St George’s Library Then & Now: 1941

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Libraries Week takes place between the 8th – 13th October 2018. Over the course of the week we’ll be exploring our Archives to look at how the library has – and hasn’t! – changed over time.


This excerpt from a 1941 edition of St George’s Hospital Gazette tells the tale of a very dedicated librarian who kept the library collection intact during the Blitz.

SGH Gazette 1941

Following bomb-damage to this part of the School in the early months of the year, all books were evacuated to the Small Lecture Theatre. With the books in residence the Theatre could not be used by lecturers; the Large Lecture Theatre, like the Library, was open to the sky and the weather, and also unusable. However, this unfortunate predicament could not be helped, and while the books were there the appalling amount of brick-dust and slime that coated the covers and clogged the pages was removed by the Librarian, Miss Bond. By July 16th, the damage to the building was repaired, and on that date the Library once again resumed its part in Medical School activities.

Many books now bear honourable scars, but very few were lost by enemy action: the Library is incomplete, however, as there are still some volumes at Luddington House.

Members of the Medical School are indebted to Miss Bond who, almost unaided, rendered fit for use, replace and re-catalogued all the books now on their accustomed shelves.

The conservation and repair of our print books is still very much part and parcel of library life and mostly takes place behind the scenes. While ‘brick-dust and slime’ aren’t high on our list of worries in 2018, spillages are usually the cause of irreparable damage – leaky bottles in backpacks being a particular culprit.

On average, our collection teams repair around 8 – 10 books per week; using specialist glues and tapes to restore pages and damaged spines. Our popular Oxford Handbooks are regular candidates for repair – their signature plastic covers are resistant to glue and have a tendency to break away from the spines with regular use.

One of our Information Assistants, Georgina Coles, takes us through a simple book repair in the images below:

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Cataloguing and processing books so that they are ready for the shelves is another important part of managing our collection. While we thankfully haven’t had to re-catalogue any bomb-damaged books, our Collections Team have been kept very busy this summer accommodating the large volume of radiography resources being transferred from Kingston University Library. This has involved a large-scale weeding project to remove old and rarely used items from the shelves, before reclassifying the radiography books under our classification scheme. The team have so far processed over 670 books and there are more to follow!

We think it’s lovely that Miss Bond’s efforts were recorded in this way – managing the library in some extraordinarily difficult circumstances is no mean feat. We’re left wondering if there are any other mentions of her or other dedicated librarians in the Archives…

 


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