Friday, 14 September 2012

John Fairburn: a Regency-era publisher and printer

Until December, Bishopsgate Library is hosting a small exhibition of the output of Regency-era London printer-publisher John Fairburn, curated by Dr Ruth Richardson FRHistS. The display is accompanied by an online exhibition which is available on the Bishopsgate website at

Most of  Fairburn's output took the form of topical caricatures and cheap chapbooks, ephemeral items easily damaged or destroyed. Bishopsgate Institute houses a number of these now very rare items. Fairburn also published some quite radical materials, although he managed to steer clear of the repressive governments of the Regency and George IV. His output now provides a fascinating insight into the social and political life of Regency Britain.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

HLSI Book Fair

Saturday 13th October

Excellent second-hand books for sale:

fiction * history * biography * art
a huge photography collection
and much more,
all at bargain prices

Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution
11 South Grove, Highgate, N6 6BS

Tel. 020 8340 3343                                                         Email:

Friday, 6 July 2012

Independent libraries in 'British librarianship and information work 2006-2010'

The new volume of British librarianship and information work, covering the years 2006-2010, contains for the first time a chapter dedicated to independent libraries. Although not exhaustive, the “Independent libraries” chapter covers most of the important developments and trends regarding independent libraries in these years. It also serves as a review of key literature around the subject. The chapter makes an attempt at identifying some opportunities and challenges for the sector, and hopefully will contribute to further comment and debate.

British librarianship and information work 2006-2010 was edited by J.H. Bowman and is available from

Bishopsgate Library User Survey

Bishopsgate Library is currently conducting a user survey, which is available at We are keen for anyone who has used Bishopsgate Library to complete the survey, which is completely anonymous.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with us, Bishopsgate Library is an independent library in the City of London. Part of Bishopsgate Institute, the Library is a special collections and reference library that is open to all. Collections focus on London, labour, freethought and humanism, co-operation, and campaign movements. To learn more, visit

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Leeds Library Celebrates the Jubilee

To celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and to increase funds, a Grand Jubilee SoirĂ©e was held in the Leeds Library on Friday 1 June 2012 when the library in Commercial Street was decorated with Union Jacks and other bunting. Library members, their guests and other members of the public were entertained with good company, ‘50s Light Programme music, a book sale, a tombola, a 1952 quiz and a ‘guess the sweets in the bottle’ challenge. In addition, there were exhibitions on Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and the year 1952. Drinks and a buffet completed the evening.

Main Room book sale
Drinks in the Reading Room

Flying the flag in the New Room

Sunday, 17 June 2012


Last weekend (June 8, 9, 10) was the Annual General Meeting of the AIL at The Athenaeum Liverpool.  Our hosts put on a full weekend from Friday's reception evening to Saturday's lunch, meeting, and talks and Sunday's walking tour of Liverpool's docks by The Athenaeum's own David Brazendale. There was a good crowd on Saturday with representatives from 7 of our member libraries and local members of The Athenaeum.

Every year we are entertained and educated by a talk by the President of the AIL, Robert Anderson, who this year, among other things, noted the plight of the Kensal Rise Library and discussed the role of independent libraries in the face of current issues facing public libraries.

David Brazendale provided us with a talk on the history of The Athenaeum which served to make the event even more interesting as it reinforced the history of our surroundings, and Librarians Vincent Roper and Joan Hanford had prepared a table with samples of the highlights of the Athenaeum Library's collection!

Vincent Roper, Librarian, also initiated a valuable discussion with his talk on the catalogue project that the Athenaeum has undertaken, like so many of the Independent Libraries, from which arise difficulties such as, 'how do you assign standard numbers to books published before the advent of ISBNs and ISSNs?' and 'what is the best way to catalogue play bills and maps that are pre-20th century?'

Our other speaker, Dr. Mark Towsey enlightened the group with his talk A Nation of Readers on the development of a reading society in the UK which of course ties in to the eventual development of our independent libraries.

All in all it was a great weekend with opportunity to socialise and collaborate with our fellow librarians over a delicious lunch (a big thank you to the cooks at The Athenaeum!) and we are ever grateful to our hosts for all of their hospitality and effort.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

'Independent' Library?

"Cool" you might say. "Libraries!     ...but wait, what's an independent library?"

Considering that the AIL is made up of them, probably the best place to begin this blog is with an outline of what exactly makes an independent library.  Independent libraries are those libraries which are self-reliant with regard to funding and not wholly dependent on national or local government.  Those in existence today were generally founded as proprietary subscription libraries, endowed libraries, the libraries of mechanics' institutes and the libraries of literary and scientific institutions.  Together, the Association's members possess over two million books and have many listed buildings in their care. Many also possess charitable status. They combine the preservation of their historic collections and beautiful buildings with the supply of the latest books and periodicals, a personal service to their members and research facilities for non-members. The member libraries of the AIL are incredibly varied: the largest and best-known member library is the London Library, which houses one million books and serves over 8,000 members just two minutes from Piccadilly Circus; the smallest is the Tavistock Subscription Library which houses just 1500 books in a restored portion of a tenth and eleventh-century abbey building.  For a full list see the 'members' page.

So now that you know what an independent library is you should probably arrange a visit to your nearest one.  The independent libraries are located all over the UK from Penzance to Whitby in England, Flintshire in Wales, Westerkirk, Langholm and Innerpeffray in Scotland, Dublin in Ireland and Belfast in Northern Ireland!  

And you will, of course, want to keep checking back on this blog to see what we are up to!