Jayne Cardew, Senior Library and Information Assistant at Falmouth Library and Falmouth Information Service describes her visit to the Plymouth Medical Society Historic Collection at Derriford Hospital:
“As a recently joined member of CILIP and recently enrolled candidate for Chartership this was my first foray into visiting a completely different setting to the public library I work in. After nervously booking the visit I was relieved when the day arrived and having caught the train to Plymouth successfully met up with my lift to Derriford Hospital’s Discovery Library where the collection is held.
The first part of our visit to the historic collection was a comprehensive introduction to how the Discovery Library came to be in its current home, the trials and tribulations of fund raising and the innovative way that the library itself was designed using local designers and artists.
The next part of the visit was about the collection itself and how the Plymouth Medical Society founded in 1794 by a group of local physicians bought texts that they shared between themselves to develop their knowledge and skills, medical text books being very expensive at the time. Most of the books are from the 19th century but it does include earlier works pre-dating the society
Predating the ever increasingly used Google as a source of information the books included diagrams and plates containing the most fabulously detailed drawings of the body beneath the skin. One of the most interesting, from a local point of view, was the fact that Edward Jenner was introduced to the word “vaccination” by local doctor Richard Dudding, while Jenner himself was working on a cure for smallpox.
Though there were only 4 of us making the visit the added benefit was talking to other librarians working in different settings having reached their roles via different routes. On the whole a most enjoyable and educational visit.”
Chris Gower from Exeter College also reports on the day:
“I had the pleasure of visiting The Discovery Library at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth and the Plymouth Medical Society Historic Collection that is housed there with CILIP South West on the 9th February.
We had two really informative talks from Sarah Johns, Library Manager and Tom Arnold, one of the seniors who looks after the collection before getting to meet some items from their secure storage area.
The Discovery Library
This is a library with many hats – it is not just a service to help clinicians make evidence based decisions with the latest information in print and electronically, but it is also an academic library with a user base of students and learners, some returning to formal education after a while, to post graduate level students.
It also houses the Medical Society Historic Collection and is an important destination for researchers and students alike who wish to examine some of the valuable items.
The current library is the result of hard work of Library Services Manager Sarah Johns and her team. Sarah was fundamental in the development and realisation of a new library service for Derriford, overseeing the move from the cramped conditions on Level 7 to a new spacious purpose built space on Level 5 in 2006.
Funding for the current library space was gained from various sources including the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit, a generous bequest from Donald Johnson, The Kirby Laing Foundation and a Heritage grant from the National Lottery; the bulk of the funding for the new library came from Peninsular College of Medicine and Dentistry. It was opened by Sir Ranulph Fiennes on the 21st August 2007.
Library staff had input into the design of the library. The journal shelves were designed and built by a high-end shopfitting company, the library desk and certain fittings were designed and built by local artists, creating unique feature fittings that conveyed the character of the room.
The core customer base comes from Plymouth NHS Trust hospitals, local GP services and the South Western NHS Ambulance Trust.
Strategically the service is guided by ‘Knowledge for Healthcare: a development framework’, published in 2015 which drives the current library strategy. It receives operational funding from Health Education England and the Plymouth NHS Trust.
The Plymouth Medical Society Historic Collection
The library curates and administers this collection on behalf of the Plymouth Medical Society. The collection contains lecture notes; minutes of society meetings; detailed engravings and detailed medical publications. It was collated and collected to be used as a resource for the whole society.
The society itself was established in 1794 and is the seventh oldest of its type in the UK. There are around 400 items dating from the late 1600’s.
The main aims of the project were to ensure its preservation and to allow access to the local community and beyond. Preservation can include many different areas, not just about the physical safety of the collection – examples of best practice were consulted including the National Library of Australia and standards such as BS5454 and guidelines from the National Preservation Office.
Secure Storage –
Secure storage was created to house the collection away from daylight. Although not temperature controlled, the area is a vast improvement to the conditions that the collection had been stored in before. During our visit we did not see the storage area, but Tom gave us information about it.
Monitored access –
Within the library itself, a camera monitored area was created near to the desk where visitors could view and make use of books selected by them. Visitors are encouraged to book an appointment ahead of time so that the necessary items can be prepared and to ensure appropriate members of staff are available to assist.
There is a permanent display of select items from the collection in display cabinets near to the issue desk with information about the displayed items and the collection for visitors to read. This gives the collection visibility and context to interested users.
For the first time in its history, the collection is fully accessible electronically and physically. The items were catalogued and digitised for greater access. www.plymouthmedicalhistory.org.uk was set-up to allow remote electronic access to the collection via a hosted secure gallery of images.
Collection management policies were created. This codified the remit of the collection in terms of new acquisitions, and provided guidance on disposal of items that might be beyond feasible repair. Terms and Conditions were drawn up too which set out expectations of the user whilst physically using the collection, especially for users who were not staff members.
When the library acquired the collection, there were many volumes that were in bad condition. A few were beyond repair. This was an important part of the project and was undertaken by professional conservators.
After our talks we were able to get our hands on some really amazing examples from the collection. The engravings, the eye to detail and craftmanship made us realise what utter treasures these items were. Sarah and her team made us feel very welcome throughout our visit.
Thank you to Valerie, Tom, Sarah and her team for a really amazing day.”
Below are images collected on the visit of some of the most amazing illustrations: