Previous and Current Chairs of the APML

Trevor Dunmore (Royal Automobile Club) 2004-06
Sheila Markham (Travellers’ & Brooks’ Clubs) 2006-08
Marcus Risdell (Garrick Club) 2008-10
Catherine Hume (Commonwealth Secretariat) 2010-11
Kay Walters (Athenaeum Club) 2011-13
Kath Posner (East India/Naval & Military Clubs) 2013-2015
Binni Brynolf (Chatham House, RIIA) 2015-

Minutes from the first APML meeting, 2nd December 2004

A little more of our story

Founded in 2004 the Association of Pall Mall Libraries initially grew out of an informal gathering of librarians working in the gentlemen’s clubs of London, but has since grown to incorporate libraries over a much wider spectrum. There are club libraries away from the geographical centre of Pall Mall, but also a number of independent and subscription-based professional libraries. The uniting principle (unwritten) is that  its membership is drawn from libraries within a larger mother organization. Whilst the majority of its membership is in London it can today boast corresponding members in America, Dublin and the Netherlands. Those represented range from The Travellers Club to the Royal Academy of Arts, the London Library to the Royal Automobile Club, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry to Commonwealth Secretariat, the Oriental Club to the Royal School of Medicine, the Royal Institute  of Chartered Surveyors to the Naval  and Military Club. Its very diversity seems to have become its very strength.

From its outset 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. It is free to join and welcoming to any who wish to join its meetings (four times annually) and mailing list.

The sharing of expertise may be simply passing on the name of a reliable binder or trying out each other’s cataloguing software, but the association has also visited conservation studios including that of the British Library. It has organized a book repair course for its members (where we perhaps not so helpfully glued some of the Athenaeum’s books back before getting the hang of it!) As well as tours of our own institutions before many of our meetings, and the chance to peer behind the scenes in what are often exclusive premises, the association has been on various contrasting field trips. Its members have descended into the vaults at the Metropolitan and London Archives but also explored the treasures of the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. Another informative Windsor day out was spent at the Eton College Library together with visits to the two school libraries. Behind the scenes tours have been arranged at the Freemasons Temple in Holborn and the library at Sandhurst.

In 2007 the APML put on its inaugural exhibition, “Treasures from the Libraries & Collections of  Gentlemen’s Clubs & Learned Societies in London” at the Royal  Society of Medicine Library. This provided a unique opportunity for the general public to see books and artefacts from the collections of its members. 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.

The following year Simon Winchester OBE gave the APML’s first lecture,“The Man Who Loved China” at the Royal College of  Physicians. Winchester  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, and 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 preceded with a reception. It is hoped that there will be many more of these events over the years.

On several occasions the APML has considered a name change as its constituency has enlarged. However it has always been felt that its origins in Pall Mall and the spirit of mutual aid in which it evolved should be preserved in its name and unwritten manifesto. Currently on its third serving chairman it is about to elect its fourth, and in 2006 the association invited Ian Snowley as its first Honorary President (then president-elect for CILIP).

Marcus Risdell [APML Chairman 2008-2010]

In 2014 we celebrated our tenth anniversary with a lecture from Dr James Campbell, author of The Library a World History. It was a wonderful tribute to The Book and The Buildings that house it.

Despite that, we are not solely looking at the past: this year we have embraced real-time media more and more in an effort to reach out to other similar organisations based outside London – and indeed outside the UK. We not only have a Twitter account, but also a JISCMail discussion list, which we are hoping will be used as a forum for other special libraries and solo librarians who face similar problems and want to share solutions

Kath Posner [APML Chair 2014-2015]