Have you ever wondered what the Special Collections and Archives (SCA) team do behind-the-scenes? In the latest post in our series explaining just that, we meet the Assistant Librarian, Special Collections.
I am one of the Librarians responsible for preserving, managing and providing access to the printed books and pamphlets and medieval manuscripts held in the University of Liverpool’s Special Collections. If you are confused about what material is in Special Collections and how it got there, or about the difference between Special Collections and Archives, I recommend taking a look at this handy explanation on our website.
My role primarily involves making the printed books collections easier to find, and sharing the wonderful things we look after in Special Collections as widely as possible – whether for specific research and teaching purposes, or for more general interest and delight. To that end, I spend a lot of my time cataloguing – which is to say, I create detailed descriptions of our books, and share them with larger international databases (such as ESTC and MEI). This ensures that people the world over have ways by which to find out about the books we hold in Liverpool, and about the people who made and owned them before they reached us. Moreover, this kind of detailed work enables me to get to know our collections better, which in turn means I am better able to understand, explain and promote our collections – something I do both online (via Twitter, blog posts, exhibitions and digitisation) and in person (via events and classes).
I come across new (to me) things all the time, so I am also always working to further my own knowledge, of bibliography and book history in particular, but also of the subjects to which our collections relate (in this instance ancient geography astronomy).
Another part of my job involves responding to the enquiries that emerge once the information about these books has been made available. It’s always a joy to see the books becoming a part of someone’s research!
Rare books librarianship always involves a balance between access and preservation, and so a crucial final aspect of my work here involves ensuring the books are stored in suitable conditions, handled with care, and given restorative treatment when necessary.
As I hope is clear from this brief overview of my role, I like to connect people to books. Please do note, our collections are wide-ranging, and if you have an interest in any of them, we would be delighted to hear from you!