From the Library

Rosie Austin, Librarian

How to introduce the story of Homerton Library in 2023? Once upon a time? However, life is not a fairy tale. It’s very clear that, on reflection, the common thread woven through this year’s tale is that people and their stories inspire change and help shape our community at Homerton College in the most impactful way, especially when it comes to the wellbeing of Homerton staff and students.

Rosie Austin
Rosie Austin

Our year began with the recruitment of Rebecca Le Marchand to the library team as Deputy Librarian, with her extensive knowledge of children’s literature and excellent customer service skills, she is always seen smiling from the enquiry desk. Her passion for student welfare has seen the introduction of new initiatives using our children’s literature to help students pause, reflect, and take a study break. The new books stand has promoted the 1,011 books diligently purchased by Alys Butler (Acquisitions Librarian), from reading lists and student recommendations. In March, we said a sad farewell to Gabriel Duckels (Library Assistant) as he left to concentrate on his Phd., though the team are now pleased to be able to address him as Dr Duckels!

With the encouragement of the Directors of Studies, the start of Michaelmas term saw the library team welcoming all Freshers students into the library for dedicated subject specific inductions. In person inductions allowed the library team to share the best ways for undergraduate and postgraduate students to navigate new library services and facilities. Bespoke welcome tours were also run in conjunction with University Library Reader Services for any Homerton student who wanted to venture to the University Library but were anxious about going alone. The library team are always happy to answer any library related questions in person or via email- there is no such thing as a silly question!

The Library has been pleased to host a variety of specially curated exhibitions; with visual highlights being posted online (see our tours on Instagram). In April, our exhibition ‘Here be dragons!’, curated by all the library team in conjunction with the Philippa Pearce Lecture, explored the symbolism of dragons in literature and science. Inspired by legendary author Cressida Cowell’s How to Train your Dragon series, visitors added an appropriately fiery word to our handcrafted dragon! In September, Homerton Library presented a new exhibition of Animal Monsters and Deities in the Chinese Children’s Literature Tradition, curated by Yan (Zoe) Du and Julia Jin Wang, PhD students from the Centre for Research in Children’s Literature based at Homerton College and the Faculty of Education. Items displayed include contemporary middle grade Chinese books from the Homerton collection alongside picture books, web novels, graphic novels, and figurines. With special thanks for the professional guidance from Dr Yan He (Head of Chinese Section, UL) and for the generous loan of material from The Whipple Library collection. We would be very keen to collaborate with other Postgraduate students on future exhibitions and allow them the opportunity to share their research.

Despite our limited exhibition space in College, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) have allowed us to share the visual delights of our rare book collection with a wider audience; especially with our regular ‘Tuesday Treasures’ feature. Work continues in completing the cataloguing of the Lealan Collection of approximately 7,500 boys’ and girls’ annuals from 1845 to the early 2000s which is stored both on and off site.  A significant milestone was reached earlier this month as James Brigden (Rare Book Cataloguer) finished cataloguing Mr John Ball’s donation of over 300 remarkable rare books.  The collection reflects John’s professional background in education at Homerton College as well as his interests in art and literature. Featuring material from 1748 onwards, it includes academic books on education, works of children’s literature, school textbooks, and material aimed at teachers. This collection is now fully searchable online through iDiscover, the University of Cambridge library catalogue. The John Ball Collection has already attracted a great deal of attention from our current MPhil Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature students who are investigating rare book material and archival practices for their first assessed work. As ever, we are so grateful for our recent donations from alumni who have contributed greatly to the development of our rare book collection over the years. Why not follow us on social media and join the conversation?

Margaret Sharp
Margaret Sharp was in Cambridge 1954-56, and visited us from Australia

The Archive team were happy to welcome Margaret Sharp to the Homerton Archive for the first time since her graduation in 1956. She came all the way from Australia bearing gifts: a collection of documents, lecture notes, photographs, and a scrap album that she kept while in Cambridge in 1954-56. What a treasure-trove of information! Concert, theatre, and sporting events programs, lists of lectures and college ball invitations, university societies term cards and exeats – permissions to leave college grounds. Margaret stayed in college for three days exploring the gardens, old and new buildings, chatting to students in the new dining hall over supper. She had a chance to read her old school practice reports in the archive and record some of her reminiscences. Now back in Australia, Margaret is planning to write her memoirs, rejuvenated by her Homerton visit. She would like to hear from anyone who was at Homerton at the same time as her.

Margaret Sharp

The Archive team were happy to welcome Margaret Sharp to the Homerton Archive for the first time since her graduation in 1956. She came all the way from Australia bearing gifts: a collection of documents, lecture notes, photographs, and a scrap album that she kept while in Cambridge in 1954-56. What a treasure-trove of information!

Margaret Sharp (1956)

Now in its second year, work continues with the Homerton Archives cataloguing project. The goal is the preservation of Homerton’s institutional memory for years to come by cataloguing the College’s most precious administrative and financial records. The Archive team have also been busy uncovering stories from the lives of former students through new donations. These stories are destined to be part of our new catalogue. So far, hundreds of records have been posted to the University-wide ArchiveSpace database. This allows researchers and curious individuals to browse a part of Homerton’s history. You can find a link to this project and other news about us on the new Homerton Archive webpage.

As we look forward to 2024, we are excited at the prospect of recruiting a Library Assistant to join our friendly and professional team and the new services we can offer when we are fully staffed. Projects with Changemakers and the Libraries Accessibility Team are also at the initial stage of development which, we hope, will reinvigorate our conversations and inspire long term change within our Homerton community and beyond.