APDO Book Club: The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide

I’m really glad that APDO Book Club chose this book as this month’s read, because, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have read to the end any other way.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s worthy of its 3 stars, which in my rating means the author has achieved what they set out to do – there’s just nothing in it that I personally loved or found inspiring.

Jen Gale presents us with lots of useful links, and to that extent it’s worthwhile getting hold of a copy. There are also a few nice soundbites that I’ll use on the Tidy Beginnings Instagram at some point in the future. I’m certainly not discouraging anyone from reading this book, which has the solid aim of demystifying green issues and I guess achieves that for the sort of person Jen Gale was herself before she spent eight years reading and blogging on these topics.

Continue reading “APDO Book Club: The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide”

Book History Seminar: Volunteers and Volunteerism

Our final Book History seminar before the summer break addresses a hot topic.

On Monday 17 May, Katie Flanagan will discuss the role of volunteers within historic libraries, and will ask how this affects diversity within the profession and where should the line be drawn?

Katie is a Special Collections Librarian and volunteers as Honorary Librarian at Kedermister Library, a 17th century parish library still in its original setting. A Chartered Librarian with 20 years’ experience working in historic libraries, she also has extensive experience both as a volunteer and managing volunteers.

Details and booking: https://beginningcataloguing.teachable.com/p/bookhistory-seminar-may

Unpacking Your Library

Unpacking Your Library

This post republishes a piece which was originally commissioned by myVLF and published on their blog as ‘Unpacking Your Library: 10 Top Tips to Organise Your Bookshelves’, myVLF, 3 September 2020.

Whether working, furloughed or simply unable to go out and socialise as much as usual, Covid-19 has given many of us more time at home. Many people have been unpacking their libraries (to use Walter Benjamin’s phrase), building reading nooks and reorganising their shelves. There’s a great tradition of writing to help us in doing this, and especially on the impact that sorting through our books has on us.

If you want to know how to organise your personal library and bookshelves, here are ten top tips based on practical experience and from ten of my favourite books.

Continue reading “Unpacking Your Library”

Farewell and Thanks to myVLF


As both a reader and a writer, I wanted to acknowledge the work of Gwynn GB, Kelly Clayton, and Deborah Carr in creating and managing virtual literary festival platform myVLF, which has sadly had to close its doors.

As well as attending many online events there, I was fortunate enough to gain a paid commission to write a blog post for them in September 2020, giving 10 Top Tips to Organise Your Bookshelves. I’ll republish it on the Beginnings Blog now that myVLF is, sadly, no more.

Writing on their website The Blonde Plotters, Gwynn, Kelly and Deborah said:

“When Covid-19 hit our world, we worked flat-out holding as many events as we could and supporting hundreds of authors with their book launches, as well as helping many physical book festivals to reach new audiences … Unfortunately, the huge workload in running so many events, resulted in us not being able to concentrate on our own writing careers. We live for writing and so regretfully we have decided to close MyVLF so that we can reconnect with our author careers and families.”

QuickStart Cataloguing for Public Librarians

Event Image for NAG Quickstart Cataloguing event on 19 May 2021

Many thanks to Jennie Hillyard for approaching me for the National Acquisitions Group’s programme of online events.

Really looking forward to delivering 2 Quickstart Cataloguing sessions. The first is an introduction to cataloguing for people working in public libraries who come across books that don’t arrive shelf-ready with a pre-made set of metadata.

Programme description - please see NAG events page for full details.

Note that membership of NAG is currently FREE for public library staff, so do join up to qualify for the member discount and also all the other benefits NAG offers.

Beginning Cataloguing always offers a discounted rate for organisations that support heritage professionals, and I’m particularly pleased to receive this commission from NAG, whose recent report on shelf-ready metadata (authored by Emma Booth) has been such a great contribution to our understanding of cataloguers’ and their institutions’ needs.

Documentation or Artwork? Event Report

On Monday, Gustavo Grandal Montero (UAL) led a fantastic Book History Seminar in which he asked the question ‘Documentation or Artwork? Neo Avant-gardes and Printed Matter in the 60s and 70s‘.

In it, he shared examples of artists’ books and materials, some of them well-known and in codex form, like Ruscha’s Twenty Six Gasoline Stations and Roth’s Collected Works, and others more experimental, like Aspen’s use of different media to push the magazine form and Lippard’s use of index cards to record the 955,000 Exhibition.

Gustavo made the point that as well as stepping away from the codex form, the 955,000 Exhibition cards moved away from the sequencing of the artists’ book. Lippard included a title page and bibliography, but the cards are unnumbered and contain an instruction to shuffle them, so each time we encounter them, we do so in a different order. On Monday, we saw Gustavo moving through the cards to find these “standard” bibliographic details. If sequencing is a defining feature of the artists’ book as a form, what are Lippard’s cards?

The glib answer would be documentation, but actually, they are not, quite. In March 1969, Lippard wrote to a range of artists asking them to participate “in a large exhibition at the Seattle World’s Fair Pavillion, opening Sept. 4, 1969, it will also go to three other museums on the West Coast.” In the end, the submissions led to exhibitions in Seattle (‘55,087’), Vancouver (‘955,000’), Buenos Aires (‘2,972,453’) and Valencia, California (‘c.7,500′). Lippard took the titles from the cities’ population figures, and described how “Each of the catalogues consist of randomly arranged index cards designed by the artists themselves.”

Gustavo described how the cards are, in fact, more than catalogues. As we can see from Lippard’s original invitation, she asked conceptual artists to supply her with instructions she could “execute with the help of friends and volunteers,” and her intention was always that “projects can be changed for each city … (cards will probably be added each place)”. Cards were most definitely added, and given that she assured artists they could “tell me how you’d like what information and reproduction on your card”, it’s clear that the cards themselves are artworks constituting part of a larger artwork that is the 955,000 Exhibition.

Gustavo highlighted other artworks from Chelsea’s collections, and given that we planned this talk during lockdown when we thought it may have to be more conceptual itself, it was wonderful to see shelves of artists’ books over his shoulder in the special collections room, and even better to see him turn the pages, unfold the posters and, indeed, shuffle the cards of the printed matter he’d selected for us.

Image: shelves glimpsed over Gustavo’s shoulder at Chelsea, over my computer screen (which clearly needed a bit of a clean – sorry).