Report: CILIP Y&H visit to the library at RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate, 19 May 2017

By: Rebecca Binnington, IP & Enterprise/Prison Librarian, Hull Libraries

On a drizzly day in May members of CILIP Y&H played a small game of ‘spot the librarian’ as we slowly gathered out front of RHS Garden Harlow Carr, to be met by Ben Sherwood (one of the RHS librarians). At this point I feel I should add that this was my first introduction to CILIP Y&H, though I have been working as a librarian for 16 years (shame on me!), secondly and possibly more to the point: I love gardening. In fact I love gardening so much it subsumes my love of the printed form (please quieten down in the back I recognise this is a fairly strong statement). It may actually be the case that there are others in our fraternity who feel the same, as I was fortunate to attend this visit – the date was oversubscribed.

Lead through the beautiful grounds of Harlow Carr (after being mightily tempted by the cakes on display at Betty’s) the Library is a modern building that rises above a playful sculpture of hares boxing and formal shrub and tree planting. Bramall Learning Centre, as it’s known, has many uses, providing classrooms for school visits, horticultural students and a space for those taking part in Harlow Carr’s year round activity programme and most importantly for us, the library.

The library is small but perfectly formed and packed with a large selection of gardening periodicals; practical gardening and garden design books. Book stock is organised using UDC (Universal Decimal Classification). Ben explained as a specialist subject library organising stock according to Dewey or other well-known systems would have meant large subject topics under one number therefore the decision had been made to spread the categorisation. The library also had a lovely exhibit of botanical prints and gardening equipment (there was a small wheel barrow that was quite adorable).

As Harlow Carr was once run by the Northern Horticultural Society we were shown the archival materials that date back to the 19th century. The RHS Archivist visits yearly (normally for a week) to maintain order and slowly bring the records up to modern archival standards. There was a very animated discussion about fire procedures as certain materials are highlighted to be removed first in the case of emergency, which lead to librarians swapping fairly eccentric stories regarding our personal experiences of emergency planning. The archives are not yet available for the public to search digitally but can be checked by staff.

The Research Room is available for use by appointment and includes such periodicals as Curtis’s Botanical Magazine and Gardeners’ Chronicles. The pre-1900 books and journals were in excellent condition and really lovely examples. So, if you wish to read the journal published by the Saxifrage Society in the quiet space of the library or if you would like to develop your plant cultivation and garden design skills by borrowing one of the many titles on offer (RHS members are granted 3 week loans, renewals available) then this is the RHS library for you. Plus, you have the beautiful gardens to roam, Betty’s on site and an excellent bookshop.

My thanks to Ben and his team (even giving up days off to welcome us) for a wonderful morning and an excellent walkthrough of all that is offer at Bramall Learning Centre.

More information about Harlow Carr, its library and the other RHS libraries can be found on the RHS website.

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