Disaster Response and Salvage Training
Recently I attended a British Library training day on ‘Disaster Response and Salvage Training’ (for libraries, that is). It was a fascinating day which kicked off with some rather compelling case studies of damage experienced across the UK. This not only emphasised the importance of the subject matter, but was an interesting exercise in learning not only from other people’s mistakes but from their preparedness.
The course was led by Emma Dadson from Harwell Document Restoration Services, whose breadth of knowledge on the topic was extremely impressive. Emma has been in the industry for 12 years and has been involved in some very high profile salvage operations, including those at the National Library of Wales and after the recent fire at the Glasgow School of Art. I cannot speak highly enough of Emma’s professionalism, public speaking skills and industry knowledge – you could not ask for a better trainer on this subject.
As well as working through a number of case studies and general information about salvage and disaster response for both paper and non-paper items, the day also included an adult version of what children’s librarians refer to as wet play. We were divided into groups and given a box of books and other resources that had been water damaged (i.e. Emma had tipped water into the boxes). We then went through the items and set them out for salvage as best we could, following what we had learnt throughout the day. It was a great way to put our learning into practice and also see how working in teams could affect a salvage operation. Part of the training room floor was covered in plastic for this section of the course!
Also on that note, the British Library has lovely training facilities and equally lovely training packages featuring none other than Sherlock Holmes. The packages themselves are extensive and also contained Template Emergency Plan provided by Harwell. Although a number of the attendees were from large libraries, some were from consultancies or smaller organisations, for whom such a template could be incredibly valuable.
As well as learning a lot, the day was also a great opportunity to meet other librarians and conservators and – as always – to network. I even met one librarian I had already ‘spoken’ to on Twitter. The day was highly interesting and informative and I would strongly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about what is actually a fascinating – and crucial – topic.
Contributed by: Anne-Marie Nankivell
Rare – and very well done!
Contributed by: Chris
With time always at a premium, training courses can sometimes feel like a luxury and self-indulgence. I have recently been on two short courses on rare books. One was a day course arranged by the Historic Libraries Forum and held at Cambridge University Library; the other just a half day organised by the Association of Pall Mall Libraries at Middle Temple Library. The trainers at each – Will Hale and Renae Satterley – were excellent: richly informative but with a light touch. And in each case, the cost of the course was inconsequential. Remarkable that when training in most areas is so expensive, in the area of rare books the attitude is so generous.
The Cambridge course gave a truly expert overview of the topic. The first session covered the history of book-making: from the making of the paper (until the 1820s, linen rags were used to create a pulp, which was then spread like porridge over the surface of a kind of sieve) through the process of type and different forms of illustration (type ornaments, woodcuts, engravings), explaining with great clarity how the printing process related to the final structure and order of the book, and finally to the binding process.
The second session built on this by explaining about bibliographic format. This involved much folding of paper and closely resembled a childhood origami session – good fun, and much laughter. It then moved on to an effective explanation of Format signatures – the method of expressing the structure of a particular book. For example, a simple one might be A – P4; a more complex one π’a2 A-04, P4 (-P4).
The success of the course was in revealing how what often today seems esoteric and slightly mysterious to many of us is actually based on simple and practical considerations in the manufacture of the books. This was reinforced at the end when we visited a workshop in the basement, where we could examine many of the traditional tools of print-making.
The half-day session at Middle Temple Library focussed on provenance specifically ie. the history of a specific copy of a book and the interpretation of the book-plates, signatures, mottoes and jottings of all kinds that appear on books.
Renae gave an amusing summary of the different kinds of evidence (from simply-interpreted through to very difficult and impossible); an informative explanation of the kinds of resources available to help; and useful tips on approaches to cataloguing.
The session ended with informal discussion of actual examples from the Middle Temple and Athenaeum Club Libraries.
Far from being a waste of time (and certainly far from being a waste of money), these training seminars have provided instruction and inspiration. Should I have gone? Definitely.