A visit to the Kate Sharpley Library (2012)

I’ve just come back from visiting the Kate Sharpley Library in California. Things have changed from the days when I could get there on the bus and we were buying our first filing cabinet. Lots of filing cabinets now, as well as boxes like the Left Bank Books archive. It’s good to look at the non-fiction shelves, seeing ‘old friends’ and new acquisitions.

There’s always plenty of filing and organising to do which occasionally throws up a gem: did you know Walthamstow’s Ambrose Barker was in touch with Max Charnick (Chernyak) in Buenos Aires? It’s good to put runs of newspapers into acid-free boxes. This is the ‘preserve’ part of us ‘preserving and promoting anarchist history’. Of course, those boxes cost an arm and a leg, so you have to choose who gets preserved. A couple of 1970s French pamphlets gave up their Mylar protective pockets to some 1920s Italian publications. Thanks go to our friends: your donations help with ordering that essential preservation stuff (when we’re not spending them on acquisitions).

I saw our catalogue in action. One thing we discussed was how we could use it to raise our profile (and fill gaps in the collection) without being overwhelmed by demands beyond our limited abilities.

We talked about ways to get hold of books and periodicals that we need, and how to get more supporters. We also talked about digitising documents and publications. First we need to raise the money for a new scanner, just to do the small jobs like the ‘treasures’ to illustrate our ‘Notes from the KSL‘ blog. In the long term, when we digitise material we want it to be done well, and to show collections in context. That will need both work and money.

With Barry working on it most days, the library is probably the best organised and catalogued that it’s ever been. With the help of our friends and comrades, the Kate Sharpley Library will be preserving and promoting more anarchist history than ever in the coming years. If you want to help with that, send us some money or drop us a line!