1893: A story of scary librarians and brave students

Student helpers at New College Library 1893 ( from the New College Library Archives AA 1.8.1)

New College Library and its students have always had a special relationship. Recently, for example, our students chose their preferred most iconic items from our special collections and contributed to our beautiful exhibition ‘Steps through Time’ (you can check the corresponding post here).

However, not everyone knows that from the early stages of New College Library’s existence, students have played a fundamental role in the organisation and establishment of the library. For example, in 1843, when New College was founded, it was ‘student curators’ who stamped and listed the first donations that arrived at the library from various sources (see Disruption to Diversity, D.Wright and G.D.Badcock, p.187).

In spite of their initial involvement though, in its early days browsing New College Library was not a particularly student friendly experience. In fact, until 1893, the library was entirely the domain of the Librarian – he was the only one who had an overview of the entirety of the catalogue and the only one who was able to peruse the shelves and collect the books requested by the students.

Not only were students not allowed to browse the shelves freely, they were also kept in relative ignorance of the contents of the library, especially if some of the books did not meet with the Librarian’s criteria of safe readings. For example, Dr Kennedy, who was the Librarian of New College Library from 1880 until 1922,  ‘even adopted the stratagem of frustrating any reader, privileged to inspect the shelves, who sought to escape his lynx-like vigilance, by secreting scores of “dangerous” volumes on shelves hidden behind tables or forms ’, as Hugh Watt writes in New College a centenary history (p.162). The catalogue was also a fairly complicated affair, since for several years it consisted of written slips kept in packages accessible only to the Librarian.

Unsurprisingly, this was a most unsatisfactory system for the poor students. Therefore, in 1892, six students braved the phenomenal Dr Kennedy, and under his ‘lynx-like’ vigilance, they assisted him in re-arranging the catalogue to make it more user accessible. After a year of hard work, they published what you can consider as one of DiscoverEd’s ancestors: The Abridged Catalogue of Books in New College library, Edinburgh,1893.

And here, from the depths of New College Library’s Archive collection, is the picture of our student heroes:

From the New College Library archive, ref..AA.1.8.1

New College Library Archives (AA.1.8.1)

And here, with a well-deserved drink after a year of work with the impressive Dr Kennedy:

New College Library Archives (AA 1.8.1.)

While we are not encouraging you to drink beer in the library, or to rebel against our lovely library staff (nowadays, certainly not as scary as good, old Dr Kennedy), we want to celebrate those students with you today. It was also thanks to their hard work that New College Library became the much loved library that it is today.

Not much is known about those student heroes, their names are faded, a scribble at the back of an old photograph. But perhaps next time you wander through the library, send them a grateful thought. They will surely appreciate it.

Barbara Tesio, IS Helpdesk Assistant, New College Library

 

 

That would be an ecumenical matter … Celebrating 70 years of the World Council of Churches

In our New College Library Hall display for September 2018, we’re celebrating the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the World Council of Churches. Inaugurated in 1948, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is one of the leaders of the modern ecumenical movement, working towards the goal of Christian unity. The WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians. New College Library contains nearly a thousand WCC publications, including many unique or rare pamphlets. In the New College Library Archives, we hold the papers of several individuals and organisations who worked with the WCC, including Rev J.H. Oldham, Rev Robert Mackie and Rev. Tom Allaallenn. Continue reading

Welcome to New College Library 2018 #edwelcome


 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to all new and returning staff and students from New College Library at the beginning of the academic year.

We’re looking forward to meeting you. To help you get started with Library & IT services at the University, check out this Get Connected to the University page. Don’t forget to collect your University card from the Main Library in George Square.

You can find out more about New College Library at http://www.ed.ac.uk/is/new-college-library and about library resources for Divinity at : http://www.ed.ac.uk/is/subject-guides-divinity. 

I’ll be running library tours that are open to all UG and PG students on Wednesday 19 September at 1.15pm and on Wednesday 26 September at 1.15pm. If you’d like a library tour or introductory meeting and these dates don’t suit you, please do get in touch with me to make other arrangements.

Have a look at the Divinity Library Newsletter 2018 which includes

  • Successful pilot leads to extended Library opening hours
  • New digital collections for Divinity
  • New journals for Divinity

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian, Divinity

Thomas Chalmers and The West Port Experiment

Those with an interest in Scottish church history are likely to be very familiar with Thomas Chalmers and the role he played in the Disruption of 1843 but how many know much of his West Port experiment? Continue reading

Steps Through Time at New College Library

Have you seen the new Steps Through Time display at New College Library? Today we’re celebrating the Steps Through Time project, which developed six display panels to be mounted alongside the steps up into New College Library. These panels highlight treasures from New College Library’s rare book and archive collections against a timeline of Scottish and religious history.

Student engagement event

This project kicked off with a student engagement event between Monday 23 to Wednesday 25 April. We held a daily display of New College Special Collections items featuring items from two different centuries each day, and encouraged students to take a few minutes break from their revision to vote on their favourite items from each century. Over the three days we had nearly 120 visitors to our displays, many of whom commented that they had no idea that New College Library held Special Collections items like these. I’m grateful to my two volunteers, Nastassja Alfonso and Jessica Wilkinson, for helping with these events and persuading revising students that they really did want to look at some Special Collections. The item that gathered the most votes was the 1638 National Covenant (bequeathed by Thomas Guthrie), which is one of five National Covenants in the New College Library collections. The National Covenants have recently returned to New College Library after benefiting from conservation work and digital photography at the CRC.

Image selection and text writing

A key task was the selection of the images, which we did with the data gathered from students votes, but also by consulting with student representatives from the School of Divinity. A clear message about representing diversity in our text and image choices was received from the student community and so we aimed to curate diversity into the timeline narrative. Student engagement transformed the project into more than developing some display panels of library treasures. If we had planned just to do that, the panels would have included images of incunabula, Bibles or Luther pamphlets, some of New College’s collection strengths. But that was not the story that the student community wanted to tell.

Impact

We hope the project will improve an area of the library entrance which is used by all visitors to the library, and that it will raise the profile of New College Library’s unique Special Collections. We will be gathering feedback both over the summer and in the first few weeks of semester to better understand the impact of the Steps Through Time display.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian, Divinity

Celebrating women pioneers for ordained ministry in the Church of Scotland

Dr Elizabeth Hewat, first woman to receive a PhD from New College, who argued for women’s ordination

This blog post is written by Dr Lesley Orr, School of Divinity

In the year in which the Church of Scotland has welcomed the Very Revd Susan Brown of Dornoch Cathedral as its new Moderator of the General Assembly, the Church also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women.

On Wednesday 22 May 1968, the Fathers and Brethren of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted by a  large majority to extend eligibility of ordination to Ministry of Word and Sacrament to women, on the same terms as men. New College students, graduates and staff played a significant role throughout the half century when the question of women’s role, rights and equality in the Church was one of the most persistent and controversial issues for debate – not only in the Assembly but in wider Church and Scottish society. During this fiftieth anniversary year of women in ordained ministry, a commemorative project has been based at New College, supported by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues and in partnership with the Church of Scotland Ministries Council. Publications and photographs which tell a little of these events are currently on display in New College Library. But the story goes back much further.

Continue reading

New College Library Steps Through Time – 23-25 April

Steps Though Time is a project to create a timeline of six display panels to be mounted up the steps into New College Library. This will tell the unique story of New College Library through images of six treasures selected from the library’s rare book, archive and object collections. These images will be set against a timeline of Scottish religious history with an Edinburgh focus.

Students, we want you to help choose the images for the panels! We will be displaying a selection of library treasures over three days in the Funk Reading Room for you to choose from. Continue reading

The Myth of Robert Burns

It was some months ago that among the many sermons and talks given by Rev Tom Allan (1916-1965), one entitled ‘The Myth of Robert Burns’ caught my eye (ref. AA6.2.18). While the Kirk and Burns were not exactly best pals, there has been many an Ayrshire minister who would definitely subscribe to the term ‘Burnsian’. The question was, with a title such as this, on which side was the Ayrshire born Tom Allan going to stand?

The talk (definitely not a sermon) opens by observing that the 25th of January, Burns Night, is also ‘the day set aside in the remembrance of St Paul.’ As Allan writes,

“Indeed, if we were to pursue the speculation on these two notable anniversaries, it would not be difficult to argue that there is much in the character of the Scottish people which has emerged through the conflict of the genius which inspired Paul of Tarsus with the genius which inspired Robert Burns. And it is certain that the life of the Poet himself can only be understood in the light of that conflict.”

He goes on to state,

“It is doubtful if there has been any character in Scottish History – or in any other history for that matter – about whom men have so willingly suspended their critical faculties. For a great multitude of otherwise rational people, the cult of Robert Burns is taken as seriously as it is possible for a cult to be taken. He has become a mythical figure in the manner of the ancient gods, and tonight, all over the world, men and women are meeting in their yearly pilgrimage to the holy place.”

First page of Rev Tom Allan's talk 'The Myth of Robert Burns' (ref. AA6/2/18).

First page of Rev Tom Allan’s talk ‘The Myth of Robert Burns’ (ref. AA6/2/18).

Allan certainly seems to be taking the Kirk’s tone something which is underlined in his comments on ‘two old and dusty volumes in the Library of the University’ he consulted while preparing his talk. He goes on to state that the myth he intends to examine is that of ‘Burns the Saint’ and ‘Burns the Poet’ because

“I sincerely believe that we are doing Burns an injustice which he himself would probably have treated as a colossal joke unless we try to see this man as he really was, and try to estimate his poetry as it really is.”

As far as ‘Burns the Saint’ goes, the talk deals with the reality of his morality, the manner in which ‘the popular Burns orator… attempts to clothe this very human man in the robes of sainthood’, and the excuses others make for his behaviour: whether it is to blame him as a child of his time, society or indeed the Church for it. He concludes,

“There is little of nobility in the life of Robert Burns: there is much that is tragic. It is not ours to judge him. Neither is it ours to worship him for qualities he never possessed.”

When he turns to examine the myth of ‘Burns the Poet’, Tom Allan observes that Burns’ writing is at its best when in his native Ayrshire dialect. Interestingly, he questions how many people could truly say that they understood every word of even the best-loved poems such as ‘Tam o’ Shanter’. He takes a swipe at some other poems such as the ‘Ode to General Washington’s Birthday’ for being ‘woefully artificial’ and ‘bombastic, insincere and trivial.’ However, it is when Allan draws to the conclusion of his talk that his genial side, for which he was renowned, makes itself known. He states that it is Burns’ satiric verse, his narrative poems and songs which are the best of his compositions, the last of these being described as ‘incomparable’.

“Here in the Songs I could almost submit myself to the myth of Robert Burns. Here at last is sincerity and tenderness and a great compassion and a bewitching sadness and an irresistible appeal.”

He might have been a man of the Kirk but this is certainly not the conclusion of a man agin the National Bard.

The papers of Rev Tom Allan (ref. AA6) are available for consultation in New College Library and the catalogue for the collection can be found here: http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/86134

Kirsty M. Stewart, New College Collections Curator

Images of The Myth of Robert Burns by Rev Tom Allan (ref. AA6/2/18) [PDF – 1.3MB]

New extended opening hours for New College Library in 2018

Students told us that they were finding it hard to access course readings held at New College Library because the library opening hours were more limited than other University Library sites. Information Services and the School of Divinity have worked to secure pilot funding to extend New College Library opening hours.

Starting on Sunday 21 January, New College Library will be open 12-5pm on Sundays.

Starting on Monday 9 April, for seven weeks New College Library will be open in the evenings until 10pm, Monday-Thursday.

Our Library Services

During evening and weekend hours there will be full access to the Library Hall and Reserve Section, as well as the David Welsh Reading Room. Access to Special Collections will remain as it is currently, 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.

Please tell us what you think!

To maintain these hours we will need to make a case for the funding to be continued. If you want these extended opening hours to continue:

  • Please use the library during these hours
  • Please give us your feedback in surveys, feedback forms (available in the library) or to library staff.

Christine Love-Rodgers

Academic Support Librarian – Divinity