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A Tale of Two Libraries

By Megane Quelvennec

The Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives offers Discovery Days all year round for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in historic libraries and/or archives or for library and archive professionals looking to gain a different perspective on their profession. This week’s blog comes from Health Librarian Megane Quelvennec following her recent visit to Exeter Cathedral Library.
Recently, I had the pleasure to visit Emma Laws (Cathedral Librarian) who introduced me to life at the Exeter Cathedral Library. Coming from a health library it was eye-opening to compare the two types of libraries – especially how each library manages its holdings.

In a health library we focus on knowledge mobilisation: the sharing of knowledge and using this knowledge in decision making, hopefully leading to evidence-based practice. We try to keep our stock to books that are no older than ten years old – making sure to update books with newer editions as they are released. Having the correct and up-to-date information for our users is imperative to ensuring that they can provide the best possible care for patients by guaranteeing that both clinical and non-clinical staff are pursuing evidence-based practice at the core of their decisions.

Emma explained to me that the books at the Cathedral Library are seen as material objects, the knowledge gleaned from them incorporating not only the words on the pages but also the bindings and historical significance. The archival side of librarianship is very much focused on the preservation and conservation of books. Books are treated with an air of importance, with delicate handling, cushions to rest them on, and specially created boxes for some of the more fragile books to live in, all to stabilise these precious treasures from further deterioration.

During my visit, I was privileged to attend Emma’s second workshop on her series of The Art of the Book which was a fascinating discourse about the history of bookmaking. I didn’t even know the role of bookbinder existed in the past, but I can safely say that I would have loved to have been one!

Emma, thank you again for allowing me to visit and if anyone has the chance to visit the Cathedral Library I would absolutely recommend it!