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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

On the road

I had a fascinating time today at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth looking at their digitisation project, which aims to put journals and newspapers from the nineteenth century on-line.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the view of Aberystwyth from the Library front entrance was stunning. The Library itself is a remarkable asset and whilst I was there I deposited a fullish set of Welsh Liberal Democrat Group minutes going back to day one of the Assembly with the political archive.

The Library gets about 100,000 visitors each year but is increasingly using the web to make its archive accessible. The Library also archives an increasing amount of electronic material as well, including this blog and has plans to increase that activity. It is an intriquing mix of modern and old.
I think Swansea Central library is a better candidate to be National library of Wales.
Does the Aberystwyth version lend to the public? Can members of public just walk in and read a book? No to both
Glasgows mitchell library has created a large lending library .
Maybe WAG could do the same in Aber
or maybe we should rename it
'National Reference library of Wales'
Yes, the Library's electronic resources are phenomenal. There are still some nasty political edge cases. For instance, the Library has digitized most of the volumes of the Welsh History Review, apart from those from the last few years, which the publicly-owned University of Wales Press has managed to hide from members of the Library by a scandalous deal with IngentaConnect (which is Latin for something like "monstrosity"). We simply cannot afford to have other public institutions of learning working against the good work the National Library is doing like this.
Jacj, yes the library is open to members to the public though as it is an archive and reference library it does not lend out. A member of the public is able to walk in and use the reading rooms to read books, archive material and historical documents without notice though obviously if they do give notice they get served quicker. The electronic access is to avoid people going to Aberystwyth if necessary but there are obstacles with copyright law. There are of course lending libaries all over Wales.
Peter - glad you had an enjoyable and informative time at the National Library and thanks for your kind words.

To answer Jack's comments, the remit of the National Library is slightly different to that of a public library and so although we welcome the public to become readers we also have a strong conservation and archive part of our job which public library's don't.

Please feel free to visit the Library and become a reader but also to enjoy our exhibitions and events. To name a few coming up: evenings with Roy Hattersley, Nick Barratt, Owen Sheers, Matthew Rhys, Jan Morris, Bethan Gwanas, Lens photo festival and the annual Welsh Political Archive lecture with Hywel Francis MP.


For a very interesting, Swanseacentric archive here's the early photography in Swansea microsite:


Peter, sorry for the shameless plug for the Library!

Siôn Jobbins

PS - Swansea was briefly considered as a location for a National Library of Wales in the 1860s as the town began looking to expand it's provision. Had the local council been more ambitious the National Library could well have been located there.
Exactly Mr. Commissioner..I have been to it

But I think it is silly that it should be called the 'National library of Wales' when one cannot take a book out, its rather an elitist place, not a place of the people
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