Friday, 28 November 2014

How do you solve a problem like the start of term?

Jamie Clark, one of our IT Support Specialists, explains how we made the start of term a more pleasant experience - for students, and for our staff.

Jamie, in live action mode
Photo by John Houlihan (
The start of the autumn term is the busiest time of year for the IT Support Office. Last year we were
swamped with new students keen to get their laptops, tablets and phones connected to the university network. We literally had queues out the door for much of the first week and people were having to wait a long time to be seen. Overall, at the start of the academic year 2013/14, we received 1000 more queries than we had in the same period of the previous year, putting the IT Support Office under a great deal of pressure.

We understand that arriving on campus can be a stressful time for new students and we didn't want to make the same mistakes again, which is why in March we formed a Start of Term working group. We wanted to identify the problems from last year and make arrangements to reduce them as much as possible.

One thing working in our favour was that this time postgraduate and undergraduate students would be arriving on separate weekends, unlike last year, when everybody arrived over the same weekend. But we also identified several other areas where we could improve...

Configuring devices for the network

Last year the XpressConnect network setup tool struggled to cope with the amount of users configuring their devices for the university network, resulting in more students needing to visit the IT Support Office to get connected.

This year, thanks to the brilliant work of the Networking team, the XpressConnect setup tool was available off campus, meaning that for the first time new students could configure their devices for eduroam prior to arriving at university. This helped to lessen the load on arrivals weekend and also meant that new students could have one less thing to worry about on move-in day!

IT information for new students

Last year we provided information about IT Services on the University's New students - welcome! page and our own Information for New Users page. IT User Guides were distributed to new students via their departments, with extra copies available at the Library, IT Support Office and Freshers Fair.

This year we wanted to keep those routes, but go one step further. In the first week of September new students were sent an email including details on how to get connected to the university network, where to get IT help and security advice. Further information was made available on our website and linked to in the email.

Completed wireless roll-out by start of term

Last year we had half of all student accommodation covered by the wireless network and we operating a Remote Access Point (RAP) loan scheme to cover areas with no access to wifi.

Fast-forward to this year and the wireless network covers 100% of on campus accommodation, and as such we have retired the RAP loan scheme (relieving both the IT Support Office and the Networking team of an unnecessary administrative burden). We have however kept a stock of Remote Access Points to allow us to quickly deal with wireless issues and black spots as they are reported to us.

Opened for both arrivals weekends on both campuses

Last year the IT Support Office opened for the arrivals weekend to help new students get connected to the network. Unfortunately, we struggled to cope with demand and had queues out the door consistently throughout the first week.

This year for the first time ever we provided support on the postgraduate arrivals weekend as well as the undergraduate arrivals weekend. We set up IT Help Points in the Library foyer and the Ron Cooke Hub on both these weekends - we announced these in the emails sent to new students, and promoted them via colleges and on social media. This was also the first time we’d provided support at Heslington East. We wanted to ensure that residents on both campuses had equal access to help when they first arrived. We had twice the number of staff available on the arrivals weekend as last year too, and overall we found that new students didn't have to wait long to get help.

Assistance for Chinese students

Last year one of the frequent challenges we had was understanding error messages written in other languages (some errors are difficult enough to decipher when they're written in English!) After English, Chinese is by far the most common language we see on devices brought to the IT Support Office.

This year we had help from former student Irene Chen Shen, who worked with us for two weeks across the start of term and was hired to help translate on-screen messages from Chinese to English. However, having worked in IT Support in China during her undergraduate degree, Irene was also able to assist with other walk-in queries and gave us a greatly appreciated extra pair of hands during the busy periods.


Hopefully the measures that we put in place made things as easy as possible for all the new students to get up and running upon arrival. We conducted a survey amongst the new students last month and the feedback we received has been largely positive. For example, 88% of respondents said that the email we sent out was useful, and nearly half said they successfully set up their network connection prior to arriving on campus. Moreover, satisfaction sampling for the first two weeks of term showed 98% of customers were happy with how their query was handled.

We also asked the IT staff who worked on the Help Points and in the IT Support Office for their thoughts, and overall the feeling was that things were much less hectic than they had been in previous years. The number of enquiries received during the start of term period was down by 1000 compared to last year, meaning that the numbers returned to the levels seen in 2012. This is especially encouraging when you consider that the wireless network was supporting more than 13,000 concurrent connections this October - more than twice the number seen 12 months earlier.

We're already planning for the start of the next academic year. Whilst we've made some significant steps forward this time around, we don’t want to rest on our laurels. If you've got any feedback for us on our start of term service, you can email us at or fill out our anonymous feedback form.

Do you know your Baskerville Old Face from your Gill Sans?

The books in the York Art Gallery collection aren’t all about art and artists; the collection also includes a couple of books on printing and typography.  We take a look at two on the Library shelves.

Metal type (IMG_7893) by Tom Page re-used under a Creative Commons licence

Notes on the selection and use of printing types, together with specimens of type faces [York : Ben Johnson & Co. 1921?]

This was written and printed by York printers Ben Johnson & Co whose head office and factory was on Micklegate.  Along with notes on the use of printing types, there are also pages and pages of specimens of different typefaces and borders and ornaments. The images below are typical page spreads, showing Caslon and Jenson Old Style (which are still in use today).

Images taken from Notes on the selection and use of printing types, together with specimens of typefaces

The book is available in the Library’s Special Collections section.


A psychological study of typography Burt, Cyril, 1883-1971 [Cambridge : University Press 1959]

This book has an introduction by Stanley Morison.  A British typographer, designer and historian of printing, Morison was one of the most influential type-designers in the 20th century having commissioned the widely used Times New Roman typeface.

This is Times New Roman. The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog.

If you're interested in all things typographical, then you may have already heard of Eric Gill (1882-1940), the sculptor and typographer who invented the typeface Gill Sans.

Gill Sans by Anthony Starks re-used under a Creative Commons licence
Created in 1926, the font had immediate success when London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) adopted it for all their timetables, posters and publicity material. Later it was taken up across all of British Rail, and Penguin Books also used the font for their front covers.  More recently, the BBC has used it in their logo.

For more information on Eric Gill’s work with type see his An essay on typography [London : J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. 1936]. For other books about his sculpture visit LG 0.942 GIL on the Library shelves.

Further reading:

  • Spare a thought for the creator of the much-maligned Comic Sans type. According to one report, the social media giant Twitter devotes its greatest server space to complaints about airlines, followed by gripes about Comic Sans (in third are, gratifyingly, complaints about Justin Bieber). Its designer, Vincent Connare, stands by his creation however. You can read about its genesis here:
  • Like it or hate it, Comic Sans is a cultural phenomenon. In his 2011 book Just my type: a book about fonts [London : Profile Books 2011] Simon Garfield devotes his whole first chapter to it. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Bletchley Park Codebreakers

The fourth donation from his Night shelf, Stephen Town unravels the mystery behind the Bletchley Park Codebreakers.

Erskine, R. & Smith, M. (Eds), The Bletchley Park Codebreakers, in the University Library at Q 40.548 ERS
Image courtesy of Erskine, S & Smith M,
The Bletchley Park Codebreakers, 2011
ISBN: 9781849540780

Cryptography and classical cyphers feature in both computer science and maths courses in the University, with reference to the breaking of the German Enigma code during the Second World War. The part played by Alan Turing in this story is the subject of the current film ‘The Imitation Game’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and has been documented in a number of books over the past 30 years.

My copy of this book was purchased on a recent visit to Bletchley Park, which is now open to the public. The grounds and estate provide a fascinating experience, steeped in history and displaying reconstructions of the machines that laid the foundations of modern computing.

Whilst the technical feat of this code breaking effort is extraordinary enough, what is perhaps even more astonishing is the long-held secrecy of the work at Bletchley Park for so many years after the event. Many of those working at Bletchley kept their wartime secret from everyone, including close family members, for over thirty years, until it was declassified in the mid 1970s as a result of the first book publication.

There are now many books in print on the history of these events, and although the Library currently provides a range of academic treatises on the technicalities of cryptograhpy during the time of the war, these don’t cover the personal experiences of the workers or give context as to what it was like being a part of the Bletchley Park project.

Photo: Code room at Bletchley Park heritage site.
This book presents a collection of chapters by different authors, woven together to illuminate the bigger picture in this enigmatic project. Of particular interest to me is the way in which the application of intellect to complex problems was undertaken, in a context of frequent bureaucratic nonsenses, inter-service rivalry and turf wars. What’s more, there was a distinct lack of appreciation of the real value of the investment by many senior officials. Despite all of this, those involved found ways to achieve what they believed in, and the growth and sophistication of the organisation of concentrated effort over a short timeframe was itself a triumph of management.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Faith & Wisdom in Science

In the third edition of his 'Donating my night shelf' series, Stephen Town negotiates the web of theory around faith, religion and science.

McLeish, T., Faith & Wisdom in Science, in the University Library at C 15 MCL

Photo: St Peter's school - founded 627AD
by Ramson. Reproduced under a
Creative Commons license
St Peter’s School in York lays claim to being the oldest School in Europe and fourth oldest in the world, founded in 627 AD. It was shortly after this time that the first great library in York’s history was also created by the Archbishop Egbert, and developed by Albert and Alcuin in the following century. In an age when faith and education were inextricably connected all these foundations for learning grew from the Church.

Modern day St Peter’s offers a lecture series of high quality, drawing academics, researchers, other experts and the public together to discuss wide ranging topics from the history of World War I to the art and design of the London Underground. Last week, Tom McLeish of Durham University (and a St Peter’s parent) graced the series with an introduction to his ideas on science and faith. These strands of thought are further developed in his book “Faith and Wisdom in Science” which is my third donation to this series.

Photo: Professor Tom McLeish, speaking at St Peter's School, 2014
Reproduced with permission from St Peter's School.
As professor of physics at Durham, McLeish has impeccable scientific credentials. But he is also an Anglican Lay Reader, and judging by the lecture has a deep grasp of classics, theology and philosophy. McLeish’s thesis is that much of the current debate on science and religion is in the wrong space. His manifesto is that “Science needs a cultural narrative”, and a stronger one than the narrow assumptions presented by those funding state research in these times.

The book provides a different, and rather more intellectually satisfying contribution to the science/faith debate. It questions the arguments from those who present science and religion as irreconcilable and encourages you to think more holistically about the origins of each. McLeish talks about the history of seeking wisdom through natural philosophy as stemming as much from religious impulse as from other sources. I doubt many of his audience at St Peter’s will have followed his injunction to go home and read chapters 39 to 42 of the Book of Job, but, as a result of an entertaining and stimulating evening, plenty will have purchased his book and will hopefully be challenging their own thoughts on the subject.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Music Online - an array of recordings and reference material

Olivia Else, our Academic Liaison Librarian for Music, introduces one of our newest e-resources.

Music Online is a fantastic new resource that the Library has recently subscribed to. It includes a vast array of recordings and videos of concerts and staged musical performances, as well as reference materials such as virtual scores and musical encyclopedias.

Music Online incorporates 12 different collections which can be loosely grouped as follows:

Audiovisual Resources:

  • American Song
  • Classical Music in Video
  • Classical Music Library
  • Contemporary World Music
  • Dance in Video Series
  • Jazz Music Library
  • Opera in Video
  • Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries

Reference Resources:

  • African American Music Reference
  • Classical Music Reference  Library
  • Classical Scores Library series 1 & 2
  • The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Online

What does Music Online cover?

Music Online provides coverage in breadth and depth across key musical genres:

All major genres and time periods from medieval to contemporary, from choral works to symphonies, operas, and the avant-garde.

All major genres including vocal jazz, bebop, acid jazz, big band, modern jazz, and more.
World: Music from 169 countries and more than 1,000 cultural groups.

Country, folk, jazz, bluegrass, Western, old time, American Indian, blues, gospel, R&B, and shape note singing.

Wide range of popular music from around the world that is not available in our genre-specific collections.

Featured artists 

Within each genre, a number of featured artists are selected, including:

GZA (Wu-Tang Clan) by Andrew
Reproduced from Flickr under a
Creative Commons licence
Classical: Glenn Gould, Placido Domingo, Maria Callas, Claudio Abbado, Olga Borodina, Ileana Cotrubas, Hilary Hahn, Thomas Hampson, Radu Lupu, Karita Mattila, Margaret Leng Tan, Kiri Te Kanawa, Mitsuko Uchida, Pinchas Zuckerman.

Jazz: Bing Crosby, Buddy Guy, Charlie Parker, Chuck Mangione, Dinah Washington, Diana Krall, Dixie Dregs, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Stan Getz.

World: Ali Jihad Racy, Adama Dramé, Carlos Do Carmo, Parisa, Tran Quang Haï, Katrien Delavier, Hussein El Masry, Rassegna, Oedo Sukeroku Taiko, El Son Entero, Simon Shaneem, I Wayan Sadra, and Fawzy Al-Aiedy.

American: Pete Seeger, Isaac Hayes, Al Jackson, Booker T. Jones, Robert Byrd,  Memphis Slim, Otis Redding, BB King, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Popular: Gloria Gaynor, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Kool & The Gang, Edith Piaf, Rod Stewart, The Sex Pistols, A Flock of Seagulls, Tanya Tucker, Naughty by Nature, Wu-Tang Clan, Liberace.

How can I find these resources?

The 12 packages detailed above are listed by title on the Library's E-resources Guide - use the A-Z tabs at the top of the screen to navigate to the appropriate resource. Alternatively you can browse this collection along with other excellent music resources via the Library's Music Subject Guide. Simply select audio or text resources from the drop down menu on the Electronic Resources tab, then select the resource that you are interested in from the resulting list.

As with all electronic resources at York, you will be asked to log in with your University username and password when you first access a resource.

How can I get more help?

All of the Music Online collections include Help features which should answer most common queries. For further advice you can also contact Olivia Else, the Music Academic Liaison Librarian, at

Your department's Subject Guide will also include links to lots of other useful resources for your subject, and will provide general advice on Library resources for your department.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Ivon Hitchens: Forty-Five Paintings

Library Collection Space Manager Ruth Elder shares a lifelong interest in a little-known artist.

I admit that this book has now been sitting on my desk for some time in the office.

All through my childhood a Hitchens print hung on the wall of my home. The same print now hangs in my parents' retirement apartment, and I have made them promise never to dispose of it without giving me first refusal. The print has, throughout my life, pulled me in with its sense of silence, shadows and the unshown, and still continues to do so.

'Divided Oak tree number 2' ; Photo courtesy of Paul Shields. Click image to enlarge.

I also remember a day trip to York in 1990 to see the  Ivon Hitchens Exhibition at York City Art Gallery. It is the catalogue to this touring exhibition which has now found its way to my desk as part of the York Art Gallery Collection, and which still holds me, absorbed by the shapes and shadows of the images.

Ivon Hitchens' lifetime was marked by two world wars and encompassed a period of enormous change and destruction on a global scale. Unfit for active service in 1914 due to a weakness from childhood, Hitchens studied art at the Royal Academy Schools, with a two year period of war effort in hospital supply.  With the end of the First World War and the conclusion of his studies, he set up his own studio in Hampstead in 1919.  Through the 1920s and 30s he lived and worked within the avant-garde circle known as the London Group, which included artists such as Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson and Henry Moore.

In 1940 Hitchens was compelled to leave London after a bomb landed next door to his studio. He and his wife moved to a patch of woodland near Petworth in West Sussex called Greenleaves, living at first in a caravan which later required numerous additional outbuildings. Hitchens was to work there for the next 40 years, painting mostly outdoors.

He lived in the midst of what he painted, and most of his work was done within a few hundred yards of his home, which provided the inspiration and subject matter he looked for.

'Boathouse early morning' ; Photo courtesy of Paul ShieldsClick image to enlarge.

“To look at the 'Boathouse, Early Morning' is to enter a world of stillness and expectant silence, and to become still oneself” Peter Khoroche, Forty-five paintings, London:Serpentine Gallery 1989.

It is this stillness and silence that continues to draw me back to the work of Hitchens.

Further reading:

Forty-five paintings
Hitchens, Ivon, 1893-1979 ; Serpentine Gallery ; South Bank Centre.
London : Serpentine Gallery 1989

Ivon Hitchens : a retrospective exhibition
London : Arts Council 1963

(Both from York City Art Gallery Collection)

T. G. Rosenthal, ‘Hitchens, (Sydney) Ivon (1893–1979)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009 (Library subscription)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

What the Brownies taught me about the First World War

Armed only with a Brownie Guide Annual and a radio, Joanne Casey has discovered some unexpected facts about the First World War.

This year, the Brownie Guides in the UK celebrate their 100th birthday. My 8 year old is a keen Brownie, with a uniform covered in badges that didn't exist back in my brown bobble-hatted days; Circus Performer, World Issues, Environment, and Disability Awareness. So, at Christmas, I bought her the 2014 Brownie Annual - the centenary special.

Prominently featured is a timeline showing how the Brownie movement has developed and highlighting its involvement in community activities. One little fact captured my attention; during the First World War, Brownies helped to collect eggs to improve the diets of soldiers hospitalised in France.

Image used under the terms & conditions
of the IWM Non Commercial Licence
© IWM (Art.IWM PST 10836)
Let that sink in for a moment.




How on earth did that work?

Very efficiently, apparently. Egg collection points - over 2000 of them - were set up nationwide. A poster campaign promoted the collection, and eggs were collected from anyone from a householder with one laying hen to large farms - the aim was to collect around 200,000 eggs each week. The eggs were packed into sawdust filled boxes for transportation - any that were broken during the initial process were diverted for use in local hospitals. Other schemes encouraged the collection of fruit and vegetables for soldiers and sailors - much of this was done through collections at schools, with pupils encouraged to donate.

The BBC provide more information, and a film clip of one egg collection point on their World War One at Home pages.

It's worth noting that their older sisters in the Girl Guides had a role to play too, acting as messengers of confidential information for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph company, as the use of telegraph became increasingly important.

The Brownie Annual hasn't been my only source of new facts about the First World War. Listening to Radio 4 in the car, I was equally astonished to learn that soldiers based in the trenches gardened in them - growing both food to eat and flowers to remind them of home, and even holding vegetable shows - the Imperial War Museum has amongst its artefacts the medals awarded.

Medals awarded at the 1918 British Forces Vegetable Show in Le Havre
Held at the Imperial War Museum.
Image used under the terms of the IWM Non-Commercial Licence.
Again, this turned my perceptions on their head - I had no idea of the length of time that soldiers must have spent stationed in the trenches, and no real concept of what those trenches were like.

The drive to self-sufficiency was strong on the home front too - the moats of the Tower of London, currently filled with ceramic poppies marking each of the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the war, were used at the time as a vegetable garden.

This clip from Gardener's Question Time explains more, and a project undertaken by The Garden Museum also examines this.

100 years on, none of the soldiers who fought in World War One survive - the last veteran who served in the trenches, Harry Patch, died in 2009, and the last surviving combat veteran, Claude Choules who served in the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, died in 2011. For me, the small details of life on the home front and in the trenches allow us to recapture some of the humanity of the war, remembering the small scale alongside the very big picture.

Earlier this year, we marked the centenary of World War 1 with an exhibition and blog post on conflict and remembrance, highlighting items held here in our Special Collections and Archives:
Across our collections, we hold a wealth of physical and electronic resources about World War One, which you can explore through YorSearch.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Pinecone

The second book in his 'Donating my night shelf' series. Stephen Town explains what women's rights, pinecones and a small church in the North of Cumbria have in common.

Uglow, J. The Pinecone, in the University Library at G 1.761 LOS

The Pinecone book image
Image courtesy of
Uglow, Jenny, The Pinecone,
2012. ISBN: 0374232873
In the period of the feminist t-shirt debate, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and Remembrance-tide, this week I have chosen a book with some of these contemporary resonances. Now on the Library shelves, nestled (in our curious home grown classification scheme) between tomes on coal miners and dockers, is a small volume on the romantic architect Sarah Losh (1785-1853).

Women’s rights and what makes a feminist has been a debate since my student days. Forty years ago I was part of a campaign to change my Cambridge college’s policy so that women could be admitted. Shocking as it may seem now,
my University at that time had eight times as many male students as female, and the Master of our College suggested that female education might be a passing fad (perhaps an odd position to take in a College founded by a woman!). When I started on my chosen career as a librarian, a profession dominated by a female workforce, it was not much better at the top. The first national University Librarians conference I attended in 1992 had around a hundred men present, and only a handful of women. Thankfully a more proportionate demographic now exists among library leaders, and also in my College.

In her time, Sarah Losh could not attend University, directly manage the family businesses or enter a profession or politics, unlike her male cousins and uncles. She could however, growing up in a radical and reformist family where women were expected to know their own mind, benefit from an excellent education. She developed a deep knowledge of mathematics, science and the arts, and built her own library by subscribing to the publication of a wide range of books. Sarah is variously described as a heroine and a pioneer by reviewers of The Pinecone, but Uglow avoids any stereotyping of her subject.

The Pinecone is a mix of biography, social history and architectural study. Sarah chose to rebuild her local parish church at Wreay, near Carlisle, into what Pevsner later described as the finest Victorian church in Cumbria.

Photo: Wreay, St Mary's Church by Bramhall.
Reproduced under a Creative Commons license
This University has a course of study devoted to the English Parish Church: I don’t know if Sarah’s architecture is featured, but Pevsner was dumbfounded by its originality; influenced as it was by her Grand Tours to Italy and by her intimate sense of connection to place and history. The style of architecture defies simple categorisation, but was described by Sarah herself as ‘modified Lombard’ or ‘Early Saxon’. Funding for the project came from her family’s alkali business, so there were no objections to her method or choices, which included much nature-inspired decoration.

Photo: Wreay, St Mary's Church
by Bramhall. Reproduced under
a Creative Commons license
So finally to pinecones, to Afghanistan and to Uglow’s penultimate chapter entitled ‘Remembering’. Sarah’s friend since childhood, William Thain, of the West Riding Regiment, was one of the sixteen thousand British men, women and children who were killed or died in the passes near Kabul in 1842, just as Sarah’s church neared completion. The mysterious arrow in the baptistery was said by villagers to represent this violent end. Before his death William sent back a pine cone; the seed was planted in the Wreay churchyard, and Sarah placed a sculpted pinecone beside it. But to understand the full significance of the pinecone of the title, I encourage you to read the book.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Neanderthal's Necklace: In search of the first thinkers

The first in his 'Donating my night shelf' series. Stephen Town talks fossils and frostbite, as he donates The Neanderthal's Necklace to the University Library.

Arsuaga, J.L. The Neanderthal's Necklace, in the University Library at XY 9.9 ARS

Image courtesy of
Arsuaga, J.L. The Neanderthal's Necklace, 2003
ISBN 0470851570
It is ironic that in the week I decided to retire I also spent one of the most interesting and stimulating days I have experienced in the University. Amanda Rees’ British Academy interdisciplinary workshop on “Excavating Deep History: establishing and circulating knowledge of human origins” assembled an international cast, but also demonstrated a strength of York in bringing together researchers from different disciplines across the University in a fertile exchange. It was also a personal pleasure to be in the same room as Steve Fuller, but more of him in a later blog …

Photo: Bookshop window by
Garry Knight. Reproduced under
a Creative Commons license
Despite the Atapuerca excavations starting in the first year of my professional life as a librarian (1978), my copy of this book was purchased just last winter, when I was escaping a minus eighteen degree blizzard in London, Ontario on a visit to Western University. The most inviting place downtown for a librarian, and to recover from a frozen face, was of course a bookshop; run as I later discovered by one the University’s special collections advisors. As usual, I could not resist at least one purchase, and in the course of the journey home I had read the book.

The Neanderthal’s Necklace provides a mix of science, speculation and intuition, while endeavouring to describe and locate the origins of our common humanity. So, skip forward to the late summer glow of this University’s Lakehouse room, and I could feel like a well prepared student, rather than an interloper, as the workshop moved on to consider how the science and history of human origins has been appropriated at various points by particular vested interests, and how this remains the case today. Oliver Hochadel talked of the way in which Arsuaga and colleagues have gone well beyond the science, to project and communicate the extraordinary hominid finds at Atapuerca as the Spanish foundations of European society.

Photo: Neanderthal skulls by Leted
Reproduced under a Creative Commons license

The seminar itself concluded with a debate about when we became human, and of course this depends on one’s assumptions about what the definition or paradigm of humanity is, and whether this is congruent or not with consciousness. But anyone as fascinated as I am by this topic will find the Neanderthal’s Necklace a stimulating and moving introduction.

Donating my night shelf

Stephen Town, Director of Information and University Librarian, talks about why he's donating over fifty books to the University Library

Stephen Town, Director of Information
and University Librarian
As some of you may know, I have decided to retire at the end of this academic year. As a retirement gift to the University Library, which I have been proud to lead for 7 years, I have decided to donate fifty books, one for each week of my remaining tenure.

These books will be taken mainly from my “night shelf” and so will be a personal, idiosyncratic and broad selection, hopefully providing an interesting and intriguing read for any member of the University community.

The titles I have chosen to donate are intended to supplement the fund for “popular but serious” books, and if the Library already has the book then I will donate an equivalent sum to the general collection fund. This fund was created at the suggestion of the Pro Vice Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Information, John Robinson, to reflect our belief that the University Library should be universal in scope, and that reading for a degree means more than reading only for that degree.

Photo: Book collection.

Each week the blog will have a post on the chosen book, including its influence on my own learning and how I hope it will inspire and challenge future readers.

The intent here is to encourage reading, thought and discourse; so please feel free to share your comments.