Friday, 5 March 2010

The library as a concept album

When I am in the car with my step-son and I put on a CD (which has to be something he is prepared to tolerate), I am always slightly annoyed by the way he will skip some tracks and only listen to the ones he really likes - or in some cases only the parts of tracks he likes. As an oldie who can remember Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band being released in 1967 I regard the album, as a collection of tracks played in a set order, as being more than the sum of its individual parts. In particular I think you can develop a liking for tracks on repeated listening even if they don't appeal on the first play.
My step-son of course is more use to listening to individual tracks on his i-pod and I think the concept of an album as whole is disappearing.

The same applies to library collections. Today libraries are seen as, at best, an access point to a world of resources, most of which are available electronically. The idea that a collection of items on the shelves can have a value greater than the sum of its parts is being lost.

The library collection at the Department of Children, Schools and Families here in Sheffield is closing down. Most of it is moving to London but apparently they do not want the historical collection. This collection documents the development of theories and practice of education from the 17th Century to the present day. It includes works by Joseph Priestley (An essay on a course of liberal education…), Erasmus Darwin, Jeremy Bentham (Chrestomathia), George Bernard Shaw and the delightful pseudonym Prudentia Homespun (Jane West).
None of these items are of monetary value or particularly rare. Apparently the collection has been offered to national libraries and second-hand book dealers with no interest. It is now being offered to any library in the SINTO region. Although the individual items are not unique I feel that the collection as a whole must have value. Not only does it present a picture of the development of theories and practice of education in the UK over time but it also indicates what the Government department responsible for education felt was important. It would be a great shame if this collection were split up or even worse ended up as landfill!

If any library is interested in this collection please contact the SINTO office.

1 comment:

Hazel said...

You may well find that the DWP library at The Adelphi will be interested. I took several of ADSET's old documents there and Angie was grateful. I've not been there to what is now the DCSF library in Sheffield for some time (nor indeed to the Adelphi or Sanctuary Buildings) as I now use the British Library for all of my research. The BL might,of course, be another answer as the old DfEE and its predecessors were hopeless at putting ISBNs on research documents unless published in the main series (I know - I was there). Hope this helps as I'd hate to see these documents simply lost for ever.