Twenty-Five Years of the Kate Sharpley Library!

Twenty five years old!! A time for assessment, re-evaluation and, in this case, a renewal of energy. All groups like ours have plans. Plans coming out of our ears. Every time we talk to each other another exciting possibility gets mentioned, another scheme that will give us a chance to make available what we have to more people. What we want to do here, then, is both present some ideas and at the same time discuss some of the practical problems that accompany them. Believe us when we say that any of your comments/ help/ suggestions are more than welcome.

The single biggest cost of the KSL is in preservation and storage. We have material that is, in some cases, unique - or very very rare. We spend large amounts of money on acid free newspaper boxes, acid free plastic pamphlet covers, acid free folders etc. etc. Shelving the Library, with good quality shelves cost us thousands of pounds. This cost will continue to be regular and real. It's also the biggest single cost of person time. No one works full time at the Library. When we are in there we are constantly filing, shuffling papers, sorting out manuscripts. This material has to survive.

We do have a working catalogue. Yes it's a bit rough and could do with refining but it does help us in our work. We have toyed with the idea of putting it on the web. We haven't because we don't want to flatter to deceive. No one works full time in the KSL. It's all volunteer work. We are wary of advertising ourselves too strongly until that changes. We can just about deal with the requests for help we get now (and we would stress the just about). Any increase would tip us over and disappoint people. We try to avoid having a poor reputation for helping. So… the major move for the KSL will be to have someone in there working full time (unpaid) in the next three years. Plans have been made for that to happen but it will bring in some extra costs. We don't have our own photocopier or our own microfilm reader, or our own fax. We have been able to borrow 'em. That will stop when one of our group goes full time as he was the one doing the borrowing!!! Anyway, we are probably old to have our own now. With a full timer we do think we can have more of a presence, help people more quickly and keep the KSL well maintained.

As you all probably know we regularly produce pamphlets that we hope are interesting, informative and challenging. They sell pretty steadily as well. An obvious move that we talk about regularly is a move into publishing books. There are several titles that immediately made our short list… Facerias by Tellez, The Iron Column by Paz, selected writings of Albert Meltzer are some of them. Of course there is a cost involved both in cash and the time put in. Above all though we are bothered by the question of distribution. How can we get the books out to those who want it? We really don't have those skills. That said, it would be tremendously good to produce regularly some of the exciting material sitting in the KSL in a book form.

We have also considered a (glossyish) perfect bound journal. Think Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review here. It could combine selections from the KSL, contemporary writings and reviews of all sorts of material. There seems to us to be a need here that other publications haven't yet met. We couldn't, though, just do it on our own. We'd need help, volunteers to write reviews and articles etc. Again, the whole problem of distribution needs to be tackled. And thought about.

So that's what we are thinking about working on for the foreseeable future. Thank you for all your donations of money and material. Hopefully we are seen now as a permanent group that can preserve the history of anarchism for future generations to work with and learn from. Please - all of you who produce any material at all (papers, pamphlets, letters, newspapers, books, stickers, videos, CDs or anything!!) send it to us. Sending it will ensure it will be kept safe and available for others to use as well as enabling us to keep our own history.

Lets get on with it!