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.
The 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:
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: