Readers' Newsletter


Grants Speed catalogue conversion

Thanks to a generous grant of £800,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, augmented by £200,000 from the Isaac Newton Trust, Library users can expect to see the entire guardbook catalogue online within the next four years. The Library's retrospective conversion project, the Greensleeves Project, has been working on the guardbook conversion for five years, but over 60% of the Pre-1978 General Catalogue still remains to be converted. The grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Newton Trust mean that this work can now be contracted out to a commercial conversion company, and thus completed much more quickly than would be possible in-house. The project will be put out to tender in January 2002.

Material catalogued in the guardbook forms one of the most valuable research resources in the world, including as it does the primary academic collections of Cambridge University Library. It covers books and periodicals published between 1500 and 1978. The great majority of the Library's rare book collections are included, and the range of material, to give just one example, spans the early-sixteenth-century Aldine editions of Virgil's works to critical work on Virgil from the 1970s. Until 1978, books and journals received by the Library were catalogued either for the guardbook catalogue, if they were deemed to be of primary academic significance, or for the supplementary card catalogue, for other items received under legal deposit. Since 1978, records for all books, regardless of their academic standing, have been created according to international standards and are available to readers through the online catalogue.

This catalogue offers a range of access points: author, title, keyword and subject via Library of Congress Subject Headings, and, when the Voyager system is implemented during 2002, these will be augmented by a more sophisticated range of search facilities. The catalogue can be consulted from any terminal in the University and from any external PC which is connected to the Internet anywhere in the world. For most books not on the open shelves, fetching requests can be placed, so that the item can be ready for the reader when he or she visits the Library. It is also possible to check whether a book is on loan and thus save a wasted journey to the Library.


It is estimated that the guardbook contains about 1.3 million records. By 2002, nearly 500,000 records will have been produced and added to the online catalogue. Funding was received from the Higher Education Funding Council for England for the conversion of records in Hebrew, Arabic and Indic script and these have now largely been completed. A number of faculties within the University contributed funds, with requests to convert material of interest to their members (usually specific authors, such as Aristotle, Virgil, Goethe, etc.). The conversion of half a million records is in itself a major achievement. However, by undertaking such a project the University Library has created expectations among the academic community that the work will soon be finished. At the present rate of conversion this could take as long as 10 years, and the Library is anxious to accelerate the work, as Cambridge is now one of the few major libraries in the world which has only a small proportion of its catalogue records available online.

The proposed procedure will speed up the process of conversion, allowing the completion of the project within four years. Using the same methodology that has been proved to produce high-quality results for the Greensleeves Project, a commercial data-conversion specialist will process the remainder of the guardbook records. This strategy maximises the use of records already converted by other libraries. The expected match rate varies from 60 to 70%, depending on the supplier chosen. The projected result will then be up to 550,000 fully-matched records, which will include Library of Congress Subject Headings. In addition, 250,000 records will be keyed from the guardbook. The keyed records will be searchable online by author and title keyword; subsequent editorial work will include the addition of subject headings, as resources permit.

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How well are we doing?

The Library Syndicate has been considering how it might best seek the views of readers about the services being provided by the Library. At present, there is a Student Users' Committee, on which sit representatives of the Graduate Union and CUSU, but its meetings have been intermittent and often poorly attended, and, in any case, it represents only one of the many constituencies of Library user.

The Syndicate, therefore, set up a task force last term to consider how the Library might best establish mechanisms for consulting the varied constituencies of readers on a regular basis and to consider ways in which the Library can ensure that it is serving users' needs whilst balancing the needs of today's users with responsibilities to future generations. The task force recommended that a pilot survey should be carried out, using the Libra Survey, developed by Priority Research Ltd. This software tool has been used in a number of major libraries, including the universities of London and Oxford, and the British Library. Information from focus groups and electronic mailshots is analysed and used to develop the questions to be included in a questionnaire. This questionnaire, which is mainly completed electronically, via a web form, is intended to gather information on demographics, opinions on past and present experience and priorities for future development. The questionnaire results can then be categorised by different user groups.

The Syndicate considered this process to be a reliable, statistically robust means of ascertaining readers' views, and has, accordingly, approved a pilot project at the Squire Law Library, where the smaller and less varied readership should enable problems to be resolved and lessons to be learned before a major survey is undertaken at the University Library itself.

In January 2002, therefore, the consultation process will start at the Squire, taking the form of a web survey with an option for a small number of readers to complete a paper questionnaire. The results will include: charts of readers' priorities and concerns, including those matters and issues which they do not support; a series of rating scales to determine the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with specific elements of the library service; and a series of analyses which will show priorities, arranged by such criteria as University status, etc.

If the pilot at the Squire is successful, a similar survey is planned for the University Library in January 2003.

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The Chancellor of the University, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, attended a reception for members of the University's Guild of Benefactors at the Betty and Gordon Moore Library in November, and is seen here greeting Michael Wilson, head of the Moore Library, watched by the Vice- Chancellor and the University Librarian.

University Library:
provisional periodical subscriptions

The University Library has taken out a provisional subscription, for one year, to the following journals, and the level of use will be monitored in order to ascertain whether a longer-term subscription is justified. West Room pigeonhole locations are given in brackets for each title.
Ierusalimskii bibliofil almanakh(Y.26)
Research policy(382) [order at Periodicals Desk]
Russian studies in philosophy(618) [order at Periodicals Desk]

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A Claudel archive

At the New Year in 1921 a middle-ranking diplomat at the French legation in Copenhagen dropped a note to a close friend, the wife of the British First Secretary in the city:

L'An finit, l'An commence. Me voici, vous voilà.
Donnez-moi votre cœur comme un gros chocolat.

The diplomat was the celebrated poet and playwright Paul Claudel (1868-1955), and his friend was Audrey Parr. In 2001 her granddaughter, Mrs L. M. Jack, generously presented the Claudel letters, postcards, verses and books accumulated by Parr to the University Library.


Claudel first met Audrey Parr during the First World War. The daughter of a French Alsatian father and a British mother of Polish and Brazilian parentage, Audrey had married Raymond Parr, then Third Secretary in the British Embassy in Rome, in 1913. Claudel undertook a mission there in 1915-16, and the friendship deepened when both Raymond Parr and Claudel were appointed to Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil Audrey Parr collaborated with Claudel and his secretary, the composer Darius Milhaud, in the ballet L'homme et son désir, for which she provided set designs. She and Claudel met intermittently in the 1920s as he and Raymond Parr pursued their careers to various countries. After the Parrs' separation in 1930 Audrey settled in London, and married Captain Norman Colville in 1938. On the outbreak of the Second World War she enlisted as a nursing officer in the Red Cross, and was killed in a road accident between Launceston and Egloskerry on 7 May 1940.

Claudel's letters and poems frequently show a whimsical, almost flirtatious, side to his character; he often signed with his pet name 'Cacique', and hoped that she might follow him around the globe. But beneath the lighthearted banter, the fun of poems such as the 'Jolie pensée en forme de camaraô', and the avid gossip and news, the correspondence demonstrates the strength of an enduring friendship based on mutual passion for literature and the arts.

Most of the letters and several of the verses were edited and annotated by Michel Lioure in Lettres de Paul Claudel à Élisabeth Sainte-Marie Perrin et à Audrey Parr (Cahiers Paul Claudel, 13, 1990; P735.d.1.13). The archive has been accessioned as Add. MS 9591, and may be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Mrs Jack's donation also comprises 34 printed books, of which 27 contain manuscript dedications from Claudel. Most of these are texts by Claudel himself, published between 1911 and 1939. The collection also includes a rare edition of twelve poems from Baudelaire's Les fleurs du mal, published in 1917, which incorporates facsimile reproductions of the original manuscripts. Amongst the most spectacular items are Claudel's Cent phrases pour éventails, published in a limited edition of 200 copies in Tokyo in 1927, and an edition of Victor Segalen's Stèles, printed in Beijing in 1914 on one side of leaves folded double in Japanese fashion. The books stand together in class CCA.45.

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Access to Archives

The Department of Manuscripts recently received a request for information from a scholar in Texas working on the composer G. F. Handel. Although not an unusual event in itself, this was the first occasion on which an enquirer to the Library has cited the new online resource Access to Archives as a reference.

Access to archives, an initiative led by the Public Record Office, the Historical Manuscripts Commission and the British Library, is a strand of the United Kingdom National Archive Network. It currently provides free web access to almost one and a half million catalogue entries for archives dating from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries and held in over a hundred national, local and specialist archives. Now four important catalogues from the University Library's Department of Manuscripts and University Archives have been added to the project.

The Library is a member of the Political Archives Consortium, co-operating with repositories as varied as the Parliamentary Archives, the University of Birmingham Library, Devon Record Office, Hackney Archives Service and the Churchill Archives Centre here in Cambridge to provide access to catalogues of the papers of some of the leading national politicians of the last three centuries. A Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £11,300 to the Consortium is helping to make available catalogues of the archives of six Prime Ministers, along with those of statesmen such as Hugh Gaitskell and Ernest Bevin and political thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham, Charles Bradlaugh and George Orwell. Other catalogues submitted by the Consortium relate to cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, policy advisers and diplomats. Together, the collections concerned cover aspects of almost every major political event and movement in Britain over the last three hundred years, and are unsurpassed as biographical sources for the lives of the men and women who created the records.

The Library has contributed catalogues of the papers of Stanley Baldwin, Randolph Churchill, Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe, and Sir Robert Walpole (the Cholmondeley (Houghton) papers). The Consortium's catalogues will all be online early in 2002, and most of the Cambridge lists are already available for consultation at For more details contact John Wells in the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. E-mail:

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The Librarian with Sir Patrick Moore who opened the Newton exhibition on 8 October 2001.

Newton exhibition continues

The Library's major exhibition on the work of Sir Isaac Newton continues until 23 March. This exhibition provides an opportunity to display some items that the University Library has recently acquired from the Macclesfield Collection, which was the last major holding of Newton's manuscripts and papers to remain in private hands. It also shows the way in which this acquisition complements existing collections in Cambridge libraries and thus how it can help us to understand Isaac Newton.

The exhibition catalogue has been written by Scott Mandelbrote, fellow of Peterhouse and deviser of the exhibition. It is 142 pages long, with 42 colour illustrations, and is available for £5 in the Library during the exhibition (£7.50 thereafter).

Footprints of the Lion: Isaac Newton at work

2 January to 23 March 2002

Opening hours:
Monday-Friday 09.00-18.00
Saturday 09.00-16.30

The Exhibition Centre is open to the public and admission is free.

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'Nature' online

The 'Nature' family of journals is among the latest additions to the Library's list of networked electronic journals. In addition to the popular weekly science journal Nature itself, access is also provided to seven research titles such as Nature biotechnology, Nature genetics and Nature neuroscience and to five specialist review journals in biological/biomedical fields.

The flagship of the 'Nature' group is however Nature itself, first published in 1869 (an online full-text version of the first issue is at The electronic edition includes full text of the paper edition from 1997 plus supplementary material such as additional research data or video images.

The site also offers a science news service, science careers information, and an online grants directory. There are live links to the major reference works The encyclopedia of life sciences ( and The encyclopedia of astronomy and astrophysics (

Links to all the Library-supported electronic journals are at the URL

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The Sandars lectures 2002

This year's Sandars Reader in Bibliography will be Conor Fahy. Professor Fahy was Head of the Department of Italian in Birkbeck College, University of London from 1967 to 1983. He has made many contributions to the study of Italian Renaissance literature, with particular reference to the history and techniques of sixteenth century printing. His lectures will be on 'Paper in the Sixteenth Century Italian Printing Industry' and will be given at 17.00 on 5, 13 and 20 March in the Morison Room, University Library.

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The Friends of Cambridge University Library

Forthcoming meetings, to be held in the Morison Room, University Library:

Wednesday 30 January at 5 p.m.
Dominic Marner

'The sword of the spirit, the word of God, and the Book of Deer'

Wednesday 6 February at 5 p.m.
Max Egremont

'Siegfried Sassoon as a book collector'

Saturday 2 March at 11.30 a.m.
Patricia Fara

'Advertising genius: images of Isaac Newton'

Wednesday 8 May at 5 p.m.
Stefan C. Reif

'A medieval Mediterranean deposit and a modern Cambridge archive'

Saturday events are free of charge to Friends. Members wishing to attend weekday evening meetings pay at a special rate of £2.50 a head. Non-members are welcome at all talks; the admission charge is £3.50. All talks are free to junior members of the University of Cambridge.

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033