‘The legacy of the Beyond the Library Door project to clean and catalogue the rare books in our collection will be far reaching,’ says Jayne Downey, Director of Learning Resources at Sarum College.
The College worked in partnership with Salisbury Cathedral, which was awarded National Heritage Lottery Fund monies for the three-year project. As a result, information about previous owners, inscriptions and bindings are now available on digital catalogues and volunteers in both libraries have also benefited from training in the preservation and conservation of rare books.
Most of the 43,000 books the Sarum College Library holds were published in the 20th century but several hundred are older, including one from 1545. Many of these are only found in major University collections.
Before the project, most of the College’s pre-1800 books had been catalogued at a basic level but the catalogue entries did not include copy specific information such as condition, bindings and provenance. Many of the books are in quite poor condition, with broken or missing covers and crumbling leather. Volunteers were able to note their condition for future projects while cleaning them.
‘We hope to raise the profile of the College library’s collection as a result of the project,’ say Downey, the College librarian. ‘We hope that our improved catalogue will open it up to new researchers. By linking the College and Cathedral library catalogues, we also hope to increase accessibility to the collections.
‘The project has improved awareness and skills for the professional library staff, introduced a new cohort of enthusiastic and skilled volunteers, improved the storage and condition of the rare books,’ Downey adds. ‘The books are part of our heritage and we will continue to preserve and conservation our rare books for future generations.’
Salisbury Cathedral Library is hosting a series of Open Afternoons and events from 25 to 29 October 2021 to share some of the information and items discovered during the project, as well as a few ‘behind the scenes’ details.