Author Archives: brunelcontentservices

A blog by our UCL placement student, Anne Carey

As a full-time MA Library and Information Studies student at UCL, I was assigned a work placement through our professional development module. I was so delighted to get started at Brunel University London, as I had requested special collections or academic library experience, and my perceptive course faculty found me the perfect place to do both.

The plan was to set me up three days a week with Katie Flanagan, the Special Collections Librarian, in Brunel Library Special Collections and two days a week with Joanne McPhie, the Academic Liaison Librarian for the Department of Life Sciences, who would introduce me to everyone in the main part of the library and show me the inner workings of the academic side of things. On my first day I felt so welcomed by everyone and that feeling continued for the entire two (and a bit) weeks.

That first week consisted of a lot of academic library experiences that were completely new to me. I was lucky enough to shadow people who had all kinds of roles that I had heard of but hadn’t seen in action before. I was so grateful for everyone to take time out of their day to talk me through all the different aspects of their jobs. I got a crash course on cataloguing with Symphony and the chance to see how the system is managed. I also got exposed to Scholarly Communications, which really opened my eyes to the sheer amount of time needed to keep the university repository, Open Access publishing, and REF compliance up and running. The Academic Liaison Librarians were another wonderful team I spent a lot of time with. I got to shadow teaching sessions, which were helpful as a librarian who may be in their shoes one day, and as an MA student myself! I also got to sit and talk through managing reading lists, book orders, and collection management. I even got to sit in on a vendor meeting and a few staff meetings, and that gave me a lot of insight into the day-to-day reality of the job.

On the second week, I got the chance to dive into Special Collections. I had a bit of experience in a similar collection before, but it was so nice to get another chance to work hands-on with special collections. Katie was great and guided me on rare books cataloguing and showed me some excellent resources. Their Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies is amazing, and it was a lot of fun researching the blog post I wrote for International Nurses’ Day. It was a privilege to catalogue some of the published works in the collection as well. As the week went on, I got more confident cataloguing rare books and got some really great career advice from Katie and Joanne.

Katie and Alison, my placement co-ordinator, agreed I would come back for three days later in the month. In that time, I got more cataloguing under my belt and had some very interesting discussions on the in-and-outs of running a Special Collections library solo. After finishing up my final three days, I am so pleased with how much I learnt at Brunel University London. I am truly grateful for all the help and support from the lovely staff. It was such a wonderful experience and I am very sad to be going!

A huge thank you to everyone!

Posted on behalf of Anne Carey, UCL Library and Information Studies MA student

 

Preserving our collections

A major part of our work in Special Collections is to ensure that our materials will still be available to future generations of scholars and visitors. Many of the objects we hold are made of sturdy stuff, our rare 18th century books will probably outlast us all, but other items such as our photographic collections are more fragile, and even stable materials can become vulnerable over decades. To this end we spend a lot of time making sure materials are stored in optimal conditions to extend their life and usefulness. This week we are participating in the ALA Preservation Week by celebrating all things preservation and giving you an insight into the activities we undertake. You might even pick up a few tips on how to preserve your own special items!

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Blue blinds and ultraviolet filters

Where and how you store different materials can have a big impact on their lifespan. We try to store collections in a space that has a consistent temperature and humidity all year round. This is because extremes of temperature and the presence of moisture in the air can induce a harmful reaction in different materials. For instance, paper can be vulnerable to mould in hot and wet conditions or older colour photographs can decay in high temperatures.

This year we have installed some rather snazzy blue blinds to prevent sunlight artificially warming our facility, with the addition of ultraviolet filters to prevent yellowing of paper and fading of inks. We also monitor the temperature and humidity of our collections with some basic digital indicators to give us a warning of problems.

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Digital temperature and humidity monitors

Additionally, we keep our eyes peeled for any pests such as silverfish that might take a fancy to our materials for food or accommodation. We use pest traps to monitor any nuisance visitors, and if we find any try to modify the environment to discourage their visits.

Other environmental factors should also be considered. This might include dust, or pollution if you live in a built up area. One way to mitigate these is to store

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Pest trap

materials in an enclosure like a box that will prevent light and particles from accessing the item. This is a simple way to preserve heirlooms or keepsakes, although you do have to check on them occasionally to make sure there is nothing happening inside the box itself.

Interestingly, a common way materials become damaged is just through poor handling. To try and minimise handling and stress we use book supports to cradle our printed materials when they are being viewed. We also add a protective layer of Melinex to items like photographs or paper to prevent them from being damaged by constant use. At home, something as simple as washing your hands before handling rare materials can limit environmental pollutants.

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Book rests to support texts

With these safeguards in place we hope our collections will be available for years to come.If you would like more information about Preservation week visit the ALA webpages for advice and insights.

50 objects 35: Railway posters

Nostalgic images of railway travel have been popularly recreated on everything from calendars to mouse mats, but once this approach to advertising the pleasures of the railway was fresh and new. Our Transport History collection holds several beautiful posters that look back to this time.

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1897 poster promoting day travel to Ascot

Initially transport notices served a function, to give information about timetables or list rules of conduct. They were text heavy, with little in the way of images or embellishment. However, several things happened that changed the nature of these posters; the growth of tourism, increased competition amongst rival rail companies and the development of printing technologies. As railways networks grew and developed affordable travel was open to larger groups of people. Day trips and holidays further afield became a possibility and resort towns such as Blackpool flourished.

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1908 Print advertising the health resort of Tenby and its Golden Sands

Railway businesses proliferated in the late 19th century, in fact some locations had several lines running through them. The need to differentiate themselves and their assets became more important to railway enterprises in the drive to secure custom. The means to produce such enticements in the form of colour advertising posters with images was made more commercially viable with the development of colour lithography techniques that enabled mass production.

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Weston Super Mare’s intoxicating climate

 

Railway posters served not only to induce people to use a railway line, but to promote travel as a pleasurable end in itself.

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Great Western Railways poster on the delights of Cornwall

 

Attractive images played an important role to evoke the romance of the rail or the attractive aspects of the destination, with sunshine, coastlines and leisure scenes as important components. Several early artists and illustrators, such as Norman Wilkinson and John Hassall became specialists in the field.

As railway travel boomed these images became a common sight in stations, but the quality of their design and composition make them a lasting pleasure today.  

50 0bjects 28: The Ladies Home Journal

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar

The Ladies Home Journal was an American monthly lifestyle magazine which was established in February 1883. By the turn of the century it was the leading women’s magazine in the US, and reached one million subscribers in 1903. Within our collection we hold editions spanning from 1939 to 1961, and studying the Journal allows us an insight into the attitudes and opinions of the time.

Persistent themes can be seen throughout the editions we hold; the most prominent of which is sexism. Advertisements frequently urge women to look their best for their husbands, as seen in an advert for Lady Esther cosmetics in the July 1939 edition, which states ‘the wrong shade of powder can turn the right man away’. Women are also advised on the best methods of keeping an orderly home. An Annual Report to Housewives, featured in the July 1961 edition, advertises the newest domestic appliances available, but exclusively addresses women. The article advises the reader to ‘ask a user what service she gets before you buy’; the assumption being that only women will ever use the domestic appliances. Moreover, adverts for domestic products universally feature women, and even when only a hand is shown, nail polish is used to ensure femininity is represented.

Another frequent theme is consumerism. Since the late 19th century, shopping had been changing from a functional role for women, to a leisured and respectable activity. Companies began to see women as the ‘chief purchasing power’ for households and the adverts seen in the Ladies Home Journal reflects this. In fact, the journal itself was enforcing the link between women and consumerism, which was further strengthen by technological inventions in the domestic sphere, allowing women to spend less time on the household and more time shopping. The most frequently advertised items in the Ladies Home Journal include new domestic appliances, make up products and cleaning products.

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However, apart from tracing overarching themes through the editions, we can also gain information on the reaction of the American public to specific historical events. An article in the July 1945 edition documents the shocked reaction of the American public to the discovery of extermination camps following the collapse of the Third Reich. It claims that a cynical world, which has lost morality, and is obsessed with power, was to blame, and urges the world to return to religion. Similarly, reactions to the signing of the United Nations Charter can be seen in the September 1945 edition, whereby an article surmises that the agreement signed at San Francisco will not eradicate greed, but ‘can keep the peace when the inevitable threats of war arise again’.

Though attitudes differ, the special features of the Journal are still recognisable in today’s magazines. Each month a novel segment was included, and Eleanor Roosevelt, like celebrities today, was a regular columnist, answering queries from financial woes to the most fashionable hairstyle. Similarly, interviews with Hollywood celebrities were a frequent trend, along with fashion segments. In later editions, ladies could receive advice from a medical column, and letters of readers were published within the magazine.

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50 Objects 27: A History of Uxbridge

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar.

Included within our local history collection are nine volumes of The Victoria History of The County of Middlesex by the University of London Institute Of Historical Research. They are part of the Victoria County History project which was established in 1899, with the aim of producing a complete encyclopaedic history of each county in England. The project is still ongoing, and so far the histories of thirteen counties have been completed. The topics covered are varied and include natural, political, religious, economic and social histories.

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Some of our Victoria County History volumes

Volume Four of the Middlesex history is dedicated to the ten ancient parishes in North- West Middlesex, of which Hillingdon is one. It contains fascinating information on the development of Brunel University London’s home town Uxbridge, which we have summarised into a short history below.

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The frontispiece from Volume four.

Originally Uxbridge was a hamlet under the administration of its parent parish, Hillingdon. The earliest evidence of settlement within the Parish dates to the Palaeolithic era. A Roman road ran through the middle of the old Parish, and Roman pottery was found in Uxbridge in 1959, near Cowley church. It is believed the place names of ‘Hillingdon’, ‘Colham’, ‘Cowley’ and ‘Yiewsley’ originate from Saxon family names, while it is believed ‘Uxbridge’ derives from the original hamlet’s proximity to a bridge crossing the river Colne.

The first recorded use of the name ‘Uxbridge’ is in the 12th century, and the hamlet was represented in Edward I’s first parliament in 1275. By 1328, Uxbridge was the major settlement in the parish of Hillingdon, and by the medieval period was an affluent market town. At the intersection between Windsor Street and High Street was the centre of the town. As is still the case today, it was home to the market house and St Margaret’ chapel (original built in 1275, and later rebuilt in the 15th century). The present market house dates from the late 18th century, while the oldest part of St Margaret’s Chapel, the North Tower, dates to the late 14th century.

Further connections between the medieval market town and todays Uxbridge are still visible. The 16th century Treaty house, which is now the Crown and Treaty pub, was used as a venue for negotiations between King Charles I and Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. The inside retains original features, though only a single wing of the 16th century mansion remains. Similarly, the building of the Three Tuns pub originates from the 16th century, and is grade II listed. There is a monument on Cross Street overlooking what was formally known as Lynch Green to remember three protestant heretics who were burned there in 1555. The three men were not from the local area, but were used to set an example to the people of Uxbridge, and ensure they conformed to Catholic ideology. The memorial was established four hundred years later.

By the late 1700’s insanitary conditions in Uxbridge meant the high street was widened by fifty two yards to the South West, and a new market house was built. By 1790, the town consisted of houses neatly lining both sides of the high street, with a few shops, including a chair factory, a malt house, a brewery, a mill, Higgenson’s bank and the market house. By the 19th century Uxbridge, aided by its proximity to the Grand Union Canal and it lining the route from Oxford to London, became one of the most important market towns in Middlesex, and was the main producer of flour for London. Even Kingsmill bread originated from Uxbridge!

Becoming increasingly autonomous, Uxbridge split from the Parish of Hillingdon in 1894, and formed the civil parish of Hillingdon West, which later became the Borough of Uxbridge.

References:

R.B. Pugh, The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Volume IV (13 Vols, London, 1971).

C. M. Hearmon, Uxbridge: A Concise History (Hillingdon Borough Libraries, 1982).

 

50 Items 26: Library Art Collections

A library performs many functions; it is a place of study, of discussion and debate, of collaboration and conference, or simply a warm respite from the winter winds. However, one role the Brunel Library performs you may not have noted is that it is also a palace of art.

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Central concourse, looking east, late afternoon sun by Alan Bennett

The Library walls are ornamented by the Brunel University Collection of Artworks, a 700 item strong assemblage of prints, paintings and sculptures that have been amassed by the university over the course of its history.

 

Their placement in the Library seems appropriate. Intense work demands occasional distraction and taking a break and refreshing the self through enjoyment of art makes sense. Picasso apparently claimed that “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls” so a five minute break looking at the Olympic Poster collection must at least give our insides a buff. Art also engenders creativity “A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind” (Eugene Ionesco). Allowing the mind to wander could bring new insight and perspectives.

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The Library by Olwen Jones

 

The University displays its collections in offices, administrative buildings and public spaces across the campus. In the Library you will find several interesting series and types of images. A favourite is the linotype The Library, one of the first things you will encounter upon entering the Library at the Welcome Desk. It is painted by the painter and printmaker Olwen Jones and depicts a cosy room lined with books and featuring an inviting chair. As mentioned, a number of prints belong to the Olympic Poster Collection, which is comprised of framed colour screenprints and lithographs from an international selection of artists. For example, the colourful Olympic Objects by German artist Otmar Alt created for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The poster illustrates a menagerie of abstract animals in primary hues. Certainly looking at these visuals gives new perception into the creativity of the human mind.

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Munich Games 1972 Olympics Poster by Otmar Alt

One of the key collections the university holds is by the painter Alan Bennett, who painted several images of the university campus since the seventies to the present day. The Library holds several of these paintings and they evoke a pleasing glimpse into life outside the Bannerman walls. This is hardly scratching the surface of the many painting, prints and designs that can be explored.

 

Altogether these painting that grace our walls should not be overlooked in the primary pursuit of knowledge, but included as one of the many reasons to visit the Library.

50 objects 25: Library Staff Suggestions Book

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar.

In celebration of Brunel University’s 50th birthday, which is fast approaching on the 6th July, we thought we would share with you another item from the Library History Archive. In 1978, a staff suggestion book was created by the University Librarian Nick Childs, to allow library colleagues to have their say on how services could be improved.

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Library Staff Suggestion Book, 1978-1984.

 

The comments were recorded between 1978 and 1984, and offer a unique insight into the operations of an academic library in this era. Often borrowing books from the Library was a time consuming and arduous process. Before the existence of online record systems, Brunel University Library used an early computer form of automated library system, which read a student’s issue ticket and ticket held within the item they wanted to borrow, and copied them on to a tape which was printed every day for records. One colleague lamented about the complexity of issuing journals under this system, and in particular, was concerned about the difficulty of discharging journal articles if its ticket had fallen out, as was often the case. They suggested that journals should become reference only as a solution, and later on this was indeed the case. As expected, with barcodes now allowing paper journals articles to be easily discharged from our computer system, this is no longer a concern.

Nevertheless, the rise of the computer has not resolved all of the concerns from the 1970s and 80s. In 1978, a staff member refers to the frequency of checked out books being left behind on library desks. This is a common phenomenon even today. Likewise, a comment recorded in 1979 states ‘someone was disco dancing in the reading room at 5pm (till I saw him!)’. One staff member in 1978 had an enthusiastic way of describing the high noise levels in the Library and in verse declared:

‘Once upon a time,

Before the laughter pierced the silence,

And pattering tiny feet,

Thundered round in circles,

…….Library quiet had lingered,

Once upon a time’

Though I can’t say I have ever seen a student ‘disco-dancing’, we still have our fair share of noise complaints!