New beginnings…08 May 2020
A word from the new Academy Librarian, Barbara McCormack.
We all know that starting a new role can be challenging – finding a place to put your coat, remembering the names of all your co-workers, and getting familiar with a new commute are just some of the issues to contend with. However, starting a new role remotely during a global pandemic is another challenge entirely! When I took on the role of Academy Librarian on Wednesday, 15th April it was clear that starting onsite would not be possible. Just five days earlier the government announced an extension of measures to restrict movement in order to limit the spread of Covid-19, which would be in place until at least the 5th May. I therefore became the first Academy Librarian in over 230 years to take up this important and exciting role without physically entering the building!
The role of Academy Librarian has changed significantly since the election of the Revd Daniel Augustus Beaufort in March 1788. Over the years the library has supported the aims of the RIA in terms of ‘promoting the study of science, polite literature and antiquities’ and has grown from an eclectic collection of 4,500 books, manuscripts and serials, assembled from the donations of early members, to a repository with over 110,000 printed books and pamphlets and one of the largest collections of Gaelic manuscripts in the world. Yet the RIA Library is much more than a place, it is a globalised library which aims to deliver its collections to users regardless of location. The current situation has given me plenty of time to consider how best we can deliver the same quality of service to our readers, albeit at a distance. Our online exhibitions, blog posts, and digital collections facilitate an important avenue for outreach in these times and we hope to create more engaging content like this in the future. The outgoing Librarian, Siobhán Fitzpatrick, had worked tirelessly to ensure the preservation of the collections while also facilitating access to scholars from around the world through conservation and digitisation projects. I look forward to continuing this important work and to engaging with new and existing collaborators to further develop and enhance access to these important collections.
For now, I will continue to work from home to provide the best support to our readers in these strange and uncertain times. I am incredibly grateful to all my colleagues in the Library and the wider Academy for giving me such a positive ‘virtual’ welcome over the last three weeks. I look forward to the day when I can skip up the steps to Academy House and meet them all in person.
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