University of Exeter hosts 21st Century Library Workshop event with a focus on regional archives

On 3 April, the University of Exeter hosted a 21st Century Library Workshop with representatives from regional and cathedral archives, with a view to finding new ways of collaborating, sharing resources and co-creating projects.

The 21st Century Library initiative is part of the University’s research and impact strategy plan (2016-2021), which aims to enhance research resources for academic staff and PhD students in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The meeting, organised jointly by Professor Jane Whittle (academic lead of 21st Century Library) and Nicola Nuttall (Heritage Lead in IIB), was held to strengthen links with local archives and historic libraries that hold unique and significant research resources. It was attended by representatives from the South West Heritage Trust (Devon and Somerset County Archives), the Dorset History Centre (Dorset County Archives), the National Archives south-west development office, Exeter Cathedral and Gloucester Cathedral. Constructive discussions resulted in a list of ways the University and local archives and historic libraries could help each other in achieving their goals. In particular the representatives of the archives and libraries suggested the University could assist in raising the profile of their collections with staff and students; while University staff and students could provide assistance in improving access to collections, both by interpreting collections for a wider audience and for future users, and by undertaking research on how to improve use of heritage collections.

There was also strong interest in co-creating projects to attract funding from other bodies. Volunteers and interns to assist on existing projects and initiatives in the archives were particularly welcome. The 21st Century Library group will now seek ways of raising the profile of local archives and historic libraries, aiming to increase knowledge of these collections amongst staff and prospective PhD students.