I’m glad to say I have never been in a court room before but when the opportunity arose to visit the Supreme Courts for the afternoon my curiosity was peeked. I was keen to find out how the scales of justice work and see for myself how the library and information service supports the day to day activity of the Court of Session and the High Court. Jennie Findlay was running the library almost singlehandedly (save an enthusiastic volunteer) at the time of the visit and I can confidently report that it really is a herculean task for a staff of one, or even two when fully staffed. Jennie, however, makes it look easy. With a confident, agile and creative approach she provides a service that meets the needs of judges and support staff 24/7 (soon to be extended to the Sheriff Court also) with dynamic enthusiasm. She is not only librarian, information professional and archivist all rolled into one but has the added responsibility of acting as both curator and historian charged with preserving a great number of significant items from the oldest court in Scotland. The historic surroundings of Parliament House contain many fragile and valuable treasures from vellum documents dating from the 16th century; stone artefacts salvaged from an abandoned residential property in Edinburgh to a coffin that temporarily held the remains of an Earl, before he was stolen. Suffice to say it is a multi faceted role and a very big job indeed.
But it is exactly because of this increasing need to wear many hats all at the same time that highlights how important it is to grab a chance to visit other colleagues within the library and information sector and create opportunities for cross organisational networking. This is why SWOP is committed to facilitating and supporting knowledge exchange in any way it can. Finding new and innovative ways to collaborate with others and learn from practitioners in the LIS field seems more important now than ever before. It is undoubtedly the best way to harness expertise that you may not have in-house and can provide you with best practice examples and advice that can often save you from ‘re-inventing’ the wheel. Take for instance Jennie’s predicament regarding salvage arrangements for some of her most valuable items in the collection. One of the group Fiona Laing (OP curator at NLS) immediately offered Jennie help with salvage planning and access to expert opinion citing their own current arrangements as examples which Jennie can re-work for her own organisational arrangements. As NLS is located (quite literally) next door it’s a no brainer to make sure that door is wide open allowing expertise to be freely and effectively shared. During the visit the group exchanged recommendations around storage conditions and shared valuable perspectives around collection management which was both interesting and informative to hear about. This approach makes life as the ‘lone practitioner’ a bit……….well………….less lonely……….providing a much needed chance to speak with others. Chatting through shared issues and collective concerns can often bring fresh perspective to your service development and at the same time you get a chance to have a wee peek at what they are doing along the way…………..
I really enjoyed the visit to the Supreme Courts Library and learned not only some very valuable things from Jennie but also from others in the group who represented a rich variety of expertise within the wider LIS community. So I’ll be sure to catch the next SWOP event that comes my way and look forward to seeing you there.
Helen Costello, Scottish Parliament