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SPRI Review 1996: Library and Information Service

Library and Information Service

W.J. Mills, Librarian and Information Officer
S. Banks, P. Hogg, J. Pinhey, S. Sawtell, H. Shibata, I. Warren

This has been an exciting year for the library with the prospect of the Shackleton Memorial Library becoming ever more real. Since an overview of these developments is provided in the Director's Introduction, it is sufficient here simply to state that much time and thought has also been devoted by library staff to ensure that this unprecedented opportunity is fully exploited.

Whilst the Shackleton Memorial Library has naturally been the dominating theme throughout the year, another recurring topic has been the Internet. Although not exclusively a library project, during the year an Institute Webserver was set up by Oliver Merrington out of funds generously made available by the B.B. Roberts Trust. The Institute's home page may be found at http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk. In addition to general information about the Institute, its research, staff, history, and collections, sources of information will be found covering an increasing range of polar topics. As reported in last year's SPRI Review, this is part of the library's ongoing commitment to make as many as possible of its resources available over the Internet. A related initiative has been the involvement of William Mills in the Polar Web international Internet project of the Polar Libraries Colloquy (PLC). In February, he spent a week in Rovaniemi at the invitation of the Arctic Centre, participating in preparatory work for Polar Web. Following this, he outlined a strategy at the sixteenth meeting of the PLC in Anchorage, whereby individual PLC members would take on responsibility for design and maintenance of Polar Web pages devoted to specific polar regions on the basis of a standard template. This proposal was adopted and is now in process of implementation. Also at this meeting, Mills outlined the plans for the Institute's Webserver to house an ambitious Internet resource devoted to the history of the Antarctic ('Antarctica retrospective: a comprehensive resource for the history of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean') and participated as panel discussant in the two sessions devoted to the 'Status and goals of our major access tools.' Isabella Warren, Russian Bibliographer, also attended the sixteenth PLC, where her paper 'Information needs of Russian polar scientists and possibilities for organising mutually beneficial exchanges' was particularly well received.

The library of the Crary Laboratory, McMurdo, Antarctica is the latest to adopt Universal Decimal Classification using the polar schedule maintained by the Institute's library.

Acquisitions and cataloguing programmes

A total of 2394 items were added to the library, including 767 books. A number of generous donations were made this year, including those by Joshua Bugayer, Brian Chambers, Bill Dunlap, Ivo Meissner, and Martin Whittles. Particularly welcome was the help provided by Adventure Network International in obtaining presentation copies of books and articles describing recent expeditions for which ANI supplied air support. Readers of SPRI Review may be unaware that the library acquires much of its material through an unofficial network of contacts spread around the world alerting its staff to the existence of publications of which we might otherwise be unaware. Thus, Paul Dingwall has kindly offered to inform the Librarian of polar auctions in New Zealand, whilst Tanya Argounova, Paul Fryer, and Ben Seligman have - as in previous years - returned from their studies in Russia laden with books for the library. Others wishing to help in a similar fashion should contact William Mills. Four issues of Polar and Glaciological Abstracts were published and records sent to the National Information Service Company, enabling production of two issues of the Arctic and Antarctic Regions CD-ROM. Good progress continued to be made in the Historic Antarctic Bibliography Project generously funded by the British Antarctic Survey and due for completion in the period covered by next year's SPRI Review. Thanks very largely to volunteers - Pat Little, Jed Brierley, Jeremy Evans - progress has also been made in converting Arctic and glaciological card entries for addition to the SPRILIB database. By the end of the period covered, SPRILIB held 96,734 records, with 9374 records added during the year. Approximately 18,209 monograph records had been added to the Cambridge University Union Catalogue, including 4000 new records this year.

As reported in the last two years, the library now collaborates closely with the Cold Regions Bibliography Project of the Library of Congress in contributing records to the Antarctic Bibliography and its companion database COLD. Highly beneficial results are already apparent in terms of increased Antarctic Bibliography coverage and decreased duplicated cataloguing effort between SPRI and CRBP.

Volunteers and work placements

Volunteers continue to make a very considerable contribution to the running of the library. Ron Wilbraham, Honorary Map Curator, has ensured that the Institute's important map collection is kept in good order and has in addition taken over scanning of The Times for polar material. As part of his preparatory year before studying for an MSc in Information Science at Sheffield University, Jeremy Evans assisted the Librarian in producing SPRILIB records for the bulk of the expeditionary and historical monographs not yet added to the database. Pat Little similarly completed processing of the biographical monographs. To assist Isabella Warren with the large quantities of books brought back from their Russian field work, three Institute PhD students - Tanya Argounova, Paul Fryer, and Ben Seligman - organised a one-day work-in during which accession records were created for much of the unprocessed material. An application has been submitted to the British Library to fund full cataloguing of this material, the bulk of which is unlikely to be found in any other collection outside the Russian Federation. In summary, a recurring theme throughout the period of office of the present Librarian has been to make all possible use of volunteers whenever available. Seeking to provide a comprehensive service covering current polar information would in itself be a sufficiently ambitious aim for most libraries with a staff similar to the Institute's. On top of this, however, we have set ourself the committment of ensuring that the library's great resources of historically processed card indexed materials are also made available in electronic form. Despite the generous support of the British Antarctic Survey in relation to Antarctic historical materials, successfully completing both current and retrospective tasks is only achievable with the help of volunteers.

Work placements were found during the year for three school children: Emma Daley (Sawston), Celia Jones (Swavesey) and Nicola Campbell (Netherhall).