Friday, 27 June 2014

Libraries & Archives : the Yin and Yang of Research

Cornish Studies Library
strong room

Last week, I visited Cornish Studies Library, with many of my library colleagues. Here they hold a large array of resources, all with a connection to Cornwall or Cornish history. The collection includes more than 30,000 books & pamphlets, over 30 local newspapers on microfilm and a collection of photographs reaching above 160,000 in total.
CSL (Cornish Studies Library) was once managed alongside the Cornwall County Council libraries but now works more closely with Cornwall Records Office. I was intrigued by the concept behind this Centre as it bridges the gap between libraries and archives. Their most common enquiries are those regarding family history and the history behind people’s houses, more akin to those we expect to come across in archives, but holds mainly published sources, as a library would.
In 2017 CSL will move to a shared site with the Cornwall Records Office and Scilly Historic Environment Records as part of a wider archive and local studies centre, Kresen Kernow. This will allow the user to conduct research into Cornish history using primary and secondary sources, side by side. This seems a very logical and intuitive idea which will simplify the research path for the user, by having everything under one roof available to them, with archive and library staff working alongside one another.
I would be very much interested to see the new arrangement once in place. This concept is arguably not too dissimilar from the position of our Archives situated inside Tremough Library. We often work closely with the campus Academic Liaison Librarians because we find we regularly direct students in their direction when we feel the Librarians may be able to offer suggestions for other resources that are available for the student to develop their research.
Our Special Collections further this relationship as both the Archive service and Library staff members have input into their care. For example, we may promote the collections through displays and Twitter, whilst the library staff will manage the processing and shelf rotation. There may also be a possibility in future that I will be more involved with the processing of these books, working alongside my library colleagues. 
With Archivists and Librarians facing similar challenges, such as working within the boundaries of copyright legislation and promoting access, it is extremely beneficial to keep these lines of communication open between the world of Libraries and the world of Archives. A traineeship in a Higher Education institution has been a perfect opportunity to encounter this and I hope that it will be something I can learn more about in my future career – how can the two professions work with each other to achieve similar goals? What can we learn from one another?
If anyone has worked within both libraries and archives themselves or have come across other centres which bridge this gap then it would be very interesting to hear your thoughts.