Archive Stocktake 2012: Tackling the ‘philatelic library’

One of the key tasks I was involved in during our recent stocktake was working on rationalising one of our library collections.

When the National Postal Museum merged with the Post Office Archives in the late 1990s, it bought its own library collection. This collection was boxed up and placed in our repository, since then little work has been done to make this material accessible.

A member of staff checking library duplicates

A member of staff checking library duplicates

In January 2011, during our last stocktake, these boxes were listed. This enabled us to get an idea of exactly what material was there, and plan how best to deal with it in future. As a result of this exercise a large number of duplicate publications were identified within this collection. These have been removed and disposed of over the past year.

During this year’s stocktake, the task was to identify material in the ‘philatelic library’ (the old National Postal Museum Library) which duplicated material held in our existing Search Room library, or in The Royal Mail Archive. This material has also been disposed of.

This task has a number of benefits. It has created space in our repository area, something which is always at a premium. It has also helped us gain more of an understanding of the ‘philatelic library’ and how it relates to our other holdings.

Sorting the staff reference library

Sorting the staff reference library

Over the next year we will review the remaining material in the ‘philatelic material’ to ensure that it remains relevant for our users. Ultimately we hope to fully integrate this material into our Search Room library and make it accessible via our online catalogue. The work during our recent stocktake was one step towards this.

Stocktake is now over and the Search Room reopened to the public on 28 May, and significant progress was made during stocktake in a number of key areas. These have included the removal of duplicate material across a number of collections (including our own in house filing systems), rehousing photographic material to archival standards, ensuring that records are transferred to appropriate repositories, and auditing the second review files. Some tasks are simply too big to complete in a fortnight, but a concerted burst of attention on these activities can help lay the groundwork for ongoing work over the coming months. All tasks have contributed to getting the collections in good condition to move to our new postal museum, and many will also be of benefit to our users in the shorter term. We appreciate the inconvenience that this closure causes, but hope that these blog posts have provided some insight into why it is necessary. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our users for their patience over the last couple of weeks.

Helen Dafter – Archivist

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