On Wednesday 14th of June, twenty library staff from the University of Bath visited our library as part of their staff development programme.
They were interested in finding out more about our technical services such as acquisitions, cataloguing and classification. They also wanted to know how we tackle the issue of increasing demand for study space, and how our library supports teaching and research in an ever-changing HE environment.
The University of Bath is a much bigger institution than ours, and many of the subjects taught here at the RAU are very different to those taught at Bath. On the other hand we realised that we face similar challenges, and we were happy to exchange ideas and experiences.
The group arrived at 10 am on a gloriously sunny June morning, and headed first for some welcome refreshments in the Atrium. Then it was time for a tour of both the Library and the University campus. They were impressed by the brightness of the library, and the beauty of the old university buildings and their surroundings.
Mid-morning we introduced our visitors to some gems from our Historical Books collection and from the RAC/RAU Archive.
Among the archival materials, our visitors spent a lot of time looking through the Royal Visit photograph album of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), who visited Cirencester and the RAC in1946 (the RAC having just re-opened after the war).
They were also fascinated by the Entry Testimonial of Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, the youngest son of Charles Dickens who attended lectures at the RAC aged 15 in 1867. He went on to become an MP in Australia, though sadly died childless and in debt.
They also took away a photocopy of the “Arabian Connection” from Landmark Issue 8, 2009-10, an article about Thomas Tighe Chapman, father of T. E. (Thomas Edward) Lawrence. Chapman was our student between 1866 and 1868; his son took after his mistress’s surname, and later became known as Lawrence of Arabia.
We also showed them interesting examples from our historical book collection, such as The Georgics of Virgil (1741) an agricultural poem of 2,000 lines in Latin, Greek and English (also the text from which the University motto is taken); the 18th century botanical illustrations in Plantes et insectes de l’Europe by Maria Sibylla Merian, an early and eminent female natural scientist and botanical illustrator; and other unusual items from the Archives such as an old sports blazer and cap, variations on the College crest etc.
Overall, we had a really good meeting and Library staff made sure that our visitors had a really positive experience.