Our emersion in the old has been replaced by more hasty acquaintances with a medley of newer, recent and even alternative ‘books’.
Our first reaction, that we would be able to get through them a lot quicker, was only partly true.
The CDs and videos hardly needed cleaning and there were no quirks to catalogue. Some of the other books, however, were soon grabbing our attention and changing our minds.
Small volumes from the beginning of the 19 and 20 centuries, with a focus on documenting Churches, their contents and their geography were just as fascinating as the modern day volumes with their focus on people, occasionally even people we knew. Compared to the elaborate bindings of our earlier selection, these often simple paper and card covered volumes were much less effort to assess, clean and measure.
We plough through a lot of self-published sermons, pamphlets on parish activities and local history research. We can’t resist delving into volumes with clear provenance – a subject we are late in appreciating the value of.
We become engrossed in bookplates, stamps and labels. We ponder handwritten inscriptions, discover exchanges and marginalia, and loving messages from great aunts.
We speculate on the physical journeys some of the books may have been on, on their way to becoming part of the Sarum College library.
I am surprised by a note in one of the books explaining that this is a reprint in a larger font. The original font size, in volumes published for schools, was not considered large enough for adult readers…
Our volunteer team expands and new people bring new interests to the project as well as encouraging us to reread our instruction manuals and keep our skills relevant.
I learn about technical terms like sagging text blocks and distorted corners. In amongst the new books, beautiful old volumes with leather bindings do still occur and I confess to enjoying their appearance and their handle – even when their contents lack any real interest.
As the project progresses, we become more aware of the sense of community within Sarum College. We feel ourselves valued, not just by the librarians, but by other staff, other volunteers. Being a volunteer brings with it a social responsibility to others as well as the delight of feeling oneself included in the team.