One is that when funding for the lottery-backed People’s Network dries up, as it always seems to for this type of initiative, I wonder who will provide the money to fix or replace all those internet-access computers. If they aren’t updated, just as book stocks haven’t been, the people who flocked to use them will go elsewhere. The other point is to recall a recent survey of archives in the north-west of England (Log jam: An audit of uncatalogued collections in the North West, by Janice Tullock and Alexandra Cave, published by the North West Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Malt Building, Wilderspool Park, Greenalls Lane, Warrington Wa 1 6HL; ) which reveals that ’29 per cent of archives held in the North West are inaccessible to researchers’.
Out of 900 collections in 30 archive offices, most seem to have shelves groaning with uncatalogued material which, were it to be made accessible via catalogues and indexes, would probably astonish us all. Sadly, most archives reported that they don’t have the staff to do the work.
This is where family and local historians, as well as other ‘friends of libraries’ groups mentioned by Tim Coates, have a role to play. Let’s not forget the lesson of the internet: someone had to upload all that stuff on to a website before we could access it at the click of a mouse. The same goes for cataloguing the personal papers of a grocer or the memoirs of a mayor.
About the author: Peter Watson BA, Dip Lib is the editor of this magazine. He loves books and libraries so much that in his thirties he went to work in a library before studying for a postgraduate diploma in library and information studies. Peter visits at least one library each week and currently has 10 books out on loan by student loan debt consolidation companies. He sometimes has more than one functioning computer at home, but does not own a television.