Collections and Academic Liaison (CAL): the new face of European Collections and Cataloguing

At the beginning of July the European Collections and Cataloguing Department, the team responsible for the European languages across borders blog since its inception in November 2013, joined with the English Collections Department to create a new department called Collections and Academic Liaison (CAL).  It is pure coincidence, but slightly unfortunate timing, that the removal of the word European from our name coincided with the Brexit referendum.  Our commitment to developing the Library’s collections of European-language material and, through this blog, celebrating these and similar collections throughout the University of Cambridge remains as strong as ever.

Images from various posts published on this blog

In the very first post on the European languages across borders blog, I wrote about the work of European Collections and Cataloguing Department, covering the ambiguity of the word “European” in our title (we deal with languages of a European origin, buying from five continents and not one) and also about the division of responsibility here for the acquisition of European-language and English-language material.  Readers who have actively engaged in University Library acquisitions, primarily through donations and book recommendations, will most likely have found themselves dealing with one set of staff for English material and another for foreign material.

As the head of the new CAL department, it is obvious to me that the bringing together of the European and English strands offers significant opportunities to bring the two former departments out of their strict silos and into a more flexible way of working.  Uppermost in our concerns is the reader.  The internal set-up of the Library would not matter to him or her if the right books were acquired promptly, but we are confident that this new structure will help us ensure that our collections meet the needs of the University even more effectively.

It is impossible to say at this early stage precisely how the creation of the new department will be used to improve our services and our readers’ experience of them. A crucial staff appointment, however, has recently been made, with Rebecca Gower due to join us in September as the new English selector. Once Rebecca is in place, we will be able to discuss more practically the options available to us.  In many respects, it has always been a weakness that the University Library lacks subject specialists with responsibility being apportioned strictly according to the language of the material.  But while the European language specialists could possibly take on a more area specialist role, how could one English selector cover all other subjects with anything approaching expertise? Here the involvement of the faculty and departmental librarians becomes a clear priority. Forging relationships across the University as well as in the UL will be crucial for Rebecca.

Within CAL, Rebecca will lead one of two teams which formerly made up the English Collections Department.  Each team has two members.  At the moment, the English selector’s assistant is Kasia Drabek but by the time Rebecca starts at the Library, Kasia will have moved on to take up the position of Slavonic and Linguistics Senior Library Assistant at the Modern and Medieval Languages Library.  Their gain is very much our loss, although the CAL Slavonic specialist is delighted at the prospect of working with Kasia in her new role!  We hope to be able to advertise for Kasia’s replacement very soon.

The other team is led by Jayne Kelly, and its focus is on ebooks.  Readers of this post will not be surprised, I am sure, to know that ebooks now make up a significant proportion of bought English material.   The purchases of the ebooks team are of course not location-specific – the material is bought to be accessed online by the readers of all Cambridge libraries and payment for purchases is made from a budget to which all these libraries contribute.  Jayne and her colleague Lindsay Jones arrange the purchase of ebook bundles and individual titles, work on the catalogue records for these books, troubleshoot ebook access problems, and provide training about ebook use across Cambridge to librarians and readers alike.  Jayne works already with the German, Hispanic, and Italian specialists on the ebook packages they subscribe to, and we are delighted to be working with her and Lindsay now more formally.  The ebooks team brings to CAL not only a huge amount of expertise but also another blog: https://ebookscambridge.wordpress.com/  They use their blog to publicise new acquisitions, and it is well worth following for any University Library readers.

DKL blog

The front page of the ebooks blog

It has been a fascinating few weeks for me, getting to grips with the work of our new English colleagues, and I look forward to writing more blogposts in the forthcoming months about my discoveries and the combined work of CAL.

David Lowe

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