Friday, 26 April 2013

delving into the library

It was raining this morning, so I thought I'd better go through the books in the beekeepers' library. I could have done the vacuuming and cleaned the kitchen, which badly need doing, but since I am a very dedicated committee member I thought the library should take precedence.  The fact that I don't like housework very much may also have had something to do with it, but on the plus side for the library I had a member asking whether we had a book about wax, and the prospect of the County library being dispersed among the divisions because it is being evicted from Writtle College library.  I'm not surprised by that, since they were already short of space and having to weed their horticultural books when I was there thirteen years ago.  If our division was about to be offered the chance to bag some books from the County then we needed to know what we already had.

The previous librarian sent me a spreadsheet of the library contents, but since I wouldn't have known the names or titles, apart from a handful, looking at what we had and seeing its age and condition seemed a good idea.  The contents of the boxes proved fascinating, as an historical document as much as an aid to keeping bees now.  Given the new bee diseases that have arrived in recent decades, the changes in land management and available forage, and new regulations on honey labelling and marketing, books dating from the early part of the last century are going to be of limited use in a practical sense, though bee behaviour won't have changed that much in a hundred years when they have been around for millennia.  One of my fellow beekeepers, I can't remember who, queried at the AGM whether we needed a library, now that so much information was available on the internet.  But it is interesting to see how things used to be done, and I trust a respected classic author on subjects like bees in archaeology and mythology more than I do a website of unknown provenance found by Google search.

My standard textbook on general beekeeping was and is by Ted Hooper, and the library has two copies of his useful book, but I noticed that we had two and three copies of general guides by other, earlier authors.  Before Hooper there was Herrod-Hempsall, and before him Edwards.  Several of the books were North American, so not directly applicable to North Essex, but would be an interesting read if one had the time.  I can't see many of our members wanting to borrow an HMSO 1912 Instruction in bee keeping for the use of Irish bee keepers, but you never know.  A 1925 first edition of Anatomy and Physiology of the Honeybee by Snodgrass is a classic, and will be worth money.

Some of the books came from Thurrock division, which years back seceded from Essex Beekeepers and set up on its own account.  There must be something in the water at Thurrock, given that they have a unitary authority as well, instead of being part of Essex County Council.  Others were gifted to the association by past members.  I remember one of the donors, a kindly man, greatly interested in pollen identification, who sadly developed Altzheimer's.  I had doubts about the historical interest of a few disintegrating post-war paperbacks, and some were downright insanitary, but most of the books were worthy of finding sanctuary in somebody's spare room for a while longer.  I aim to read some of them myself.

Sitting in several other boxes are magazines and pamphlets going back to the 1970s, the collection I picked up from the previous librarian having already grown by two boxes donated by a member who no longer wanted to give them house-room, but didn't like to put them in the paper recycling bin at the local tip.  Sorting and cataloguing those will have to wait for another wet day, in fact, probably another wet year as bad as 2012.  My dedication to the library only goes so far.

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