As we build up to another AGM, the committee thought it would be good to post a blog about the group archive. And call it interesting.
As SLLG secretary you are also keeper of the SLLG archive.
When it is delivered to your office desk, it helps if you think of the archive as more than 4 lever-arch binders of group papers and couple of group publications (the Union List 2003 and Directory of Scots law libraries 1992) parcelled up in a storage cardboard box.
It helps because, otherwise, it is just an annoying box you need to keep pushing aside to get access to things behind it. But with just a touch of imagination, the SLLG archive becomes a precious and fragile annoying Ark of the Covenant you need to push about to access things behind.
The archive has passed through around 14 secretarial pairs of hands. With all those different methods of writing group business and the varying importance attached to archiving, it has – in truth – meant that records do vary in style and detail and existence.
And format: there is something already very ancient about feeling the glossy paper of the faxed messages.
To be blunt, a group for law librarians is never likely to contain documents which are exactly explosive. All-in-all, the group archive is pretty tinder dry fare.
Still, there is interest to be found in some nooks.
There’s behind-the-scenes work shown in developing the 1st SLLG conference in the early 1990s, so successful, there’s an abortive plan for a 2nd conference in the late 1990s. The groundwork and developments in establishing each update for the group website is retained. And, of course, the records pertaining to the inaugural meeting are kept.
INAUGURAL MEETING OF SLLG
“Four Scottish law librarians attending the 1987 BIALL conference in Aberystwyth got together and discussed the need for a group which took account of the legal system north of the border…” (printed in Scottish Academic Libraries News)
As we all know from our library history tutorials at university, the Scottish Law Librarians Group was formed at an Edinburgh gathering of 45 law librarians on the afternoon of Wednesday, 3rd February 1988.
The archive contains not only the agenda, minutes and list of attendees of this historic meeting, but also the preceding adverts sent to journals inviting interested people to attend.
The SLLG, we learn in the archive, was formed as a response to BIALL and the Library Association (now CILIP). Establishing a specialised group focusing on the materials and locating of Scots law for librarians was sensible. Both were proposing their own Scots Law information sub-group.
The belief of these four Scots law librarians was that a non-affiliate group founded in Scotland would be more desirable. It would be accessible to the many non-information professionals, non-members of BIALL and non-members of the Library Association who were in law firms and law schools employed in the use and dissemination of Scots law information.
BIALL gave the idea its support. They would pool resources provided this new group gave BIALL regular updates of activities, which was agreed. The Library Association offered a seat on their Special Interest committee for a member of the group, which was taken up.
At this first Scots law librarian meeting, a steering committee was put in place to construct a sustainable framework for the new group’s purpose. We have the original hand-written notes of some of the steering discussions as well as the outcome.
The steering committee retained the suggested name: Scottish Law Librarians Group. It set out that the group would be non-profit, though sustained administratively through modest subscription. It placed emphasis for the group to “embrace everyone with an interest in legal information” and to “support and strengthen the network of libraries handling legal information”. It set to work on a constitution, too, to be ratified in 1991.
With this foundation, the SLLG began with an annual personal membership of £5 and a commitment for 2 meetings per year (preferably on either a Tuesday or Thursday from 2pm with a set structure of: speaker, group business and “mixing”).
Although we no longer quite look at 2pm on a Tuesday as the ideal time to hold SLLG events, I think the members of 1988 would easily recognise the group in 2016.
OTHER PARTS OF THE ARCHIVE
It’s fair to say the archive lacks a lot of the flavour we know is in the SLLG. There are no photos or anecdotes. We have to look to the issues of the ceased SLLG Newsletter (sadly missing a few early issues) and now to this blog, for anything less than a recorded formal tone.
The archive is made up vastly of committee papers and officer reports with one or two supplementary or explanatory documents to which some part of other papers refer.
However, despite gaps in the narrative, the odd dislocated email printout without an explanation and the occasional entirely missing record of an event, the enthusiasm for the group as a supportive venture is always present.
Whether it is confirmation of group members willing to take leading roles in training or organising an event, or the different ways each committee looks to create the best group possible for members at any time: the archive documents it.
And that is a comforting continuity.
Indeed, with it mainly containing committee minutes, the archive reveals all aspects SLLG committees will continue to recognise into the future.
Time and again similar questions arise for the committee:
- How to engage members?
- How to give members a group of tailored learning and networking possibilities with value?
- How to promote the skills of the membership and give members confidence?
- How to promote the SLLG to prospective new members?
- And yes: how on earth to get people to join the committee?!
It is possible to see what solutions have been put forward: training, social events, multi-platforms for networking… and how they have evolved with the changing times. Though no one has quite bettered the old trusty “surprise press-ganging at an event” technique for new committee members.
So too, is it possible to see the actions of the committee when they are drawn into action on behalf of the membership. Politely persistent letters written with awkward questions to publishers and online service reps are held for prosperity.
And when the committee has been required to navigate the few group controversies and fractious situations involving members? Well, the archive shows that they have been dealt with sensitively and satisfactorily (the names and specifics redacted, of course).
Overall, this box of papers is a collage of the worries and successes of the SLLG. It contains bony details of hard work by like-minded individuals to help one another professionally over the past 25 years and longer. And it still does. Even though some of it has changed from glossy fax paper to HD screen.
Only this month in fact – linking us suitably back to 1988 for a post about archives – the SLLG committee is readying a publicity advert in the Avizandum catalogue inviting interested people to join us. And it too will be added to the archive.
The next phases of managing the archive are currently in development. The committee intends sorting it into a more coherent content order. It will also be checked for data protection conformity. After this, the intention is to duplicate it electronically for added preservation.
The committee has scanned in some of the papers involving the first meeting already:
SLLG papers relating to the 1st meeting of the group
Combined with all this is the will to create meaningful statistics from the information it holds. Membership figures and event types and frequencies should be able to put the archive to better use when making decisions.
The Secretary would love to hear from you!
If you were on the committee and have papers, knowledge of who was an office bearer during your time or anything at all connected with SLLG business which you’d be willing to add to the archive to help complete our history, please talk to the secretary about what gaps we have.
If you are a member and have photos or stories of your time in the SLLG to share on our blog, please get in touch – we would love to post these memories here.