At lunch today I met an academic who was visiting from Cambridge. As we got chatting, he asked me “what are the treasures in your library?” and I answered: the staff – and the collections.
I think there is an assumption made of college libraries at Oxford and Cambridge that we will have substantial special collections or hoards of rare books. However, as St Hugh’s is a relatively new college (founded in 1886) and it used to be a women’s college (and therefore doesn’t have a large number of higher-earning male alumni), it doesn’t have the same sources of income and bequests as the older, previously all-male colleges.
Rather than seeing this as a disadvantage, I believe that it allows St Hugh’s College Library to more precisely focus its mission and resources. My collection management policy states that we collect to support undergraduate and graduate taught courses. We have graduate research students at the college, but they and our academic staff are encouraged to use the faculty libraries of the University to support their research needs.
Having this clear aim allows me to manage the collection effectively, use the budget wisely, and for my team to feel confident in the niche occupied by their workplace the complex library ecosystem at the University of Oxford. It’s important that we provide a good circulation service and a friendly enquiry point for all our users.
Good things to have in mind at this time of year as we prepare for the beginning of Michaelmas Term in October. I always get excited about “back-to-school” time…