Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu


A Day in the Life of a 'SCOLAR'

SCOLAR team (left to right): Lisa, Peter, Alison

'SCOLAR' is the 'Special Collections and Archives' section of Cardiff University Library: it functions to assist staff's original research, enhance student learning, promote the University's academic reputation, and attract external grants, and scholars to Cardiff. 

Its staff are (left to right): Lisa Webley (part-time), Peter Keelan and Alison Harvey.


Peter describes a day in the life of SCOLAR:

9am opening up | 9.30am biographical searches | 10am digital scanning | 10.30am diaries and diseases! | 11am University records11.30am back to work! | 12pm lunch | 12.30pm historical images | 12.45pm digital copies | 1pm illustrated newspapers | 1.30pm rare almanacks |
2pm ballads | 2.30pm Wikipedia - 0 SCOLAR - 1 | 3pm government documents | 3.30pm exhibitions in SCOLAR and on the web | 4pm trouble-shooting | 4.30pm back to work again! | 5pm close down | 5.30pm reflections on the day

Peter opening up at the start of the day

9am - Opening up

Open SCOLAR's research room, seminar and microfilm rooms, start PCs, online catalogue, photocopier and microfilm reader machines. 

Deal with emails, including booking a meeting with Subject Librarians and European Studies academics, to discuss further use of our U.N. collections for international politics modules; we are one of the few UK university depository libraries for U.N. source documents. 

Start work on my notes for a lecture in a couple of weeks to School of English students, about our historical collections of texts including prints and illustrations. One member of staff short today in SCOLAR, so down from three to two staff.


9.30am - Biographical searches

History Professor is looking for biographical details on a 19th century Lord from south Wales for a journal article he is writing. Nothing on online catalogues of University or Glamorgan Record Office. Check some 19th century Welsh books and get background details. Find an obituary in the Times Digital Archive newspaper. He will check for more sources tomorrow.


Alison using the digital scanner

10am - Digital scanning

Social science student arrives to use a loan microfilm from the British Library on our microfilm digital scanner. Spend five minutes showing her how to take digital scans of pages on the microfilm, and save them on her USB memory stick; we believe this is the only publicly accessible microfilm scanner in south Wales. 

(SCOLAR successfully bid for Library capital funds 18 months ago to purchase this equipment, following many requests from users).



10.30am - Diaries and diseases!

Two history students arrive looking for 'original' (i.e. 'contemporaneous') 19th century source materials, for their independent study module dissertations. One is looking at women and sport in the Victorian period, and the other is looking at the context of diseases in the 19th century. 

We scan the SCOLAR Library Research Collections chart and see listed a couple of microfilm collections that include 19th century women’s diaries, and set up our second (non-digital) microfilm reader for her to scan and print these documents. (SCOLAR successfully bid for University learning support funds last year, in order to disseminate copies of the Research Collections chart to all Libraries and academic School notice boards on campus). Along with some books traced from the Library catalogue which have further potential for research, this seems OK. Also mention a database with possible selected digitised source documents on this topic.  

The next step is to recommend she visits the Glamorgan Record Office, which holds the 19th century archives of the University's women's hall of residence.


Peter browsing the history of medicine collection

For the other student we need 19th century medical diseases sources; we turn to SCOLAR's medical rare books collection - which is not yet catalogued. (SCOLAR organized its transfer here this year, to integrate it with our other historical medical related sources. We are working with the School of History to obtain grant funds for its cataloguing). 

My Assistant spends 20 minutes with the student, looking at likely sections of the collection, and locates half a dozen 19th century items of interest.


11am - University records

A project worker, researching the history of the Lifelong Learning department (LEARN) for next year's University 125th anniversary, visits to use some of the 19th and 20th century University archival minute books for this department. SCOLAR liaises regularly with the University Records Manager, to allow access to the University's archives, under supervision, in SCOLAR's Research Room.


11.30am - Back to work!

Back to the lecture notes, before a half hour lunch break at noon.


Alison covering lunch

12pm - Lunch

My Assistant in SCOLAR takes over during lunch. She has been processing a set of donations of 100 volumes of 19th century Eisteddfod publications. We will use some of these in an exhibition next year, when the National Eisteddfod visits Cardiff, to promote our Welsh research collections to potential future students visiting the city for the Eisteddfod. Brief chat over lunch with a Library colleague, about possible external grant bids for funds to catalogue some of our recent historical donations online.



12.30pm - Historical images

A lecturer from the University at Newport visits to check for some historical illustrations, for the University of Wales Press' multi-volume official Gwent County History. SCOLAR will provide about 20 digital images to appear in the volume, with acknowledgement to Cardiff University Library as their source; good PR! (SCOLAR has particularly good collections of historical images, ranging from the 17th to the 20th century).


12.45pm - Digital copies

A mature student from Lampeter arrives; she has booked to use an early 19th century book on agriculture for her thesis. Spends the afternoon reading that, and requests a digital copy of a map from the book; we take her email details, and will invoice her and send the digital image within the week. The Library Graphic Services section is next to SCOLAR, and has a digital studio, funded from a joint digitisation project we did with them several years ago; they will do the work for us.


A selection of Illustrated London News volumes

1pm - Illustrated newspapers

A student from the School of English pops in, to browse through an 1840s newspaper volume of the Illustrated London News for her course work; she stays until we close at about 5pm. (She will be one of the students I will lecture to in a couple of weeks, on our other illustrated sources!)


1.30pm - Rare almanacks

Academic from the School of Welsh visits to continue her research on our 'almanacks' collections (these date mainly from the 1700s to the early 1900s). She is about half way through the collection by now, and has discovered some probable ‘forged’ publication details, which printers used to avoid taxes in earlier centuries! She has also identified a few rare 'anonymous' works in some recent donations.


2pm - Ballads

External visitor pops in to check a couple of literary sources. Discovers that one of our ballads, dated early 1800s on the Voyager catalogue, is wrong, since a place name appears in the ballad’s verse which did not exist as such before 1862; we need to discuss this with our Cataloguers, and get the Voyager record updated.


Early printed source contradicts Wikipedia

2.30pm - Wikipedia 0 - SCOLAR 1

Student request for help using Voyager to find something in SCOLAR. Also an enquiry about the date of the first 'Aldermaston protests' – a quick check on Wikipedia gives the date of the first march from London in 1958, but an older printed source in SCOLAR has a photograph of an earlier 'protest' in 1952.




3pm - Government documents

Another student request, for source materials on  British – Malaysian links and history in the early – mid twentieth century. Various government and legal historical sources checked, both print and online, with little success. Very 'esoteric' subject, so he needed to choose between either altering his chosen dissertation topic, or visiting other libraries for source materials.


1880s: Handwritten front cover of 1885 issue of University College Magazine

3.30pm - Exhibitions in SCOLAR and on the web

Time for a coffee, but too busy to get away! 

Another researcher wants an 18th century religious tract, a straightforward Voyager search locates the item, and it is easily retrieved from the rare books stack. A couple of students pop in to look at the latest SCOLAR exhibition, based on a fairly complete run of Cardiff student newspapers from 1885 to 2007 – this to coincide with a visit of 60 Cardiff Alumni who were students here in the 1940s and 1950s. Some of the Alumni visitors saw themselves in photographs from 1950s editions of the papers in the exhibition! 

A digital version of this exhibition is now available on our web site. We believe this will be the first such UK university exhibition online of its student historical newspapers.


4pm - Troubleshooting

Resolve a couple of problems with the digital microfilm scanner, and help with some Voyager and reference collection enquiries.


4.30pm - Back to work again!

Get back to my notes for the lecture in a couple weeks – less one day now.


5pm - Close down

Retrieve all the archives, rare books, and microfilm sources still in use. Start to close down SCOLAR at the end of the day. One student studies on in the microfilm room.


5.30pm - Reflections on the day

Do the statistics for the day: 15 staff and student visitors from academic Schools (History, English, Welsh, Social Sciences, Lifelong Learning) plus external researchers. Receive 5 enquiries in Welsh, and 10 in English. 41 items from the archives, rare books, and microfilm collections used, plus five database sources to answer enquiries. 

Overall we saved 5 hours and 15 minutes of staff and student time with our enquiries service; helping them find more speedily or more accurately information sources for their work, and some they did not know about at all. 

In the background our SCOLAR web site gets nearly 1,000 web page hits per day, by internal and external users looking for information.