Physicians

The Inaugural lecture of the APML was given by Simon Winchester OBE at the Royal College of Physicians in London on the 24th September 2008. Entitled The Man Who Loved China it introduced the extraordinary story of Joseph Needham, best  remembered for his massive achievement embodied in the continuing Science and Civilisation in China series, the successive parts of which have been published by Cambridge University Press since 1954. This great work was planned as a history of science, technology and medicine in China, seen in its fullest social and intellectual context, and illuminated by a deep and sympathetic understanding of the cultures of both East and West. However the speaker has had unique access to diaries and personal papers and was able to introduce the audience to Needham, the man. We learnt of his love for naturism and Morris Dancing, the joy he experienced learning to use the Chinese script, and much much more.

The evening was chaired by Professor Lisa Jardine CBE and was preceeded with a reception.

Marcus Risdell (APML Chairman 2008)

Treasures from the Libraries & Collections of Gentlemen’s Clubs & Learned Societies in London

28 September – 25 October 2007penguin
Royal Society of Medicine Library

London has a long history of gentlemen’s clubs, and there are more of them than in any other city in the world. And yet this was the first exhibition to bring together under one roof some of their many treasures, normally hidden from public view.

The Association of Pall Mall Libraries was founded in December 2004 by the librarians of the Army & Navy, the Athenaeum, the Naval and Military, the Oxford and Cambridge, the Reform, the Royal Automobile Club and the Travellers Club. The Association rapidly expanded beyond the traditional confines of clubland, and includes members from all over central London.

The inaugural exhibition of the APML offered a unique opportunity for the general public to see books and artefacts from the collections of the Alpine Club, the Army & Navy, the Athenaeum, the East India, the Garrick, the Naval & Military, the Oriental, the Reform, the Royal Automobile Club, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal United Services Institute, and the Travellers Club. The exhibits on display included items not only of intrinsic interest, but also of relevance to their respective institutions. The Garrick, for example, displayed Alec Guinness’s copy of a limited edition of Hamlet, illustrated by Henry Moore and dedicated to John Gielgud. The Royal Automobile Club exhibited the pressure gauge meter from the ‘Bluebird’ in which Donald Campbell achieved the record speed of 403.1 mph on 17 July 1964; and the Royal Society of Medicine, which hosted the exhibition in its newly opened Heritage Centre, displayed Rudyard Kipling’s copy of Culpeper’s book on herbs, and we must not forget the Army and Navy Club’s Emperor penguin, a survivor from the first of Scott’s Antarctic expeditions.

Sheila Markham (APML Chairman 2006-08)