I spent much of the Christmas break writing a draft chapter of the Special Collections Handbook, about 7000 words. Facet Publishing need this soon so they can be sure I’m on the right track in terms of audience, style etc.
I decided to submit the chapter about caring for collections for several reasons. It’s a subject I could write about quickly and naturally without having to travel to research, and one that I spend a great deal of time explaining to different audiences: students, members of the public, colleagues.
I also think it is the subject that makes Special Collections (OK, and archives and museums and other heritage work) distinct. Nowadays professional, graduate, managerial posts are pretty similar: people spend their time in meetings, or using computers emailing, writing word and excel documents, and thinking about funding, resources, strategy etc. There was an interesting piece in the Guardian (or Observer – must check) recently about old film processing studios, how distinctive and wonderful the equipment was, and how this variety of equipment and practice has disappeared. My job certainly looks very much like other people’s and I could do 90 per cent of it from home.
However, Christmas always reminds me that my most important responsibility is the care of collections, and that requires my physical presence (or that of trained colleagues of course). Like most university libraries, we close from Christmas Eve till after New Year. Special Collections staff pop in during the closure to make sure all is well. I dread the moment when I open the doors – what will I find? This year all WAS well. If I did nothing else this winter or during my time at Bradford, by establishing proper collections care I have enabled some wonderful materials to survive much longer than they would otherwise. Worth celebrating I think.