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The Bishopsgate Blog provides an added insight into all of our activities, Library, Courses, Events and Schools and Community Learning. Our regular blogs will feature speakers from our Cultural Events, photographs, documents, letters, posters and ephemera from the Library, up-to-date news and information on courses and first-hand accounts of our Schools and Community workshops.

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Schools and Community

Our inspired Schools and Community Learning programme delivers a range of workshops and projects using the unique and fascinating collections found within our world-renowned Bishopsgate Library. Our workshops are suitable for learners of all ages and are used by wide variety of audiences from primary school pupils to pensioners.

Our regular blogs will demonstrate how our Schools and Community Learning programme encourages discovery and enquiry amongst our wide-ranging participants.


Culture and arts, heritage and history, ideas and independent thought all come together in our exciting events programmes. You can enjoy talks, walks, discussions and debates, or one of the many concerts that take place throughout the year.

Our regular blogs will give an added insight and perspective into our dynamic programme with content from speakers at our events.


Situated in a Grade II* listed building, Bishopsgate Library’s beautiful reading room is a peaceful place to study that is open to all; a calm oasis amid the bustle of Spitalfields and the City. In our dedicated Researchers’ Area, you can consult our renowned printed and archival collections on London, labour, freethought and Humanism, co-operation, or protesting and campaigning.

Our regular blogs will provide a new way for you to engage with the library collections and services, new acquisitions, activities and future developments.


Our comprehensive range of short courses offer you the opportunity to discover, discuss and be inspired in a welcoming environment. Our courses are conveniently designed to take place throughout the day, including lunchtimes, after work and at weekends. We have five course strands, Arts and Culture, Words and Ideas, Languages, Performing Arts and Body & Exercise to choose from.

Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information.

Bishopsgate Blog
Discover | Enquire | Debate

The Historic Libraries Forum annual conference at Bishopsgate Institute

by Library on 06 / 12 / 2012

Making the most of your special collections: Historic Libraries Forum annual conference, Bishopsgate Institute, 20 November 2012

By Ed

Bishopsgate Institute was proud to host the Historic Libraries Forum’s annual conference in November, which was dedicated to the theme of “Making the most of your special collections”. In times like these, in addition to their traditional tasks every library needs to raise its profile, boost its marketability, and maximise the impact that collections and services have on audiences old and new. Clearly, this is well-understood by librarians across the country, as indicated by the fact that this conference sold out well in advance.

Attendees arrived eager to hear about new ways and means of getting their libraries and collections under the public eye. Most of the presentations at the event centred on one of three topics: curating public exhibitions based on your collections; using social media to promote your library; and marketing and managing your library and building as a venue for filming (for documentaries, drama, and the big screen). Speakers generally focussed on the benefits of these activities for generating income, raising the profile of your special collections, and making the most of your holdings and professional expertise to build new audiences and new links with communities: burning issues for all libraries, not least historic libraries, all of which are increasingly expected to “do more with less”.

Highlights for me included Alison Cullingford’s talk about how she uses blogs and Twitter to promote Bradford University Special Collections; Alison provided important perspective and emphasised how social media provide a public arena where it is easier for small institutions to “punch above their weight”. In reference to work on a bigger stage, Harvey Edgington from the National Trust gave an entertaining talk about filming. In contrast to the National Trust, few heritage organizations are well-placed to act as venues for big-budget movies such as Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010), but there are a number of potential benefits to being featured in a production, big or small, that may make the inevitable challenges and frustrations worth facing.

The speakers were all very good, and others hailed from institutions including the British Library, Cambridge University, King’s College London, and Lambeth Palace. While most were understandably drawn from large organizations, conference attendees seemed to come from a wide variety of institutions, including a large proportion from small or independent libraries and archives like our own. During the breaks, it was great to meet old and new friends in the profession, and to discuss ways of meeting the challenges and opportunities of the current period.

I found the talks to be very stimulating and finished the day with a number of new ideas. I was excited by the discussion about a potential future event on promoting and preserving digital collections; this is an area we are working on at Bishopsgate. On a personal note, I was also very pleased with the reaction of people to Bishopsgate as the conference venue: visitors appreciated our building and library for their visual appeal and distinctiveness, and we were also complimented on our efficiency as a venue hire service.

The Historic Libraries Forum is committed to promoting and protecting historic libraries and collections, and also serves as a forum for people working with these collections to share information and ideas. For more information about the Historic Libraries Forum, visit www.historiclibrariesforum.org.uk.


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