This blog aims to inform about the activities of the European Collections and Cataloguing Department of Cambridge University Library (ECC), and also those of all libraries in Cambridge inasmuch as their collecting relates to European languages.
The team of librarians in ECC are the curators of the Library’s collections of European-language material. We have sole responsibility for post-1900 titles, and share responsibility for antiquarian material with colleagues in Special Collections. The languages on which we focus are those taught by the University – Catalan, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian. Material in other European languages is currently acquired in minimal quantities, but the Library holds strong historical collections in many other European languages, and management of these is also part of our remit.
The word “European” in our name refers to the geographical origins of the languages we cover, not to the geographical scope of the countries we represent in our acquisitions. ECC also handle material from all countries where the languages of Europe are spoken – Latin America, the Caribbean, French-speaking Canada, French- and Portuguese-speaking Africa.
In theory, we deal strictly with material in European languages, with responsibility for English-language materials relating to our parts of the world sitting with our counterparts in English Collections. This contrasts with the organisation in many other libraries, where area specialists work on all material relating to their area regardless of language. In practice, however, we do of course take a keen interest and often an active part in the acquisition of English-language material. The idea that our users deal with one set of people if they are interested in books about Russia in Russian, and a different set of people if they are also interested in books about Russia in English, is not a distinction we would ever wish to insist upon. English-language titles will feature regularly in our posts.
We are a team of 13 people, 6 of whom work only part-time. We are from a wide range of nationalities – American, Argentinian, Macau Chinese, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish as well as British – so we have a wide range of experience and expertise to bring to our roles as book selectors, cataloguers and library curators. Input and advice from our users nevertheless remain critically important in order to ensure that our collections represent current research needs. The door to our office on South Wing 1 is unlocked during normal working hours, and visitors are very welcome.
We hope that the posts on the European Collections blog will give insights to readers near and far into the extraordinarily diverse range of Cambridge’s European-language materials. Some will feature notable new acquisitions, but others will be devoted to our historical collections, teasing out links and complexities in the material which are not revealed by single catalogue entries. We are particularly eager to emphasise ways in which our collections are unique and distinctive, and to pay proper tribute to those who have donated materials to the Library over the past 200 years. And of course we will also increasingly be looking at the Library’s fast-expanding collection of digital material.