Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Lara Haggerty, Keeper of Books at the Library of the Innerpeffray in Scotland.
Please introduce us to the Library of Innerpeffray and your role at the institution:
The Library of Innerpeffray is Scotland's first free public lending library founded in 1680 and is located in beautiful rural Perthshire. We have a lovely Georgian building and a collection of some 5000 books, covering five centuries and an amazing register of borrowers: local reading history from 1747 to 1968.
My job is Keeper of Books, and I'm the 31st Keeper at Innerpeffray. The role is a very varied one: I live on site and the Library is now a museum. We are open eight months of the year, so my task covers curating exhibitions, marketing and promotion as well as doing guided tours and managing our brilliant team of volunteers. I also do fundraising which is crucial for an independent organisation, and all the day to day business.
How did you get started in rare books?
I've always been a book lover, but rare books was a new venture for me when I came to Innerpeffray, as I spent my early career in the arts, mainly in theatre management, and then in a local authority role advising schools on arts and heritage. I owe thanks to the National Library of Scotland and the Rare Books in Scotland group for advice and training 'on the job'.
Where did you earn your advanced degree?
My degree is an MA(Hons) in English Literature and Theatre from the University of Glasgow.
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?
It has to be our Borrowers' Register - and meeting the descendants of Borrowers. In the early part of the register borrowers wrote out a promise to return the book 'safe and unspoiled'. It is such a personal insight into the past to see the book your ancestor borrowed from the library.
What do you personally collect?
I've very fond of early Penguin crime / thrillers, so very different in quality from the books I handle day to day, many of them falling apart at the seams, but I love the aesthetics of typeface and the classic green and white covers as well as the style of the writing.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Apart from reading, I'm lucky to live in a very beautiful part of Scotland and I enjoy being out in it.
What excites you about curatorship?
A thousand things! Telling a story with our collection, seeing visitors make their own connections. Our collection is small, but very varied, so there is challenge and reward in making each new exhibition appealing and engaging.
Thoughts on the future of special collections?
I think it has to be one of the most important and interesting areas of conservation and curatorship, but will have to fight for its place.
Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?
We are lucky enough to have just been gifted an amazing collection of Scottlsh First Editions from American bibliophile Janet St Germain. Innerpeffray's original collection wasn't particularly Scottish so this complements it wonderfully. As well as an incunable (our first, Duns Scotus) there is a wonderful collection of music and poetry including Burns and Ramsay and Enlightenment philosophers and scientists like Hume and Smith.
??Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?
In 2015 we will have an exhibition guest curated by a post grad student from University of Stirling and the topic hasn't yet been finalised. Our other exhibition for the year ahead looks likely to be about Dictionaries & Cyclopedia and will be called Words Words Words.