Special collections for beginners
A case study of special collections at Waterford Institute of Technology Library Service
Neil Darbey, Waterford Institute of Technology Library Service, Waterford, Ireland
Helen Hayden, Waterford Institute of Technology Library Service, Waterford, Ireland
Purpose – This article sets out to describe the challenges and opportunities created by the presentation of a number of special collections to the library service of Waterford Institute of Technology. It aims to focus on the work done with the collections to date and plans for the future.
Design/methodology/approach – This case study reports on the collections presented to WIT Library Service and the approach taken to their conservation and display. It also discusses the ongoing issues involved in special collections management in a modern academic library setting.
Findings – The paper concludes that there is a delicate balancing act involved in accepting and managing special collections in contemporary academic libraries. Key factors to consider are expense, staff time and skills, and potential benefits to the library and its users.
Research limitations/implications – The project is still in development. The study provides a view on one medium-sized academic library's experience of handling special collections.
Practical implications – This account is likely to be useful for organisations in a similar position, faced with similar challenges of comparable scale.
Originality/value – The paper offers practical insights for libraries in similar positions.
Collections management; Library management; Academic libraries; Ireland.
New Library World
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), based in the Southeast of Ireland, is one of the largest institutes of technology in Ireland, with 10,000 full-time and part-time students. It was established as a regional technical college in 1970, and was the first to obtain institute of technology status in 1998. The third-level education system in Ireland is broad in scope and encompasses:
- the universities;
- the institutes of technology;
- the colleges of education; and
- private independent colleges.
The first three sectors, which comprise 34 institutions, are autonomous and self-governing, but are chiefly state-funded (see www2.wit.ie/AboutWIT/).
The nature of WIT has meant that up to recent years, its focus tended to be on the present or the future, with far less emphasis on the past. The collections housed at the library were largely based on the requirements of courses studied at the Institute. The Institute is currently in a state of transition and is evolving from a largely vocational college to a university-level institution, with increasing emphasis on higher-level research and also on humanities-based interests. The scope of the library's role is changing accordingly.
As the name suggests, Waterford Institute of Technology's library service has been driven by technical transformation, staying ahead of the present, and has always been in the vanguard of change, particularly where technology is concerned. This role for the library has been met with success. Self-service machines, WiFi, a plethora of web-based services, electronic journals as well as databases in large quantities, online institute repositories and RSS feeds are just some of the changes that have been implemented in recent years. For staff at WIT Library Service, such developments have always been welcomed.
Three special collections
Recently, a new challenge was presented to WIT Library Service. It was simply this: to take charge of three special collections that were to come to the Institute and to find them suitable and sustaining accommodation. The library had previously not held any material that could be described as a special collection, but it is in keeping with WIT's evolution to a university-level body and broadening remit that historical documents are taken into its possession. The three special collections which WIT Library Service was to take guardianship of were:
- The Christ Church Cathedral Collection;
- The Thomas Wyse Papers; and
- The Rosen Collection.
Special collections can be defined as printed items such as rare books, letters and ephemera which have traditionally been already categorised as collections or kept apart from main holdings. In addition, it includes items which were originally at some time, somewhere, current stock, and which have become special by reason of antiquity (Lee, 1993). Manuscripts, archives, papers and other collections that have no easy means of being integrated with the general working collections or that involve unusual care are most often subsumed under the special collections heading.
Special collections are so because they are deemed by an institution to be worth preserving and gathering together for the benefit of the research community. Security and environment would be paramount in the project. Items in special collections often tend to be in better condition than ordinary circulating material by the very fact that they are protected, repaired, and used much less frequently (Bengtson, 2001).
WIT Special Collections – overview
The following is a brief outline of the origins and contents of the collections which were given to WIT Library Service.
The Christ Church Cathedral Collection
The Christ Church Cathedral Collection, which was originally housed in the Church of Ireland Cathedral in Waterford, was made up of some 3,000 items, the oldest of which was Erasmus's edition of St Augustine dating back to 1528. There were over a hundred items from the sixteenth century, but the majority of the remainder were published in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and a small number in the nineteenth century. It was then moved to the Representative Church Body Library (RCB) in Dublin. It is chiefly an ecclesiastical collection that gathered importance down through the years because of donations and bequests that were added to it. The law collection, comprising nearly a third of the collection's entire content, was as good a collection of early law books as existed anywhere in the country, except perhaps for the Law Library in Dublin. While concerns about the collection's long-term conservation still existed, there were no such issues with creating a detailed inventory of the collection. Just such an inventory already existed, thanks to the work of one Julian Walton, who had worked for years on an inventory and created a print-based catalogue of the entire collection. Julian Walton is a local Waterford historian who took an interest in the collection when it was neglected and in very poor condition, and brought it back to displayable standards. He is now well known as a radio broadcaster on local history issues. Historically, there are two other manuscript catalogues of the collection, one from the eighteenth century and the other from the late nineteenth century, but the Dean of Raphoe's card index of the library from the 1950s was by far the most important.
There were some notable highlights to the collection: Erasmus's edition of St Augustine 1528-1565, the Wycliffe's Prologue 1550, the Great Bible 1539, Erasmus's paraphrase 1548, the Geneva bible, the Bishop's Bible 1588, Fulke's new Testament 1589, the King James Bible 1612, the New Testament in the Irish language 1681, the Book of Homilies 1571, the Common Places of Peter Martyr 1582, Hymnal, Master Arden of Feversham, as well as items of local interest (Tallon, 1959). The general condition of the books was poor and there is still a need for the collection to be thoroughly and professionally cleaned due to neglect down the years (Walton, 1989). While the contents of the books have generally stood up well to this neglect, the bindings have been less fortunate and a minority have suffered fairly extensive damage down the ages. The Christchurch Cathedral Collection is not a chief collection among Irish diocesan libraries, though it is still worthy of note. However, its law content is exceptional by national standards.
The Thomas Wyse Papers
The second special collection is the Thomas Wyse Papers. Thomas Wyse (1791-1862) was a leading nineteenth-century Irish and Westminster politician and educationalist from Waterford. He was a leading figure in Catholic Emancipation and on that basis was returned as MP for Tipperary in 1830 and in 1835 for Waterford City itself. Indeed, the correspondence of Thomas Wyse in the possession of WIT does contain some with Daniel O'Connell about this very issue (Auchmuty, 1939). In fact, it was only the surprise victory for the emancipation movement orchestrated by Wyse in a by-election by Villiers Stuart that inspired O'Connell himself to stand for election. Some of this correspondence is alluded to in the letters.
As a member of the British Whig (Liberal) government, Thomas Wyse threw his energies into educational reform and was central to the setting up of the national school system. He chaired the secondary education committee, which proposed the setting up of inter-denominational state-financed secondary schools. He also showed vision, seeking the establishment of four provincial colleges or universities, again to be inter-denominational, to offer a curriculum similar to that in the University of London. Wyse sought that model of education because he had a passion for the economic and industrial development of Ireland.
Thomas Wyse, therefore, is a considerable national historical figure and the Wyse Papers represent a hallmark of esteem for the WIT Library Service, and that they have been placed in our care is an honour. Wyse mixed with many of the well-known intellectual and cultural figures of his day. The letters show the evidence of this: Daniel O'Connell, Edmund Gosse, Lord Shrewsbury and Randolph Churchill are just some of the renowned people whose correspondence is in the letters to Wyse and his family. Thomas Wyse was married to Napoleon's niece, Letitia Bonaparte, and the tempestuous ups and very considerable downs of their relationship form a strong backdrop to, and indeed an integral part of, the letters.
The Rosen Collection
The final part of the special collections is the Rosen Collection. Dr Hans Waldemar Rosen was a renowned conductor. His considerable and varied collection of musical scores and manuscripts was donated by his family to WIT upon his death. The collection is dominated by choral music, but also includes first editions of orchestral, chamber, opera and instrumental music and manuscripts by Irish composers such as William Wilson and Seoirse Bodley. The scores are for chorus, orchestra and many individual musical instruments. Folk music from Spain, Germany, Finland, Sweden and the USA is also included. Some material was in good condition, while other parts were in quite a poor state.
Special Collections Project
The decision was taken at senior management level in WIT, in conjunction with library management, to accept the collections, each of which was negotiated separately and independently of each other. All three collections represented some prestige for the Institute in being asked to be their custodians and, from a strategic point of view, proof positive that the college is cognisant of its responsibilities regarding the past as well as the future. It was also a chance to show that WIT Library Service was more than an information centre for vocational training, but was at the very heart of responsibility for the region's cultural memory.
The resulting project was subsequently largely taken over by a dedicated team of library staff. In discussing and deciding on how best to progress with the task in hand, the team identified several advantages and disadvantages which the newly acquired collections would present. Many of these issues are similar to those frequently raised in relevant literature.
- It would be a way to show that WIT Library Service had founded its own cultural heritage department. This would be a strategic and promotional benefit.
- It was acknowledged that special collections were potentially international resources in scope and could also become integral to the learning process at a local level.
- It is possible the special collections area could become a tool for future research, especially in the humanities, though not exclusively so.
- Educational curricula policy at both second and third levels in Ireland places emphasis on students engaging with primary sources or studying original material, and this potentially presents opportunities in developing future projects.
- There are possibilities in terms of digitisation projects and, perhaps more ambitiously still, possible conversion of rare books to optical disk formats in the future.
Identified challenges include:
- The special collections sector of library work is a highly specialised field. In the practical and multi-tasking world of institutes of technology libraries, the skills and qualifications of the staff tend to be more focused on areas such as information retrieval than on rare books. “It may well be that in the future it will be a feat in itself for genuine researchers to find a member of library staff with whom they can communicate about the collection in a meaningful way” (Lee, 1993; edited from Cullen, 1993).
- There was no precedent for such work at WIT Library Service.
- The team knew that best practice in storage facilities for collections needed to be precisely regulated in terms of light levels, temperature and humidity, as well as having a high degree of security. The facilities are therefore expensive to maintain.
- There were concerns that staff sense of urgency to get involved in a project that had few career enhancing prospects and probably a less than ideal budget would be somewhat muted.
- It was felt that it could prove difficult to find the staff hours for this time-consuming task in addition to all the other library work and special projects that were under way.
- Space within the library's two buildings – the main library, Luke Wadding Library and the second campus library, College St. Library – is already at a premium, with many demands being placed on available rooms and shelving.
- The budget allocation for the project would be, of necessity, limited.
- It can be all too easy for third-level institutions to want to be seen as guardians and custodians of the national heritage by taking on special collections. Enthusiastic administrators may accept donations of large collections with little or no consultation with the special collections department (if such a thing already exists in a particular library), which may not have the resources to catalogue, house, and maintain the collection. Indeed, the cost of cataloguing, storing and maintaining such a collection may far outweigh its value to an institute. “The cost of cataloguing, storing, and maintaining the collection may outweigh its value as a resource” (Bengtson, 2001).
Having weighed up the benefits and drawbacks of taking the donated collections, priorities were set which would allow for work on the acquired material to become part of the library's workflow, while taking constraints into consideration. It would be essential to find a balance between the ideal and the pragmatic.
The team drew up a Mission Statement (see Appendix 1) to describe the raison d'être of the evolving special collections department. This was used to form definite objectives, which the team began to work towards.
The objectives of the project, as agreed by senior college management and the special collections team, were:
- to secure and house the collections in an appropriate and accessible location;
- to catalogue the collections in accordance with internationally recognised standards with full subject headings in MARC 21 format, allowing it to be viewed remotely as well as within the Institute itself via a searchable online library catalogue;
- to promote and make the special collections accessible to researchers, scholars and other parties interested in their contents; and
- to maintain the collections in conditions conducive to their preservation.
The article will discuss the collections in terms of how each of these objectives is being worked upon and progressed.
Securing and housing the collections
The largest and most noteworthy of the collections, the Christ Church Cathedral Collection, was transferred on permanent loan from the Representative Church Body Library to Waterford Institute of Technology. It was agreed that it should be insured for a seven-figure sum. Some 500 archival boxes were bought for the purpose of the transfer from the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin to the Luke Wadding Library in WIT. The initial task of sorting, cleaning, preserving and stacking took an entire summer, and the condition of some books was quite poor. Most staff contributed to the effort and it became a source of teamwork and enjoyment as well as pride.
The Thomas Wyse papers were delivered without fanfare in storage containers and were in relatively good condition.
The Rosen Collection of music was delivered in boxes by the conductor's family and cleaning and sorting was carried out by the staff of the Institute's branch library at College St., where the music department is located.
Housing of collections
Given that WIT was beginning to acquire special collections and in order to meet the Institute's responsibilities towards the material received, it was decided by senior Institute management in co-operation with the library staff involved in the project that a dedicated space would need to be found, which would be a base for the collections. All involved were aware that it would not be possible to give endless time and resources to the project. However, a specific base would be a very positive start. Following discussions, a large room previously used as a seminar room in the basement of the Luke Wadding Library was designated as a dual-purpose special collections and staff reading area. The room is not sufficiently large to accommodate all the material in each collection but, at a time when the staff numbers at the Institute are increasing, the allocation of this space gives a tangible demonstration of commitment. The special collections team had the task of drawing up environmental and furniture specifications for a special collections room and a concise brief was prepared. The team followed best practice according to the British Standard 5454 (British Standards Institute, n.d.) Recommendations for the Storage and Exhibition of Archival Documents, which is the gold standard to be followed for all matters in the special collections sphere.
In addition, the team consulted with expertise in special collections at Irish universities and read as widely as time allowed. (See Appendix 2 for the full list of environmental and furniture specifications which was given to the architect and the college's Capital Projects Manager.)
Without an unlimited budget, the team were aware that not everything on the list would be possible at the outset. The Capital Projects Manager and the architect approved many of the recommendations, although humidifiers remained beyond the initial phase of development. The display concept was very much to the fore and the resulting room is very aesthetically pleasing and contains a display cabinet which can house about one third of the Christ Church Cathedral Collection, which is the most significant and valuable of the collections. The remainder of this collection is in storage in the main library building.
The Thomas Wyse Papers, which is a much smaller collection, remains in storage in the library and will be partially displayed in the new room when ongoing work is completed. It is planned in the future to put the Thomas Wyse Papers on exhibition in the special collections area, but work will need to be done by the library staff first in providing a suitable home for such notable documentation. Particularly as display items, they have much to contribute to the special collection area. The plan is to have them examined by a professional archivist and to draw up a display and possible digitisation projects for the future.
For the present, the Rosen Collection is housed in the College St. Campus Library. This was felt to be an appropriate location given that the music department is based there and the students and lecturers have access to the collection. It will not be available for lending, but is allowed to be used for reference purposes within the library.
The major issue facing the team is the abiding one for special collection departments everywhere – namely how to make the collections available to the researchers and students of today while preserving them for the inquiries of tomorrow. It is the fundamental issue of access versus preservation. Staff worked diligently to follow international best practice in this regard.
While traditionally, large university special collection departments have always found in favour of preservation rather than access, the situation is now more fluid. “Recent prominent projects at the Bodleian in Oxford include making manuscript and archives records available on the Web […] Except in rare cases, the purpose of digitizing an early printed book is not to permanently replace the physical text with a digital surrogate but to provide another means of access for scholars and spare delicate items from handling” (Bengtson, 2001).
The collections at WIT are of moderate national importance and of significant regional importance, the Christ Church Cathedral Collection, in particular. Special collections generally place no tagging devices on items, due to possible damage to the integrity of the artefact, and so a very high degree of supervision is usually required. In this respect, it was therefore pointless to place a conventional electronic security bleeping device at the entrance to the room.
Simple procedures, however, can be followed to reduce the risk of theft. The team decided that all bags and coats of researchers should be left in a safe area outside the special collections area. Pencils and paper only should be available for consultation purposes. The specially designed display case, which houses the most valuable one third of the Christ Church Cathedral Collection, contains ten glass doors. Each door has some six shelves behind it, each about a metre long. Every shelf is independently alarmed in such a way that it was possible to turn off the alarm on one shelf but leave it on on another shelf. In this way it was felt adequate provision for the collections with suitable protection against theft and incidental damage had been made.
A policy document was drawn up by the special collections team, to govern use of the collection housed in the designated room (see Appendix 3 for the full document).
The securing and housing of the collections is a work in progress. The team continues to work towards securing and displaying the remainder of the Christ Church Cathedral Collection and also the Thomas Wyse Papers. The Rosen Collection also contains several valuable first editions, which require secure display space. It is planned to place further volumes within the special collections area on additional shelving, where the policy will allow for security to be high.
Creating an online catalogue
The team agreed that the creation of an online catalogue of the special collections is essential to their future research worth. Otherwise, the material would continue to be virtually inaccessible to members of the public or researchers wishing to locate an item of particular interest. The ease and degree of availability and access to such collections could motivate research, particularly in the humanities, and there would be nothing more satisfying to library staff than to see the collections being well used. To this end, the team acknowledged that ease of access to materials would be a keynote feature of a successful and dynamic special collections department.
Making the material available will add to the depth and prestige of the library's collections and is another indicator of the college's commitment to the provision of a high-quality service to both its own users and the wider community. The main inhibitor to the achievement of this objective is limited staff time. As the library service does not have a dedicated rare books librarian or department, the cataloguing would need to be done by existing cataloguing staff. This would be in addition to the cataloguing of all the other material which the library acquires on an ongoing basis. The Rosen Collection, which was the first special collection to be donated, has been almost fully catalogued in MARC 21 format by library staff and is available on the library's online catalogue. A start has also been made on creating records for the Christ Church Cathedral Collection.
Given the scope of the collections, the team's ultimate objective of full records for all the material would be time-consuming and slow. Application is being made for grant funding to the Heritage Council
Making the collections accessible
The creation of an online catalogue and subsequent digitisation projects (as discussed below) will obviously be a huge enhancement in terms of accessibility.
Regarding physical access to the collections, researchers, including historians, have begun to visit the library regularly to examine the Christ Church Cathedral Collection. Despite the coming technologies that are likely to reduce the need of researchers to visit special collections in order to carry out research, it is still presumed that the scholar will sometimes need to use the actual materials.
The special collections area will become an integral part of all library tours for new students and visitors to the library, as a way of promoting the collections and arousing interest in them as learning resources.
The Rosen Collection is generating regular interest from both students and academic staff and has been the focus of a number of articles in national newspapers.
A section has also been created on the WIT Library website and has already resulted in queries from researchers keen to view the collections (see http://library.wit.ie/LibraryServices/SpecialCollections/).
The Christ Church Cathedral Collection has been referred to in the Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries and HEAnet, Ireland's National Education and Research Network. It is intended to update these links so that the exposure will be used to further promote the collection and open the materials to national and international audiences (see www.heanet.ie/resources/resources_display.php?disID=1&subID=64).
Digitisation means to create an electronic replica of something in another format (usually in paper format originally). Many valuable books are too fragile to be examined by hand any more, but they can be digitised and made available to a potentially huge audience over the web. State-of-the-art digitisation of special collections can provide unlimited access to anywhere in the world with no substantial preservation issues arising. Digitisation represents some opportunities in terms of making the special collections at WIT more accessible.
Experience internationally in special collection departments such as at the Newberry or the Bodleian increasingly shows how quickly the most seemingly inconsequential collections are requested in reading rooms once a publicly accessible catalogue includes them. In reality, the spiralling costs of digital projects will remain comparatively high and therefore it is circumspect for institutions with relatively shallow funding pools to wait for the major libraries and national and international organisations to make further technical advances (Bengtson, 2001).
At least for the moment, the main purpose of digitising is to promote the materials themselves, to provide another means of access to academics, and to spare fragile items from needless handling. Digitisation cannot ever truly replace the actual physical objects in which those texts were exemplified at particular times in the past. Future plans at WIT Library Service will be affected by the resources available, so the seeking of grant and research funding from state and education research bodies will continue to form a significant part of plans for future development of the special collection sector. The purchase of a scanner is the main priority. Staff capability to use such equipment already exists and the digitisation of a small number of books from the Christ Church Cathedral Collection will enhance access to and promote the collection to interested parties. Possible projects include a small digital exhibition on the WIT Library website of some of the most important books and/or an exhibition on the website of some of the illustrations from the books.
Dublin Core is an interoperable metadata standard and specialised metadata vocabulary for describing resources that enables more intelligent information discovery systems or, more simply put, it allows the description of a structure for digitising special collections. Research shows that the main motive for digital exhibitions in the UK has been for promotional purposes rather than to seek to supply researchers with a comprehensive range of digital alternatives. Due to the huge expense involved in digitising large collections, this will hold true for the WIT Library Service for the foreseeable future.
Maintaining the collections
The specifications drawn up by the team for the new special collections area have been adhered to insofar as possible within a limited budget (Appendix 2). The room is kept cool and relatively dark and the material is both secure and attractively presented. Humidifiers would provide real long-term protection for materials and it is planned to have the institute revisit the whole idea of specialist equipment for the room in the near future. Appendices 4 and 5 are forms which the special collections team drew up in order to ensure the collections are properly cared for by anyone who consults the material or who borrows some items for exhibition purposes.
Due to space constraints and course logistics, not all of the materials will be kept in the new room. The Christ Church Cathedral Collection is partially housed in this room and it is planned to house the Thomas Wyse Papers here also. The vast majority of the Rosen Collection will continue to be kept at the College St. Campus.
Special collections literature raises the question as to whether it is wise for institutions to continue to acquire collections which they have little hope of cataloguing in the near future. Indeed, authors are sometimes critical of libraries which take possession of special collections when resources are less than ideal. Genuine guardianship of cultural artefacts requires capital, high expertise and commensurate support in terms of staff development. “We must have the staff to sort and list them, the space to store them and the facilities for making them available” (Lee, 1993. edited from Clapinson, 1992).
It may be that it is not always possible for senior administrators to provide the financial and practical support that should go with such an enhanced reputation for individual educational settings, but a reciprocal responsibility needs to be shown to the collections if they are to be taken on at all. The fact remains that “libraries which are ill prepared to administer special collections should simply not do so” (Bengtson, 2001).
The team at WIT Library Service were aware of these issues and took a pragmatic approach to the newly acquired collections. It has been an interesting and challenging project. A balance needed to be reached between caring for special collections under absolutely ideal conditions and presenting and protecting such collections to the best of our ability within limited resources. “Intelligent planning has always been and will remain the key to the success of a special collections department” (Scham, 1987).
The literature points out that an acquisitions policy for a special collections department must have sharp focus and definition and must hitch its trailer to an institution's strategic plan if it is to have long-term worth. This needs to be not just an initial cash injection, but sustained investment. Up to now, WIT has spent a proportionately moderate budget on conservation, preservation and cataloguing and will likely spend more in the future on digitisation projects. The newly created special collections department's key directive to protect, preserve and allow access to materials has just begun. Much more time will be spent on incorporating the materials into the catalogue and on promoting and allowing access to the collections. Further investment will be required if we are to continue to display, house and promote the collections already received. Going forward, it will be essential to be discerning in accepting further donations of collections, as space and other resources are finite. However, it has been and will continue to be a positive undertaking and has broadened the scope of the library's remit.
There is much emphasis, quite rightly, on libraries meeting the newest generation on their own territory. Today's generation are the Web 2.0 generation, who have been dubbed “the Millennials”. The past will always have something immense to offer the future. In striking a balance between the opening up the resources of bygone times and keeping up with the technology of the future, WIT Library Service aims to help to create students who are eminently employable and who can also begin to appreciate the treasures of the past and to comprehend the efforts and genius it took to fashion them.
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Appendix 1. Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) Library Service – Special Collections Department
Statement of mission
- To appraise, collect, organise, describe, preserve and make available Institute material of permanent cultural, historical and research value.
- To provide adequate facilities for the retention, preservation, servicing and research use of such material.
- To serve as a research centre for the study of the region's history by members of the institute and the scholarly world beyond (Sudduth et al., 2005).
Appendix 2. Environmental and furniture specifications
- The room should have blinds and there should be no direct sunlight in the room, particularly not on the display case.
- A company which made custom made glass exhibit cases for the 3-4 renowned display items the team had in mind was identified. They were specialists for museums and special collections. The glass was normally treated with anti-UV rays and other filters to prevent environmental damage. They would supply drying agents to go inside the case which would meet international standards. This company had previously been used by Irish specialists in the sector.
- The temperature in the room would need to be consistent. Cool conditions are optimum. Temperatures between 10 and 13 Celsius would suffice.
- Heat combined with any moisture would be potentially disastrous.
- Humidifiers and/or dehumidifiers should be purchased, depending on environmental conditions in the room. They should be bought after the room has been opened with books in situ, as it only then that prevailing conditions in the room will be properly understood and capable of being assessed. Relative humidity should be between 45 and 60 per cent.
- Air conditioning units could control temperature to some degree. The campus air conditioning suppliers would be of help here.
- Unsuitable environments damage documents more extensively than any other single factor.
- The shelving should be of durable and maintainable materials. It should be of adequate support for books and safely constructed. Shelves should be fireproof.
- Wooden shelving of oak, birch or beech would be desirable. It should be tasteful and appropriate to housing a special collection of significance.
- The chemical finishes on wooden or metal shelving are important.
- A lockable glass exhibit case should be purchased to house 3-4 of the more spectacular or renowned exhibits.
- The shelving should be easily adjustable to accommodate books of varying size and shape and to allow arrangement of documents in proper relation to each other.
- The bulk of the collection could be housed on open shelves if necessary for budgetary reasons with “DO NOT TOUCH” signs.
- If desired, mesh shelving can be used which allows viewers to see the books, but not touch them.
- Shelving should be heavily aerated. There should be a gap between the wall and the shelf, the floor and the bottom shelf, and the top shelf and the ceiling. There should be at least 150 mm between the floor and the lowest shelf and 50 mm between the highest book and the start of the shelf above.
- Oversize books, those bigger than 48 inches in size, may need a special shelf.
- Heavier volumes should be placed on the bottom shelves.
- Anti-UV lighting should be used in all cases, particularly at the exhibit case.
- The top shelf should preferably not go much beyond two metres in height.
- Maximum need will be approximately nine bays of shelves in floor length. Each bay should have 4-6 shelving sections within it. Measurements should be 2 m high×1 m wide×370 mm in depth. Uprights every 900 mm would provide adequate support.
- Subtle and appropriate use of lighting will be the difference between a collection that looks tasteful or ugly.
- Badly damaged items should be placed in a slip case available from specialist suppliers at low cost.
- No document should be on display for longer than three months at a time.
- Tungsten filament lamps can be used outside the display case. Ideally, fibre optic lighting is best.
- A mock layout of all items on the special collection shelving would be beneficial.
Appendix 3 Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) Library Service - Special Collections Department
Rules governing use of the collections
Our department exists to preserve the culture of the past and to make it available to researchers. Our regulations, therefore, are designed to ensure the careful conservation of our collections. We ask your help in this task.
The special collections reading room, located on the ground floor of the Luke Wadding Library at LB30, is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 9 pm.
Readers are required to complete a registration form upon which will be logged all materials used. All coats, handbags, briefcases and holdalls must be left with library staff outside the special collections department. Access to certain collections may be governed by restrictions placed on the materials by their donors or by the current physical condition of the material.
Protection of collections
Care should be taken in the study of all collections. No items may be removed from the reading room. The use of any kind of pen is prohibited but pencils and writing paper may be brought into the special collections area. The collections may not be written upon, traced or picked up in any way likely to cause them damage. Eating and drinking are never allowed in the reading room.
No photocopying of any of the special collections is currently permitted.
Permission to publish
Separate written application for permission to publish original material must be made to the special collections librarian. Researchers will assume full responsibility for obtaining the necessary publication rights and copyright clearances. In granting permission to publish, the special collections department does not surrender its own right thereafter to publish the items or to grant permission of others to publish it, nor does the library assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright.
If you have any questions regarding these rules or our collections, please feel free to speak with the special collections staff.
Appendix 4. Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) Libraries Special Collections Department
Loan contract conditions
The following items are on loan to: ________________________________________________from WIT Libraries Special Collections Department for ______________________________ purposes only, subject to the conditions stated on the attached page.Item(s)Accession/Call No.Title:Collection:
Appendix 5. Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) Libraries Special Collections Department
Loan contract conditions
- The borrower agrees to handle and care for these items so that they may be returned to WIT Libraries special collections department in the same condition in which they were loaned.
- In case of loss, breakage, or defacement of any of these items while on loan, please notify the WIT Libraries special collections department immediately.
- All items will remain in the possession of the borrower until returned to WIT Libraries special collections department.
- The borrower agrees to give appropriate written credit, in any exhibition or publication to WIT Libraries special collections department.
- The borrower agrees to any additional stipulations of loan as detailed on attached pages.Signature: __________Date: __________Name (printed): __________Institution (Department): __________Loan authorised by: __________Date: __________
About the authors
Neil Darbey (BA, MA, HDip Ed, HDip LIS) is Assistant Librarian at Waterford Institute of Technology Library Service, Waterford, Ireland.
Helen Hayden (BA, HDip LIS, Master of LIS) is Deputy Librarian at Waterford Institute of Technology Library Service, Waterford, Ireland. Helen Hayden is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: email@example.com