‘Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated’

This blogpost for Explore Your Archive week looks into the connection between a St George’s alumnus and a former Cuban slave in the 19th century. St George’s historical connections to slavery are being reviewed as part of the Institutional Review of Race Equality. Please note that this post contains language that may upset or offend readers. This has been included where necessary as used within the original sources for illustrative purposes. This blogpost is written by St George’s Archivist Juulia Ahvensalmi.

The poet Juan Francisco Manzano (1797-1853/54) was born in enslavement on a sugar plantation in Cuba. Richard Robert Madden (1798-1888) was born in Ireland, the youngest of 21 children of a wealthy silk manufacturer, and an alumnus of St George’s.

How did the paths of these two men cross?

Title page of ‘Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated’, 1840.

Manzano’s parents, Sofia del Pilar Manzano and Toribio de Castro, were enslaved under Señora Beatriz de Justiz de Santa Ana. Sofia was the chief handmaid of Señora Beatriz, allegedly a relatively privileged position that meant Manzano was not allowed to play with the other slave children at the plantation, although it did not save him from various forms of mental and physical abuse. At some point, Manzano was sold to María de la Concepción, Marquesa del Prado Ameno, who by all accounts was particularly cruel and abusive.

Extract from ‘Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated’, 1840.

The accounts on how Manzano escaped slavery are vague and contradictory. Somehow, however, Manzano managed to buy his freedom in 1837, aged 40. Although he had had little power over his life, he had been taught to read and write in his childhood. In one version of the story, his literacy proved to be his salvation, and a group of Cuban reformists, including a plantation owner called Domingo Del Monte, were so impressed by the poetry he had been writing that they eventually bought his freedom.

Del Monte asked him to write down the narrative of his life, although it seems unlikely he was paid for the work. The book could not, however, be published in Cuba or in other Spanish colonies, even after the end of the Spanish rule in 1898 – Cuban economy depended on slave labour on the sugar plantations to such an extent that any accounts that might have a negative impact were banned. It was finally published in 1937 in Cuba, having been passed to the National Library in Havana by Del Monte’s estate.

English translation of Manzano’s poem ‘Mis treinta años’ (‘Thirty years’). Translation by Madden.

Madden, in the meanwhile, had moved to London in 1828, following several years in Italy and the Middle East. He had received £220 for accompanying a tuberculosis patient to England; this money he spent to further his medical studies at St George’s.

Advertisements for lectures at the School of Anatomy and Medicine adjoining St George’s Hospital, 1835. Archives and Special Collections, St George’s, University of London.

He settled down to practice medicine in London, having married Harriet Elmslie, the youngest daughter of a West India merchant and slave owner John Elmslie. In London he joined the Anti-Slavery Society, and eventually gave up the practice of medicine, becoming instead a government civil servant.

He had been educated in Dublin, Paris and London, including at St George’s where he studied at two occasions. The student registers show he enrolled first in 1823 for six months, and returned to St George’s in 1828. On both occasions, Benjamin Brodie was his tutor.

The entry for Richard Robert Madden in St George’s Medical School student register, 1828. SGHMS/4/1/16, Archives and Special Collections, St George’s, University of London.

In 1833 he travelled to Jamaica to work as a special magistrate for the British Colonial Office: his role was to help resolve disputes between ‘apprentices’, as former enslaved people were known as, and the slave owners, also known as planters. His account describing his experiences was published in 1835 as ‘A Twelvemonth’s Residence in the West Indies, During the Transition from Slavery to Apprenticeship’. Allegedly he visited a plantation owned by his uncle, where he discovered ‘two mulatto cousins’ and learned that another cousin of his had been sold as a slave. In his book and in evidence given to a British parliamentary select committee he denounced the apprenticeship system.

In 1836 Madden was appointed commissioner of liberated slaves in Havana, Cuba, a Spanish colony beholden to Britain since 1814: it is likely in this role that he first met Manzano through Domingo del Monte, who occupied a powerful position as a plantation owner (and hence probably an enslaver as well) in the society.

He took it upon himself to translate Manzano’s account into English. The resulting book was published in Britain in 1840, and was called ‘Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated: Translated from the Spanish by R.R. Madden, with the History of the early Life of the Negro Poet Written by Himself’. Madden himself writes that the text

‘was presented to me in the year 1838 by a gentleman at Havana, a Creole […] some of these pieces had fortunately found their way to Havana, and attracted the attention of the literary people there, while the poor author was in slavery […] The gentleman to whom I have alluded […] redeemed this poor fellow from slavery […] [and] induced him to write his story’

Part of the glossary in ‘Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated’, 1840.

Although slavery had officially been abolished in Britain and the British colonies in 1833 by the Slavery Abolition Act (following the Slave Trade Act of 1807 prohibiting slave trade), the transitional concept of ‘apprenticeship’ however in many ways was simply a continuation of slavery. Nor did the market for sugar and other goods produced with slave labour cease, and Britain continued to trade with countries such as Cuba, where slavery was not abolished until 1886.

In 1840, Madden spoke at first  World Anti-Slavery Convention, delivering a report on Cuban slavery. He had stated as his aim in publishing Manzano’s work to ‘vindicate in some degree the character of the negro intellect, at least the attempt affords me an opportunity of recording my conviction, that the blessings of education and good government are only wanting to make the Natives of Africa, intellectually and morally, equal to any people on the surface of the globe’.

Both Del Monte and Madden appropriated Manzano’s work for their own purposes, which for Del Monte may have included using abolitionism as a means of ensuring that the numbers of black Africans in Cuba would not surpass the number of white Europeans. Madden tailored his translation to his British audience, who wanted to distance themselves from slavery: it was easier to read about atrocities committed by other nations, in an exotic location and via a translated text from another language. His edition omitted certain details, including names, places and dates, as well as instances of brutality.

By highlighting his own role in the edition (where the title does not even include Manzano’s name) Madden placed himself in the position of authority and power: as a white saviour. Moreover, in the book he first presents two of his own poems, ‘The Slave Trade Merchant’ and ‘The Sugar Estate’, turning himself into the author in the process. From the perspective of a British abolitionist, it is almost as if British slavery never existed.

Table of contents of ‘Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated’, 1840.

What happened to Manzano and Madden after this?

Madden went on to work for the British Colonial Office, first as a special commissioner of inquiry in the British colonies on the western coast of Africa on Gambia River and the Gold Coast (hub for slave trade since the 17th century), and then as colonial secretary in Western Australia. He published several more books on a variety of subjects, including burial practices and the United Irishmen. In 1849 he returned to Dublin, where he spent the rest of his life as the secretary of the Loan Fund Board at the Dublin Castle: he never appears to have returned to medical practice. He died in 1886, aged 87.

We know much less of what happened to Manzano. A play written by him, Zafira, was published in 1842. He was married, twice, first to Marcelina Campos, then, in 1835, to María del Rosario, whose family, according to some sources, disapproved of the marriage due to Manzano’s status as an enslaved person and his dark skin colour. He was arrested in 1844 and jailed for about a year, along with thousands of others, suspected of involvement in a revolutionary conspiracy. He died in 1853 or 1854. Although much has been written about Manzano, these accounts tend to focus on his writing and not on his life, and details of his later life are difficult to find.

Sources and further reading:

Almeida, Joselyn. 2011. ‘Translating a Slave’s Life: Richard Robert Madden and the Post-Abolition Trafficking of Juan Manzano’s Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba’. Romantic Circles.

Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery. ‘John Elmslie senior’.

Encyclopedia.com. ‘Manzano, Juan Francisco’

Engle, Margarita. 2006. ‘Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano’

Manzano, Juan Francisco and Madden, Richard Robert. 1840. ‘Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated: Translated from the Spanish by R.R. Madden, with the History of the early Life of the Negro Poet Written by Himself’.

Molloy, Sylvia. 1989. ‘From Serf to Self: The Autobiography of Juan Francisco Manzano’. MLN 104(2): 393-417.

Miller, Marilyn Grace, 2010. ‘Reading Juan Francisco Manzano in the wake of Alexander von Humboldt’. Atlantic Studies 7(2):163-189.

Moore, Raymond. 2012. Edited by Laurel Howard, Austin Arminio, W.J. Shepherd, 2018.  ‘Richard Robert Madden: An inventory of the Richard Robert Madden Papers at the Special Collections of the University Libraries at the Catholic University of America’. The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C

Murray, David R. 1972. ‘Richard Robert Madden: His Career as a Slavery Abolitionist’. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 61(241):41-53.

Salama, Carmen. 2020. ‘Between Subject and Object: The Identity of a Slave in Juan Francisco Manzano’s Autobiography’. Journal of Global Initiatives 15 (1):6-15

The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), San Francisco. ‘Juan Francisco Manzano’.

Wikipedia. ‘Juan Francisco Manzano’

— ‘Richard Robert Madden’

Woods, C.J. 2009. ‘Madden, Richard Robert’. Dictionary of Irish Biography.

From the archives: International students at St George’s

In this blogpost, written by Archivist Juulia Ahvensalmi, we will be looking at the international history of St George’s students.

St George’s Medical School was formally established in 1834, but the hospital, which was opened in 1733, took pupils long before that. There were also several anatomical schools closely associated with the St George’s, including John Hunter’s Great Windmill Street school (established by John’s brother William Hunter in 1745), and Samuel Lane’s School of Anatomy and Medicine adjoining St George’s Hospital; John Hunter was a surgeon at St George’s, and Lane had also studied at St George’s.

There were fees to pay, and students could study for various lengths of time. The early student records show that some students only enrolled for a three-month period, others for six or 12 months. Initially pupils were assigned to a particular surgeon or physician. To become a perpetual pupil, there was an additional fee (which in 1870 was 100 guineas), and allowed the student admission to the practice of the physicians and surgeons of the hospital and all the lectures, allowing them to compete for any prizes and to become clinical clerks and dressers. The high fees then (as now) meant that education was not available for everyone, and the majority of the students were from the upper middle classes; many had gone to public schools and Cambridge or Oxford before attending St George’s.

Photo of 1805 student register.
Student register 1805, showing students enrolled for various lengths of time under different surgeons. Register of Pupils and House Officers 1756-1837, SGHMS/4/1/16, Archives & Special Collections, St George’s, University of London; and Extract from student register, 1945, showing the schools and colleges attended by student prior to their enrolment at St George’s. Register of Pupils 1837-1946, SGHMS/4/1/18, Archives & Special Collections, St George’s, University of London.

International connections

The student records held in the archives reveal a steady trickle of international students, based on their names (which in these early records is often the only information recorded). Names, of course, can only be used as a starting point, but the records also occasionally explicitly refer to visiting students, as in the case of Michal Astrashapovitch and Stephen Koniwetsky, who paid £20 to study under Everard Home and attend the lectures ‘for an uncertain time, to be settled at their leaving England’. There is no more information about them, but they may have been Russian – there are several other Russian names which suggests some regular contact or connection.

Photo of 1808 student register, showing enrolment of Michal Astrashapovitch and Stephen Koniwetsky.
Student register 1808, showing enrolment of Michal Astrashapovitch and Stephen Koniwetsky. SGHMS/4/1/16, Archives & Special Collections, St George’s, University of London.

Another early student was Philip Syng Physick, who had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and travelled to England to study under John Hunter in 1785. Known as the ‘father of American surgery’, he is said to have performed the first human blood transfusion, and was particularly interested in using autopsy as a method for observation and discovery – a practice that we can time and again see in our post mortem records.

Swedish names also appear in the registers with some regularity, especially in the 1890s when it appears to have been somewhat of a trend to travel to London to study medicine. These students include Henning Grenander, who later gained fame as a figure skater, winning the world title at the National Skating Palace in London in 1898.

Image of Henning Grenander ice skating.
Henning Grenander. Image: skateguard1.blogspot.com

Henrik Kellgren’s ‘Swedish Institution for the Cure of Diseases by Manual Treatment’in Eton Square, London appears to have further encouraged Swedish students to study in London: Axel Wolter Louis Stackelberg, who was a pupil at Kellgren’s institute, for instance, is enrolled for 6 months as a student of anatomy in 1897, while both Kellgren’s sons Ernst and Jonas also studied at St George’s for a period; Jonas went on to study rheumatism, was a pioneer in the study of physiology of pain, and became a professor of rheumatology in Manchester in 1953.

The adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan

Hajee Baba may have been the first Muslim student at St George’s, and one of the first Iranian medical practitioners to study in Europe in this period. He came to England to study medicine alongside another young Iranian, Muhammad Kazim or Mohammed Cassim, in 1811 with the British ambassador to Iran, Sir Harford Jones. Hajee Baba was the son of an officer in the Shah’s army, and the sending of students to study in Britain was seen as a way of strengthening the diplomatic ties and connections between the countries; his brother trained as a mining engineer in Russia. Kazim was to study arts, but died shortly after their arrival in England.

Hajee Baba stayed in England for eight years. Following his studies, he returned to Iran to work as a physician in the court in Teheran, and in 1835 he is described as ‘a respectable elderly looking man’. He also worked as an interpreter for Persian missions abroad. Eventually he became the chief physician to the shah. He died in 1842 or 1843.

Composite image. From left to right: photo of 1817 student register, Cover of ‘The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan’ (1824-28) by James Justinian Morier; Poster for ‘The Adventures of Hajji Baba’ (1954).
Student register 1817, Register of Pupils and House Officers 1756-1837, SGHMS/4/1/16, Archives & Special Collections, St George’s, University of London; Cover of ‘The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan’ (1824-28) by James Justinian Morier; Poster for ‘The Adventures of Hajji Baba’ (1954), Wikipedia, ©20th Century Studios.

He may have been the inspiration for a series of best-selling novels, ‘The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan’ (1824-28) by James Justinian Morier, secretary to Sir Harford Jones; Hajee Baba was reportedly annoyed at Morier’s use of his name for this purpose (and would have been, we can imagine, even more annoyed by the American adventure film of the same name of 1954!).  Nile Green’s book ‘The Love of Strangers: What Six Muslim Students Learned in Jane Austen’s England’ (2016) recounts the story of a group of six students who travelled to Britain in 1815, based on contemporary diaries and letters of the students, in which he also mentions Hajee Baba and his unfortunate companion.

The problem of sources…

Often, the spelling of names varies considerably in different sources (this is of course particularly true when the original is in a different script), which can make tracking people difficult (but we do enjoy a bit of detective work!); there is a Wikipedia entry for Hajee Baba, for instance, but in that his name is spelled Hadji Baba Ashfar, whilst the Encyclopaedia Iranica uses the form Ḥājjī Bābā Afšār; in Persian his name is افشار، حاجی بابا.

Many students are also entered in the registers only by their first initial and surname, making identification even more problematic. A ‘foreign-sounding’ name, moreover, is of course not solid evidence either way – the somewhat exotic-sounding Peregrine Fernandez in 1799, for instance, ‘gentleman of Widcombe, Somerset’, may have had family roots elsewhere, but was born and bred in London. Where the student records are simply lists of names, as the earlier ones are, we have to turn to other sources to find out more about the people behind the names.

Image of Assaad Y. Kayat. Source: ‘A Voice from Lebanon with the Life and Travels of Assaad Y. Kayat’ (1847).
Image of Assaad Y. Kayat. Source: ‘A Voice from Lebanon with the Life and Travels of Assaad Y. Kayat’ (1847).

One student we do know more about is Assaad Kayat, who enrolled as a student at St George’s in 1843, studying alongside Henry Gray (of Gray’s Anatomy). His fascinating story is recounted in more detail in an earlier blogpost, and his autobiography tells us a lot about his childhood in Beirut, as well as his and his wife’s experiences as immigrants in London.

The archives also reveal the story of Boghos Baghdasan Tahmisian, who, according to an appeal launched in 1892 by the Turkish Mission’s Aid Society, was a ‘native of Cilicia’, in present-day Turkey; his name may suggest Armenian origins. He is in the appeal described as a diligent student, who had arrived in London in 1889 and enrolled as a medical student at St George’s. He had, however, found himself lacking adequate funds to be able to finish his studies, which is why the society decided to appeal to the public on his behalf.

Composite image. Left-hand side: ‘An appeal on behalf of Mr B.B. Tahmisian’ (1892). Right-hand side: a letter signed by Tahmisian.
‘An appeal on behalf of Mr B.B. Tahmisian’ (1892) and a letter signed by Tahmisian. Archives and Special Collections, St George’s, University of London.

Pictorial propaganda

Following the end of the First World War, the Universities Bureau of the British Empire (now Association of Commonwealth Universities), established in 1913, encouraged British universities to admit students, and the Foreign Office was eager to distribute what they called ‘pictorial propaganda’:

‘The idea is to endeavour to impress the peoples of Russia and of the East with the greatness of the educational system of the British Empire’

Photo of letters to the Medical School, preserved in the minute books of the Medical School Committee XII-XIII.
Letters to the Medical School, preserved in the minute books. Minutes of the Medical School Committee XII-XIII, SGHMS/1/1/1/15. Archives and Special Collections, St George’s, University of London.

‘This medical school is unable to admit any Ceylonese students’

(Medical School minute books, 1920)

The minute books of the medical school from that time contain frequent references to the admission (or not, as it were) of international students; the minutes refer to students by their nationalities: ‘a Pole’, ‘the Siamese doctor’, ‘a native of India’.

At times, certain nationalities were the subject of intense conversations. Following the end of the First World War and demobilisation, many ‘American and colonial’ soldiers found themselves with some time to spare, and willing to use that time to study. A letter from the Royal Society of Medicine in 1918 warns that if plans to offer brief post-graduate courses for such students are not soon put in place, ‘the chances are that the majority of them will go to Paris, where […] post-graduate courses have been arranged for all Allied Officers and are already in full swing!’. The response from St George’s was not enthusiastic due to staff shortages and bureaucratic burden on the school. In the end, however, it was decided that up to 10 American students could be admitted for a three-month course, with a fee of ten guineas.

Appeals from the Egyptian Educational Mission received an even less favourable response: despite admitting two Egyptian students for a clinical course, ‘it was decided that this School cannot bind itself to admit any definite number of Egyptians’, the dean at this time wrote, suggesting that the school is too small to admit ‘foreign students […] although I am doubtful whether they ever really amalgamate or attempt to settle down with their fellow-students’.

At the moment we’re looking forward to delving into our nursing records and learning more about the student nurses at St George’s. Our initial research suggests that in the 1950s-1960s for instance up to 70% of the nursing students were immigrants to the UK; among these are many from the Windrush generation, and students came from all over the world, including the Caribbean, Ireland, India, Nigeria, Sweden and Bermuda.

Photo showing nursing students' nationality in 1970s student records.
Records of nursing students at St George’s in the 1970s. Archives and Special Collections, St George’s, University of London.

Want to know more, or see and study the records for yourself? Just get in touch with us at archives@sgul.ac.uk – we’d be very happy to hear from you!


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St George’s Library Then & Now: 1998

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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.


In this final retrospective look at the Library, we’ve delved into a really interesting commemorative brochure produced by library staff to celebrate 21 years of being based in Tooting.

Back in the early 1990s staff were singing the praises of their “several CD-ROM machines, word processing facilities and a scanner” which warranted instating an enquiries desk where library staff could be on hand to answer IT related questions.

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It’s interesting to note that even with the differences and improvements in technology over the past 20 years, many of the enquiries that helpdesk staff answered back in 1998 will be very familiar to users and helpdesk staff today!

Needless to say the type of enquiries facing the library staff are mainly computer related. The most common ones are

‘My Printer is not working’
‘The printer has stopped printing half way through’
I can’t open my file on the computer’

The rest of the commemorative brochure makes for an interesting read: it captures a pivotal point in the development of modern academic libraries as the way we access information began to rapidly change. Technology has streamlined many library services whilst also generating new challenges – especially over the two decades that have passed since the publication of this brochure.

For example, the move from print to electronic journals has had a fairly dramatic impact on the physical layout of the library. With most journal subscriptions now online, we no longer require the rows and rows of shelving to accommodate print copies and can offer far more study spaces, which is of real benefit to our users.

 

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The Library now manages access to thousands of journal titles, far in excess of what we ever could have accommodated physically in print, giving staff and students at St George’s access to far more content than before, with the added convenience that in most cases it can be accessed from anywhere and at any time.

However, with online journals the Library typically licenses the content for a specific period of time, whereas with print journals we owned the volumes and issues of the journals we purchased. Our Journals team must negotiate the terms and conditions of these licences with our suppliers each year, making these transactions far more complex.

Supporting access to online subscriptions also requires maintaining a number of key systems, such as our link resolver, which generates the links through to the full text of articles we have access to; either from search results in Hunter or our other healthcare databases.

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The Library also needs to manage the process of authentication: whereby journal sites identify a user is from St George’s and entitled to access that particular resource. The Journals team work hard to make this process as smooth as possible and provide the necessary support for users where difficulties arise. Responding to the pace of change as technologies develop is a real challenge for library staff and will undoubtedly continue to shape the academic library of the future.

On a final note, the brochure also offers interesting snippets of social history too. Present day staff thankfully have much more input over their own sartorial choices!

1977-98 Library Brochure trousers

…and female staff are now permitted to wear trousers for the task.

 


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St George’s Library Then & Now: 1977

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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.


In this exploration of the Archives, we’re looking at some of the physical incarnations of the Library throughout St George’s illustrious history. Today the hospital and medical school are located in Tooting, but until the 1970s were situated in central London at Hyde Park Corner.

The Library at Hyde Park had many traditional features: lots of dark wooden furniture, high shelving, and books behind glass cabinets. There also appear to be desks perched very precariously on the balcony below the lovely domed ceiling, which today might cause all manner of health and safety headaches.

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As St George’s moved to Tooting in 1976, the Library settled into a more modern looking space. These photos, from 1977, give us a sepia-toned glimpse into the Library as it was then: slightly more accessible shelving, hundreds of print journals, much lower ceilings and a slightly sterile looking staff office. That said, the black and white image in the slideshow below shows a much brighter, wider study space that isn’t that dissimilar to the library back in 2012, before our last refurbishment.

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Do you have any pictures taken in or around the library from your time studying at St George’s? Whether it was last year or 20 years ago, we’d love it if you could share them with us!

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St George’s Library Then & Now: 1953

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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.


The Library gets a very short mention in the 1953 St George’s Hospital Medical School prospectus:

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The Library, which is under the supervision of an Honorary Librarian, contains current textbooks and standards works of reference in Medicine, Surgery and allied subjects. It is open daily from 9.30 am to 8 pm, except on Saturdays, when it is closed at 12.30 pm. A book is kept by the Librarian for students to enter the title of any publication they may wish to be added to the Library.

These days, we’re a little less shy about promoting the variety of services and resources that are on offer to all our users, from traditional books and journals to databases, apps, point-of-care tools and visual e-resources. We’ve developed a series of LibGuides to introduce you to topics such as literature searching and reference management and well as subject guides that will help you find, manage and evaluate the information you need for your course.

We also offer embedded and bookable training sessions and drop-in services, run a literature searching service for NHS/SGUL staff and support researchers through the research life cycle, including Research Data Management and Open Access publishing. We still welcome resource suggestions from users, although through much more convenient web forms.

In short, we run a very busy service! We certainly need more hands on deck than our 1950s counterparts and the rapid technological advances of the late 20th century have helped to both alleviate traditional library duties and create new ones. We certainly wouldn’t be able to run any of the above services without the support of our wonderful helpdesk staff, who are on hand between 8am – 6pm Monday to Friday. While these are not dissimilar staffing hours to the library of the 1950s, the study space and computer rooms are now open 24/7 during term times. We wonder what the Librarian (and Honorary Librarian) would have thought of that.

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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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St George’s Library Then & Now: 1894

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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 rather damning excerpt from an 1894 edition St George’s Hospital Gazette highlights a perennial problem for libraries: managing noise.

SGH Gazette 1894

“If we were asked by a reading student to choose some familiar quotation for each room in the School, that to our mind most suited to the Library would be, “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” For reading in the Library, becomes, at certain seasons of the day, a matter of impossibility. We cannot even hope that our present admonition will result in improvement. Swing doors will slam, loquacious students will converse in stage whispers, pellets will fall from choreic hands, even though an Embryo dwells in our midst. Yet there is room for great improvement without attaining complete perfection.”

We’re not short of ‘loquacious’ students these days either, but in the intervening 124 years methods of teaching and learning have changed which libraries have evolved to support. One of our ‘great improvements’ to the library has been zoning the space to cater for a variety of study preferences: from quiet, independent reading to collaborative group work.

Arguably, we’ve not attained ‘complete perfection’ either. While you won’t find us ‘sssshh-ing’ users these days (a stereotype library workers aren’t always fond of), we are still on hand to politely remind users to keep the noise to an acceptable level.

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Libraries Week: 8th – 13th October 2018

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Libraries Week takes place between the 8th – 13th October and this year’s campaign is focused on the concept of wellbeing. Over the course of the week, libraries across the country will be showcasing the ways in which they bring communities together and support their users with their mental health.

2018-Library-facts-for-Libraries-WeekSo how can using the library affect your wellbeing?

– Research has shown that public library users are happier and have higher life satisfaction compared to non-users. Regularly using your local library is also associated with good general health: when valued medically, library engagement saves the NHS just under £30 million a year.

– When it comes to academic libraries (like ours), research into student library usage has indicated that there is a strong correlation between high library engagement and better degree results.

– Libraries are, of course, homes to extensive collections of books. While we can’t always guarantee that reading for study will be a stress-free experience, reading for pleasure has been linked to a reduction in stress and the symptoms of depression.

– Reading fiction is also associated with higher levels of empathy and improved relationships with others, with 76% of adults suggesting that reading improves their life.

By offering a safe space for reading/studying and facilitating access to fiction as well as specialised textbooks, academic libraries like St George’s have an important role to play in supporting the wellbeing of our users – whether they are studying or working within the university or the hospital.

For a taster of the types of wellbeing resources we have on offer, take a look at our Health and Wellbeing collection below. The selection covers topics such as managing stress, building resilience, and mindfulness to support you at work or while studying.

We also have a specially curated collection of Mood-Boosting Books recommended by the Reading Agency, which includes a range of novels, essays and poetry. You’ll find more of our fiction titles on the shelves under PN and PQ if you prefer to browse for yourself.

Click on either of the images below to browse these selections online, or use Hunter to for search for other available titles.

Wellbeing Books
A selection of books from SGUL Library on mindfulness, wellbeing, and managing stress.

Mood-Boosting Books
A collection of poetry, novels, essays and more, selected from a list suggested by the Reading Agency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might also like to explore our LGBT and Black History Month collections for more fiction titles, biographies, graphic novels and essays.

 

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Over the course of Libraries Week, we’ll be taking the opportunity to dip into our Archives and explore the history of St George’s Library. We’ll offer you an insight into St George’s Library of old, and explore the ways in which we’ve supported our users over time.

Keep an eye out for a series of blog posts next week where we’ll look at St George’s: Then and Now. We’d love to hear your thoughts, please feel free to share them with us on social media:

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Happy Libraries Week!

 


Inspired to explore other libraries? If you live in London, you’re spoilt for choice!

A top-tip for medical and healthcare students is to check out the Medical Museums website as several member museums have library and archive collections that are accessible to the public. Terms of use will vary, so make sure you check with the institution before you visit.

If you are local to Tooting, why not join your local library? See the Wandsworth Libraries website for a list of their locations.

 

AppSwap #04: Come and share an app – Weds 10 Feb at 10am

SGUL App Swap logoOur popular App Swap event is returning, giving students and staff the chance to come together to talk about apps that they like and use.

We’re delighted to have Dr Hamed Khan coming along to talk to us about Consult, a doctor’s reference app that he worked on with Univadis.

Here are some comments from our previous App Swap event in December where attendees came along to talk about ECG Genius, MedShr, OSCEasy and more:

“Very informative and thought provoking session”

“Engaging, learned a lot.”

“Thank you for a fantastic event. Thoroughly enjoyed it!”

When and where will it take place?

Time: Wednesday 10 February 10-11am

Location: John Parker Lecture Theatre, Atkinson Morley Wing

Who can join in?

All staff and students at St George’s and St George’s Trust staff who want to share or learn about apps.

Anatomy 4D on an iPad
Anatomy 4D on iPad

What kind of apps will be shared?

This depends on what attendees bring on the day. Previous apps that have been shared include: AIM, Anatomy 4D, RevisePsych, MedEdEthics, Forest: Stay Focused, The Genetics Counselling App, ManchEWS. Read our App Swap round up blog posts for more details.

Do I need to prepare a presentation?

No, the App Swap event is quite informal; just bring your own device along to show us the app you like.

How do I sign up?

Send an e-mail to kpang@sgul.ac.uk with the subject heading App Swap event. If you already have an app in mind, please mention the app. Places are limited to 15, so please book ahead.

Will there be refreshments?

Tea, coffee and water will be provided.

I can’t make the date but I’m interested in finding out about apps

We will be live-Tweeting the event from our @sgullibrary account using the hashtags #sgul #appswap and we’ll also archive the tweets in a Storify afterwards.

You can also visit our Mobile Resources Blog for app reviews.