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Library and Information Services: an overview

Library and Information Services: an overview

The Library of the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI Library) offers the world's premier polar information centre. Sited within a department of the University of Cambridge, this is a resource of national and international importance consulted by governments, industry, scientists and scholars. The Library also houses World Data Centre for Glaciology, Cambridge, with special responsibilities for the provision of information to British and European glaciologists, and the SPRI Archives, containing the world's finest collection of unpublished material relating to the polar regions.

For scientists and scholars, SPRI Library offers a collection developed since the 1920s with over 700 current journals and over 140,000 volumes covering all subjects relating to the Arctic, the Antarctic, and to ice and snow wherever found. For industry, it is a prime information source on such subjects as exploration and exploitation of natural resources and on the environmental implications of such activities in the polar regions; on the design of ice-strengthened shipping and selection of sea routes; and on problems of construction and transportation in cold environments. For Government users, the Library offers an unrivalled resource for the needs of international relations and strategic defence.


Arctic collections

These are unique in covering all countries of the circumpolar north for all subjects and in all languages. No other library is similarly comprehensive. Particular strengths are the substantial collections relating to the Arctic Ocean, to the European Arctic, and to the Russian North. The Russian North holdings are considered to be the most extensive outside the former Soviet Union and the Library of Congress.

The definition adopted for the Arctic is broadly that of The Circumpolar North (Armstrong, Rogers and Rowley, 1978), with minor modifications affecting south-east Alaska and Labrador. Seas covered are the Arctic Ocean and adjacent waters: the various seas north of Russia (Chukchi, East Siberian, Laptev, Kara and White seas); Barents Sea; Norwegian Sea; Greenland Sea; Labrador Sea; Davis Strait and Baffin Bay; Hudson Bay; Lincoln Sea; waters of the Canadian Arctic Islands; Beaufort Sea; Bering Sea; the Sea of Okhotsk; and the Gulf of Alaska. Land areas covered include Alaska (except for the Panhandle); the Canadian Territories (Yukon and Northwest); those parts of Quebec and Labrador occupied by the Inuit; Greenland; Iceland (natural histo ry only); Svalbard; the European Arctic south to the Arctic Circle; and the Russian Federation south to 63° in European Russia and to 57° in Asia, including all of Kamchatka and Sakhalin.

Antarctic collections

Probably the most famous collections in the Library and without peer anywhere, both for the continent itself and for the surrounding ocean and sub-Antarctic islands.

The Antarctic is taken to include the continent itself together with its surrounding waters and islands north to the Antarctic Convergence but including also those Peri-Antarctic islands occurring north of this zone but still strongly subject to Antarctic influences (Gough Island, the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands, Iles Amsterdam and Saint-Paul, Iles Crozet, Macquarie Island, and the Prince Edward Islands). This area corresponds to the zone of interest of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). Because of their long association with British Antarctic activities, the library also aims to maintain good, but not exhaustive, holdings for the Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha focusing particularly on natural history and on historical and political issues with an Antarctic dimension.

Enter SPRILIB Antarctica to search the Institute's Antarctic collections.

Glaciological collections

With over 100 current periodicals, 35,000 entries on glaciology and related subjects in the SPRILIB database together with an equivalent number of entries in the card catalogue, the glaciological holdings maintained by World Data Centre for Glaciology, Cambridge are as extensive as those found anywhere.

WDC has adopted a broad definition of the scope of glaciology collecting publications on all topics relating to snow and ice in all languages and for all parts of the world. The glaciology collection is thus not restricted to the polar regions. Among subjects included are glacial geology, geocryology, glacioastronomy, and snow and ice engineering.

Universal Decimal Classification for use in Polar Libraries

The strength of the Library lies as much in the detail of its long-established cataloguing practice as in the size and coverage of the collection itself. Since its foundation, a policy has been maintained of providing information access points to items at the analytic and not just at the main entry level. Each entry provides sufficient bibliographic information for identification and location of the source document together with a brief abstract and appropriate index numbers derived from the Universal Decimal Classification for Use in Polar Libraries (4th edition, 1994), developed and maintained by SPRI Library and used by many other polar libraries. All cataloguing, indexing and abstracting is carried out by specialist bibliographers possessing a range of linguistic, regional and subject expertise. Since 1985, all records have been entered in the SPRILIB bibliographic database.

Financial support

SPRI Library is a departmental library of the University of Cambridge, supported by grants from the NERC British Antarctic Survey, the British government, and from private companies and individuals.

The World Data Centre for Glaciology, Cambridge, the European documentation centre for glaciological information, is funded by the Royal Society.

Obtaining further information

If you have any queries or comments, please contact the Librarian.