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!