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Building links with Cambridge University Library

Published on 05/07/18

We share our library spaces with the University Librarian at Cambridge and inspire him to think differently!

I was privileged recently to attend an exhibition entitled ‘Tall Tales: Secrets of the Tower’ at Cambridge University Library. Being there brought back memories of being a student and feeling quite intimidated by the enormity of the building and trying to find a book in it!

The display hoped to make available for public eyes some of the one million books that have been banished to the tower. Included was an interesting range of children’s books and this got me thinking. The UL receives a copy of every children’s book published in the UK but there are no children to look at them! On a mission, I approached the University Librarian to discuss whether they had entertained the possibility of changing this situation. Everyone I spoke to talked about how the role of the UL is changing and how opening up the Library to a wider range of people is definitely on their agenda. I mentioned the journey SPF had been on, developing our library spaces to reflect our changing role as curators of knowledge rather than the traditional image of librarians. I was delighted when Mark Purcell, Deputy Director of UL Research Operations, accepted my invitation to visit our libraries.

Together we visited the Junior School Library and The Cabinet of Curiosities, speaking to the librarians and engaging in some lively discussions. Mark was particularly interested in the fact that our outdoor spaces have been developed to be an integral part of our libraries and this has inspired him to think about how the courtyards at the UL could be developed in a similar way. Mark described it as ‘eye-opening’ to discover how very much on similar tracks we are in terms of viewing the future of our library spaces, even though we are dealing with very different age groups and situations. The balance between the written and digital word, engaging with the outside world and equipping students to be discerning about what they read seem to be themes with which we can all identify. We are planning a return visit as Mark has offered us a tour of the University Library. We are hoping this will be the start of an innovative and exciting collaboration!

Kathryn Saeb-Parsy

Tagged  libraries