The purpose of the Catholic Central Library is to provide a resource for the spiritual, intellectual and cultural development of the Catholic community as well as the community at large of the Dioceses of the United Kingdom and beyond.
Spiritual development is the nurturing of our relationship with God and our neighbour. To accomplish this, we who seek spiritual direction and inspiration as well as those who guide us turn to Sacred Revelation and those skilled at its interpretation. We study the lives and thoughts of people who were eminently successful in living their faith and were skilled at expressing this in their writing.
Secure faith seeks understanding. This understanding matures through the disciplines found in theology and philosophy. These find expression in the classic works which have guided the traditional thinking of the faith community as well as contemporary reinterpretations which must occur as all intellectual disciplines make new discoveries and our culture evolves.
The culture of a society is the visible result of the training, development and refinement of its thinking, tastes and manners. It is the measure of the civility of a people. These things can be best seen by preserving the record of the customs as well as intellectual and artistic achievements of successive generations at each stage of their development. It is culture which drives so many events in our history and development.
THE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY
The Church is a community of the faithful. It is supported by grace, wisdom and scholarship.
THE COMMUNITY AT LARGE
Our response to religious faith should benefit the community at large. A central theme of divine revelation is the relatedness of all members of the community of mankind.
Most libraries would be content to serve the local community. When a library is unique in its content, it should do everything it can to make its resources available to as wide an audience as possible.
What metrics can be used to measure how successfully the Library is accomplishing such intangible things as these? They must rely in part on a demonstration of the Library's ability to:
- understand its mission,
- marshal its resources in the service of that mission and
- initiate research to determine if the services offered promote that mission.
The remainder of this report is structured to demonstrate these three qualities which almost defy quantification. This effort is supported by the more measurable things such as membership numbers, books circulated, means of communication provided, new acquisitions made and research requests satisfied. We will also present a snapshot of preliminary indications from the recently initiated user survey.
We trust that you will conclude with us that the Library has an abiding determination to fulfil its mission by constantly re-assessing the way it provides service to its members and the community at large.
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The Library is a collection of resources which constantly grows in size as well as type.
At present the Library houses a collection of about 65,000 books. They can be divided into reference and circulation collections. In the last 12 months 400 titles have been added to the collection, either newly published or new to the Library.
Reference books comprise encyclopaedias, encyclicals, dictionaries, Church documents, directories etc. The directory collection dates back to 1799 and there is a complete collection of the Annual Vatican Statistics from 1969.
Books in the circulation collection can be checked out using requests by phone, fax, letter and e-mail, as well as personal visits to the Library.
More than 150 periodicals can be found in the Library. Many of these are bound and, when not the current issue, boxed. They form an invaluable collection for reference. There are, for example, copies of THE TABLET starting from 1841. Some periodicals are no longer being published, as the British Jesuit publication THE MONTH, but are kept in the collection. The current issues of periodicals are displayed and available for reading.
There is a collection of some 5,000 pamphlets, all catalogued and available for reference.
The Library currently houses MISSION REGISTERS which list baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths etc. dating back as early as 1694 through 1880. These are typescripts and a few other printed books on loan from the Catholic Family History Society. Many foreign visitors use this material.
The Library receives a surprising number of requests to research information. These come by e-mail, phone, letter and visits which require assistance. The resources here are not only the material on the shelves but the persons of the librarian and staff.
On average the library receives 100 such requests a week. At times the request is answered by scanning a page, converting to text with OCR software and attaching it to an e-mail response. You can imagine the surprise and delight expressed by the person in Saudi Arabia who was looking for information on a priest who had died some years in the past and within hours of sending their e-mail request, received the complete text of his obituary published in THE TABLET.
The Library now has three computers, two given by individual donation and one funded by The Catholic Woman of the Year as part of the project to put the complete Library Catalogue into computer format.
The catalogue is being computerised for three reasons:
- permit users in the library to do quick topic search
- make the Catalogue available on the Internet and
- provide the catalogue on CD ROM to individuals and institutions for searching offline in their own home or institution.
The data entry for the computerised catalogue is now being done by volunteers and substantial progress is being made. It could be completed by the end of 2002.
Two of the computers are also available for use with a growing collection of reference CD ROMs. These contain such material as collections of Church Documents and multiple Bible translations which can be quickly searched. There is also a continuous collection of press releases from the Catholic Media Office and the Vatican News Service, both received regularly by e-mail.
INTERNET and WEB SITE
The Internet has become the worlds most accessible source of information. In terms of wide coverage, it is also the most effective way to announce the presence of any organisation or service. The Library is taking full advantage of this potential.
- E-mail - The Library receives on average 80 e-mail each month. These range in subject from book requests - 20% - or research questions -20% - to others such as notes of thanks for services rendered and documents from the Catholic Media Office and Rome.
- Web Site visits - Our Web Site is receiving an average of 500 visits a month. Each visit has access to information which includes:
- Home page - with general information including a map of the Euston area indicating our location
- Membership information
- New Acquisitions list
- Periodical list
- Mission Register contents summary
- Spotlight on Books page featuring two books in the collection
- In the near future, our web Site will contain the Card Catalogue.
One day an individual from the United States came to the door carrying a print of the our Web Site Home Page with the location map and spent most of the day in research.
In order to establish an identity on the World Wide Web, the Library now has a domain name, www.catholic-library.org.uk. This name uniquely identifies the Library from among the millions of sites world wide.
As you may know, finding sites of interest on the Web is done primarily by links and search engines. Links to the Library site are now found on many other sites such as the Catholic Media Office and other church as well as library oriented sites. We are constantly seeking links inclusion on other sites.
We also conform to protocols used by commercial Internet search engines which anyone on the Net can use to find sites containing material of interest. At present we find 60 references to our pages in the Google search engine. In this way it becomes easy to locate the Library Web site.
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The Library is open both to members and non-members.
Full individual Membership enables one to check out as many as five books at any one time. Payment of the Parish/School Membership fee entities a named authorised representative to use the reference library for purposes related to the work of the parish or school. The authorised representative may borrow up to five volumes on behalf of the parish or school.
PROFILE OF MEMBERSHIP
- COUNT - At present, there are 700 members of all types.
- GROWTH - In the last 12 months the membership has grown by 140. It is anticipated that a program to increase membership among the clergy will bring an even greater increase in the near future.
- VOLUNTEERS - there are now 10 active volunteers who assist in library activities as well as enter data into our computerised Card Catalogue.
A membership profile survey has been completed. From this data the Library will be better able to determine:
- areas of greatest interest to guide new acquisitions,
- professional categories of the Library users,
- most often used means of communications.
A snapshot of the data obtained from this user survey reveals the following averages.
- User had been a member for 10 years,
- Visited 15 times a year,
- Checked out 31 books a year,
- 71% used the Library for enjoyment and 55% for personal development,
- Greatest interests were Church History and Biography,
- Next interests were Reference, Bible and periodicals.
Non-members can consult the reference and circulation collection within the library but cannot check out books. Such use of the Library is usually by:
- Overseas visitors - These have usually learned of the Library on the Internet
- Referrals - The British Library not far away has referred many researchers to our facilities for publications they do not have in their collection. The Catholic Media Office as well as diocesan offices in the London area often make referrals to the Library.
- Family History users - These are referred by the Catholic Family History Society or from information on our Web Site
- Students - Catholic Schools in the London area often refer their GCSE and A-Level students to the Library for their course work.
From this broad range of users, it can be seen that the Library has become a truly national resource.
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We need to be aware that the Library was founded by lay Catholics as a lending library for the ordinary Catholic. Professionals and University students have access to libraries which are not usable by many of those who use the Catholic Central Library. Its collections of English Catholic history and Literature have no rival in the country yet no accreditation is needed to use these. Everyone is welcome.
This is a guiding factor in determining the methods of outreach used by the Library. For those who can come to the Library, it provides a vital service with a quiet reading room for those who are developing their spiritual life or are investigating the Catholic faith. But the very nature of the Library dictates that every means possible be used to extend the services of the Library in a wider outreach.
The results of these outreach efforts yields the following summary measurements.
- In the last 12 months 2610 visitors came through the doors of the Library.
- On average 500 books are borrowed each month.
- Approximately 80 e-mails are received each month.
- The Library is open 34.5 hours a week with late opening until 1900 hours on Wednesdays.
- The Web Site receives on average 500 visits a month.
- Publicity has been done through representation at conferences, Internet presence, and occasional references in journals such as The Tablet, most recently in their Internet Column.
The Library is now completing plans to initiate a program - In Support of Clergy. It will facilitate and encourage use of the library by clergy and religious. It will do this by :
- Raise awareness among the clergy of the resources of the Library
- Encourage a special membership plan
- Recommend ways of offsetting mailing costs to individual users
- Publish a list of books recommended for continued pastoral, spiritual and intellectual formation
- Encourage use of the Internet for checking out books and consulting the latest update of the reading list.
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Finally, we present a few excerpts from letters and e-mails received by the library. They speak for themselves.
I enclose my membership fee of £25 due in November. Thank you for the wonderful service the Library provides. I do not know where I would be able to get books of a similar standard elsewhere.
I have now obtained the B.Th. degree after 6 years as a part-time external student at St. John’s Seminary, and I would like to thank you most sincerely for all the help you gave me over that period. Without your help and advice I would have found it very difficult to obtain relevant reading matter for essays and exams.
Dear Ms. Bond,
Your email is indeed a very great help to me. Thank you.
I could kiss you! You have struck gold, gold and more gold. The Lord be praised! I can not express just how much help you have been in my research. Oh, I am just so excited! You have truly brought great joy to someone else halfway around the world. Thank you so much. God bless you and all you do.
I have seen on your web page that you may have opportunities to work as a volunteer in The Catholic Central Library. I am very interested in the Library area and I would like to get some work-experience, since I am going to study Library and Information Science in a near future.
This establishment is the best kept secret in London. I have always enjoyed coming here - not just for the superb staff, selection of books and education, but for the 'boost' that it always gives to my personal outlook; hope.
Thank you very much. I am a Danish Catholic who plans to visit London in order to do some studies on my project. Last year in December I visited your Library and you told me about the work of the late Mr John Farrell who had been working on a similar project. I have been in contact with his son. I will be in London from 2-9 December and I would like to visit the Catholic Central Library in order to see what you have ...