Seven Stories Collection Department – CILIP NE Visit

I will freely admit that I am a Children’s fiction addict so visiting the Collection Dept store at Seven Stories has actually been on my to-do list for a while but I haven’t had a specific research “need” to feel I could justify the trip – especially as it would have to be in the working week.  So when CILIP NE committee were discussing possible places to arrange to visit, I felt this would be a great opportunity!

Paula Wride was kind enough to agree to give up her time to host our visit and show us some gems – and also the stacks!  It was lovely to see the original artwork and the archival treasures and I completely understand that this is, and should be, the focus of Seven Stories and their work.  This material is unique, irreplaceable and is what makes it a world class collection – but you need the final printed books too in order to understand why this artwork was created.  So thankfully they have a book collection too – although it’s not yet on the online archives catalogue so you have to know it exists from tours like these.  There’s around 35,000 volumes so it’s no small task to pop it all into even a basic listing never mind a detailed catalogue to help researchers.

As it’s a collection which supports a museum and archive, they have kept to an archival arrangement of stock; keeping collections together in terms of provenance rather than attempting to intershelve and alphabeticise – although I bet many of the Librarians in the group were dying to do that at times walking round- myself included.  I can understand the logic though considering the wider collection.  In some ways, these are simply part of numerous separate larger archival collection yet they can be shelved standing on a shelf without a box so you couldn’t possibly mix them up together.  It is also nice to see at a glance what different authors and organisations contributed as one collection which would be lost if they were swept into one alphabetical sequence.

My favourite sections were those which had come from libraries when they were forced to dispose of their “final copies” sets of books by various authors; often of a 70s/80s/90s era but also some earlier material as well.  I was really thrilled to see copies of the “Young Traveller” series – as described by Kay Whalley at Topsy Turvy conference in 2014.  I will definitely be going back to read some of those.  There were also various career novels which I would love to read and some reference books about children’s literature which would be fun to browse too.

I am determined to make time during the working week for a return visit to read!  I think I could probably be there all day…

Guide for researchers and other visitors to the Collection 2015

CILIP NE Visit 13/10/15


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Museums and Exhibitions

Whilst travelling about the country for conferences, I have to say I did manage to fit in quite a few museums and exhibitions as well!

Sadly in Oxford, nothing was open before or after the conference but I did manage to nip into the Ashmolean on the lunch break as it was so close – I loved this in the corridor though – one way to display them all!

image of lots of busts on a wall

I gave myself the whole of Sunday to enjoy exhibitions in London – and it was also Open House weekend – the equivalent of my own Heritage Open Days so I was sure there would be plenty to see.  I started off at my favourite of all – the V&A and their fabulous shoes exhibition.  I don’t pay to visit many exhibitions but I did feel this one was worth it.  Big enough to feel you had seen something but not so much that you feel overwhelmed.  I was in there just over an hour and I read all the captions!  I particularly liked the bit on the upper level where they displayed collections from different shoe collectors and how they store them – one woman had hers on bookshelves as decoration!  Lovely idea if you have pretty shoes.  Another wonderful feature of the V&A is their cloakroom – it made such a difference to viewing this that I could leave my suitcase behind and it’s not even a charge – it’s a suggested donation.

As it was Open House, I moved on to the beautiful Institut francais du Royaume-Uni, nearby on Queensbury Place.  I love art deco buildings anyway, but art deco with a library is even better!  This is the outside – brick in a street of Georgian stonework with lovely detailing

Institut Francais external shot

Then inside:

Inst Fran (4) Inst Fran (3) Inst Fran (1)

Truly gorgeous.  And open to the public for non-members to use the reading room (free wifi!) in Central London.  Definitely worth knowing about.  Just to finish off a great trip, they were having a booksale downstairs – mostly in French but I got some lovely French Language copies of Spot for a friend’s bilingual son!

I went on to the Science Museum and their “Information Age” exhibition – as a Librarian, I really felt I ought to!  I did enjoy it – although seeing all the old radios and TVs made me think how much my Grandad would have really loved this exhibition.  I particularly liked the telephone exchange section – I would have liked to try putting in cables…  They should do a “could you have been an operator?” interactive test!


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CILIP Libraries and Information History Group annual conference

As soon as I saw the call for papers for this conference which was themed “Libraries and the Development of Professional Knowledge” I knew that the Mining Institute should be represented.  After all, it’s the focus of what we were created for back in 1852!

I applied and I was lucky enough to be invited to come and give twenty minutes on the MI and our collections.  It was hard initially to find a focus for a paper which was essentially an introduction but after some discussion with the organisers, I focused it around the men who created the collections and entitled it “In Lasting Remembrance” – a regular phrase from the Annual Reports.  If you would like to see my presentation, the slides are all on Slideshare and I’m also very happy to come and give this paper or versions of it at other events….  It was a lovely opportunity to do some research for myself rather than on a topic dictated by a researcher (recently this has been dust from coke ovens – 3000 pages of it….)

The other papers were very varied and initially I was worried that these papers were far more academic than mine!  Despite this I got a friendly reception from the other speakers and delegates and I hope some of them will call off next time they are in the North East and see it for themselves.  I was lucky that one of the other speakers, Martyn Walker, had not only visited but used our library in the past and he was vociferous in his support for our collections!

I particularly enjoyed John Tiernan’s talk on Librarians of the Mersey District which highlighted firstly how underpaid and undersung public librarians have always been and secondly how early women were involved at a very high level.  His description of their early meetings held in each Library and including a tour to show them off to their colleagues sounded very familiar even today….

The keynote speaker was Anthony Watkinson from CIBER talking about the history of journals and publishing.  I was intrigued to hear about the economics and the “80-20 rule” – only 20% of an academic publishing house’s journals will make any money – the rest will only break even!

I was also really enjoyed hearing Christine Chapman talk about “Building a Natural History Library” with the Willoughby Gardner collection including how they highlighted his collections beyond just supporting the work of the curatorial staff of the museum.

shelves at Pusey HouseThe location in Pusey House was beautiful as you would expect of Oxford, although smaller than I expected.  Our conference room was surrounded by shelves; many of which held boxes which read “miscellaneous pamphlets” – made me feel very at home!  Other elements were similar too – there was a confusing door entry system to rival my own in Newcastle and made me realise how offputting and confusing this must be to outsiders.




After lunch we got the tour of Pusey House including the beautiful Library:

PuseyLibraryWhich still runs on these:

Puseycards(Well, apart from a small selection of titles which have now been added to the main computerised Oxford LMS.)








At the end of the conference there was the option to go to the pub and chat, however I have to say that I got a better offer from Emma Jones who offered to take us round the Jesus College and see their Fellows Library.  I was very very tired (long trip, IBS plus 2 year old = 4 hours sleep) but I couldn’t resist.  I’m very glad that I went:

Jesus College Library Jesuscollege1  Jesusme


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NAG conference 2015

Conference comes round again so quickly!  September is also a hugely busy time for me with Heritage Open Days happening as well (498 visitors in 3 days since you ask, very good total for us…) plus another CILIP NE conference happening plus a CILIP LIHG conference happening the week after.  Never again will I agree to speak at three conferences in ten days!

NAG conference was additionally stressful in that it was firstly the biggest audience of the three but also, as well as speaking about the Seam Project and our Singer-Songwriter in residence, Gareth Davies-Jones, I was also singing with him.

Back when the Executive Committee had been planning this committee and someone said “ooh, Jennie, didn’t I read about your project in CILIP recently?” and I was destined to give a paper.  We then moved on to talk about the after-dinner entertainment.  We all agreed that the casino had been a great success last year and we wanted to do it again, but we would like to offer something to make it different.

casino table

[Thanks to @HeatherSherman for the casino pic]

So we added Gareth to the after-dinner programme to present some songs from The Seam project.  Now, I was delighted to be able to offer Gareth a (paying) gig, but I could see where this was going…  For the larger gigs as part of the project, Gareth had a backing band and even a choir sometimes but always a harmony singer.  I do sing in choirs and a band, however I do like some rehearsal time which, thanks to other problems and commitments, was a little lacking for this one!  I will admit that at the point where we performed, we had never sang “Practical Coal Mining” through together so I was very relieved that we made it to the end of the track successfully.  We did get to sing through the other songs once before dinner so that made me feel a little better!  I actually really enjoyed doing the Safety lamp song – Stephenson, Clanny and Davy – it’s a lovely harmony line.

I think a song as part of the paper was a great novelty for people – we certainly got some positive tweets about it – and it was certainly the best way to show off what the project achieved!   If you want to see for yourself, Gareth is touring with the Seam this autumn with gigs across the North – from Hett to Heighington and Newcastle to Stockport.  Get a free flavour of the tracks on Soundcloud or buy the CD (all of cover price goes to Library) on eBay!

people with pieces of string linking themOne huge bonus was that once the dinner was over, I could relax and enjoy day 2 of conference with the other delegates with no further pressures.  I really enjoyed Anne Welsh and Jenny Wright’s session on RDA – trying to explain the basics of levels and relationships to us courtesy of many cards and bits of string!  A really interactive workshop which was great.  I was also keen to hear from the Royal College of Surgeons Collections Review Project as it sounded like they were also dealing with a collection which included objects, books, archives and journals.  Their scoring system was really impressive (and detailed) and I could see it was impossible to achieve it in full without dedicated staffing as a project (as they are doing) but that elements of it, particularly in terms of measuring usage of an item, might be something I could take away and introduce into my work life.


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IKEA kitchens – lessons learnt!

Lessons learnt from installing an IKEA kitchen

1.  Get the direct number of your local store

The main switchboard customer care number is useless.  They are always “experiencing high call volumes at the moment.”  In my experience, the call is rarely ever answered at all and when they do, they give you the wrong information.  Your local store will have a direct number, then you just need the extension number for kitchens.  (IKEA Gateshead is 0191 4932021 ext 6402).

2.  Avoid July

The new IKEA catalogue comes out on the 1st August therefore July is chaos as old products get discontinued and new ones aren’t yet available.  We turned up at the store ready to purchase a hob only to be told that was now discontinued and the new one was home delivery only…  I will say, the home delivery was relatively quick but there was a fee for that!

3.  Buy two options

The main bonus of IKEA (well apart from the fact it’s about 50% cheaper than anywhere else due to sheer volume) is that you can buy it as you want.  Most places, you design it, sign to say this is it, then the whole lot gets delivered and you can no longer move in your soon-to-be-kitchen because of all the boxes!  So instead, we bought a few cabinets at a time*, took them home, assembled them and tried them in different places.  You can take back anything you don’t use so why not?  We got glass and solid doors in some cases simply because we couldn’t imagine how it would look in our room so we decided to try it out and see.

*granted this only worked because we live so close to an IKEA store.

4.  Buy the doors later

The doors are the easy bit to install.  They are also the expensive, easily damaged bit so instead of having them in a big vulnerable pile in the corner whilst joiners, electricians and plumbers invade your space, leave them at IKEA for a while!  You also only need one soft closer per door, not one per hinge as you might think….

4b  But don’t forget the legs….

Floor cabinets come with legs.  But they are sold completely separately so if you’re doing a large complicated order it is very easy to forget….  Fitting a kitchen legless is not recommended!  It meant an extra trip back on a day when it was really inconvenient so please do learn from my mistake on this one.

5.  Get a Family card

Not only does it give you free coffee Monday to Friday, it also insures your purchases against damage on the way home and even in assembly!  It makes it much less worrying putting something together.

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book guilt…


I indulged in a guilty pleasure last night.  A new Kindle book.  And I did indeed feel very guilty indeed.  But then I thought – why?  The book which I so enjoyed reading was a whole £2.84*.  It kept me entertained and distracted from feeling hungry (It was a 5:2 day).  It contains no calories and will require no shelf space to store yet I still felt bad about spending the money.

I quite happily spend 59p and 99p on Kindle daily deals but I always feel worried about spending much more than that.  These poor authors trying to make a living if everyone thinks like me!

Yet I also (relatively) happily spend £2.80 on a drink in a pub.  Even at the very reasonable chain pub at the end of our street, a Kopparberg will cost me that.  And it lasts for considerably less time, has calories I don’t need and isn’t re-readable later!  Compared to a night at the pub, my cosy evening was very cheap indeed!

I think part of the reason I feel uncomfortable spending the money is because you can’t really see a Kindle book.  I mean, it’s there on the screen but you can’t touch it and shelve it.  Once they’re all neatly in Collections on your Kindle, they are a little out of sight and out of mind.  And even when you’ve bought it – do you really own it?  Technically, you have just licensed a copy of it and I do always have a nagging worry that one day it will all vanish into the cloud!


*It was “A Season of Change” by Diane Greenwood Muir in the highly recommended Bellingwood series if you’re interested.

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Under the Fields of Heaton

Under the Fields of Heaton

It’s odd to say that I’ve had a lovely weekend commemorating a disaster, but there you go…  The concert on Saturday night was a sell out with people packed into St Teresa’s Church Hall to hear Johnny Handle, Appletwig Songbook and Heaton Voices.  One of the girls had to admit that she loved Johnny’s music but she had absolutely no idea what he was saying in between songs….  Geordie dialect a bit beyond her there!  Another member of the choir posted that she had enjoyed discovering Handle – especially his old album cover:
johnnyhandlecover Johnny’s new track to commemorate the disaster fits perfectly into the folk tradition and will hopefully be a long standing addition.

With my Mining Institute hat on, I sold books in the interval and chatted to people how I hope will come in and see the original maps and images behind the book and the slides.  With my Heaton Voices hat on, I had to try and remember all the lyrics of these new mining songs which we have learnt specially for the Festival!  Things were mostly successful, even for the songs which we only finished learning last week….







Then today there was a service of commemoration at St Teresa’s which was very moving.  It’s a beautiful modern church, full of light.  For me, the most poignant moment was seeing 75 candles brought to the altar because it really highlighted what 75 people actually look like rather than as a number of victims.  It was particularly relevant as the range of ages was reproduced as well with ages from 6 to 80 represented in the procession just as there was in the victims.

All the music in the service had a theme of light, so Heaton Voices sang “May you See Diamonds” and then encouraged the congregation to join us and sing.  People took it well and joined in and smiled!  On the way out, one lovely lady caught me and gave me a hug and said “thank you so much for coming, and for being so enthusiastic! Just full of life – all of you!”  I thought that was a very sweet comment, especially from a stranger!

After the service we were pleasantly surprised with cakes!  There was a huge spread on in the Church Hall so thank you very much to everyone who baked.  Sorry we had to run – the choir were all due at our weekly rehearsal!  Despite the two gigs of the weekend, Richard had us all working hard learning “Waiting” – his piece on the Heaton disaster focusing on the lives of the widows who had to wait months for the bodies to be retrieved.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped make the weekend such a success; from the organisers and performers down to the audience who were so friendly.







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