In the autumn of 2021, Deborah Hayter put out a call to BHS members for somebody to organise and catalogue the society’s library collection. As a society member and librarian all my working life, I jumped at the chance. My friends Phil Richards and Steve Kilsby, also society members, volunteered as well. Starting last October, we have spent many happy weekends working in the library, each working on different parts of the collection. Phil and Steve know a lot about Banbury and surrounding villages, so they have enjoyed sorting through newspaper clippings, photographs and other historic material. Together we have moved many books and shelves, and I have now catalogued over 1000 books and other publications.
The library has material on the following:
- Banbury history, the history of Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties (Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire) and the Civil War – about 70% of the collection, almost all of which has been catalogued.
- The remaining 30% of the collection, of which about half has been catalogued, relates to:
- How to write local history and where to find archival sources
- Relevant general historical, archaeological, genealogical, geological and heraldic material, and reference works on canals, railways, furniture, paintings, pottery, silver, clocks etc.
- Material relating to resources needed at the museum – museum practice, identification of pieces on display, items relating to present or past exhibitions, material to support the Reminiscences programme
Much of the library’s material was donated by Jeremy Gibson and other benefactors. There is a variety of different types of material: books, booklets, journals like Cake and Cockhorse. There are also newspaper cuttings, photographs and maps: these are still in the process of being sorted and catalogued and so are not available to anybody until it is complete.
Organising the collection was helped by the fact that the basic layout of geographic and subject material was already in place, but we still had a lot of moving to do, to get everything in the right place. As material has been catalogued, spine labels have been added. We have also put place markers on the shelves to make navigation easier. Journals have been put in special boxes and labelled.
The catalogue is online and relatively easy to search – there are links to it on the library web page here. We have also added other information to the library web pages, such as a description and diagram of the library layout, and guidance for visiting the library.
The library first re-opened for visitors on 30 June 2022.
It is open on Thursday afternoons, from 2 till 4pm and Saturday’s 2-4pm. It is fully staffed by volunteers.