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Annual report 2018-19

Collections driving scholarship

The strong, integrated academic partnerships we create make our collections a foundation and inspiration for research. Our digital expertise and innovative approaches create new ways to open up our unique collections for researchers and the public. We seek new ways to analyse and tailor our collections so that every book has its reader and every reader their book, online or in print.

The Collections Network: collaborating with the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute

Our Collections Network is now a strategic focus of collaboration between Special Collections and Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute (LAHRI). This year the academic network expanded and members advocating for specific collections have created new opportunities for research and teaching.

Collections are at the centre of a number of AHRC grant applications supported by LAHRI. Network members have taken advantage of support and development schemes funded within LAHRI and the Cultural Institute. They have targeted the Brotherton Fellowship scheme to shape research using specific collections.

The network sets priorities for cataloguing and digital innovation, and is consulted about potential acquisitions. It was instrumental in successful grants to support cataloguing for the Cecil Roth Hebraica and Judaica collection, and the Herbert Read Library and Archive. A small grant helped to uncover content within the Arabic manuscript collection. The Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society have offered financial support to encourage researcher engagement with their collection.

Short term public engagement funds were also available to the network as part of the Treasures of the Brotherton activity programme, which facilitated new exhibition partnerships. Our historical photography collections supported development work between academics and the Impressions Gallery Bradford. External relationships with curators have fostered international collaboration with academics at the University of Fudan, China, creating catalogues of the Royal Asiatic Society library.

Making Special Collections accessible in innovative ways

In early 2019 Special Collections and the Metadata Team found an innovative way to make the newly-acquired Banham Collection quickly discoverable and accessible to researchers.

The unique collection contains over 300 publications donated by Professor Martin Banham, Emeritus Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies. The majority are playbooks by African dramatists and critical works on African theatre, published in Africa. The material is relevant to current research interests in the School of English and Leeds University Centre for African Studies so we wanted to make the collection available as quickly as possible.

Usually we create a PDF handlist with brief essential information so that researchers can see what is held. But this list is only available from our webpages, so items cannot be found using the Library Search. Creating catalogue records is time-consuming, but the Metadata team came up with an innovative solution. They amended the handlist spreadsheet so that they could convert each entry into a catalogue record.

The result was that this distinctive collection became almost immediately discoverable, not only through Library Search but also worldwide through the national Library Hub Discover and OCLC’s WorldCat. It is already receiving interest from new researchers.

Publishing new digital archive collections through commercial partnerships

A successful partnership with Adam Matthew Digital has created themed collections of online primary resource material, increasing the reach and impact of our collections. It complements our existing digitised material produced in the Library.

Our studio team worked with Adam Matthew Digital to digitise Special Collections material to contribute to two new online resources:

  • “Food and Drink in History” will contain 30,000 images generated from the Chaston Chapman Brewing Collection and Cookery Book Collections. This resource looks at food and social history through a variety of lenses.
  • “Medical Services and Warfare II” will include 7,500 more images generated from the Liddle Collection. This follows on from Medical Services and Warfare, which contains 70,000 of our images.

Managing and developing collections

Evidence-based boost to ebooks investment

We have improved access to ebooks across a range of disciplines using evidence about what our users want to access. We created a new methodology to determine which ebook collections to purchase by comparing the available data from across publishers and suppliers. This rigorous analysis gave us confidence in the value of our final selection to our users. We invested £200,000 in 1,600 new e-book titles, in addition to purchasing texts to support reading lists.

Making reading lists easier to manage

For many students, their reading list is the entry point to the Library’s collections. A key priority for us is to make items on reading lists available for students. In 2018–19 we introduced some new features into the Reading List Tool in Minerva to make it easier for tutors to keep their lists up-to-date. Tutors can now see all their reading lists at once, delete lists or let us know if there is no list. We have also created four step-by-step videos on how to create, add to and manage reading lists.

Personal Stories help health students develop empathy with patients

We collaborated with colleagues across Leeds from NHS trusts, the public libraries and Leeds Beckett University, to make a successful bid for funding for purchases on the theme of “Personal stories”.

The aim was to help student healthcare professionals develop empathy and learn more about the impact of illness on patients. We also made sure these new items support student wellbeing and link to the national “Books on prescription” campaign. This campaign helps individuals to better understand their illness or provide self-help.