Americas and Oceania Collections blog

29 January 2016

What's Next?

Today is my last day at the British Library as a member of Team Americas and before that the Department of Manuscripts. Looking at the several hundred blog posts, that amounts to a lot of words. So, today, I'm turning to a few numbers (431 of them).

1) In 14 years and two months, I've ordered up 4695 books. If you sort them by decade, it looks like primary materials were focused around the end of the eighteenth century, the late nineteenth, and the Great War. I could do with catching up on some more recent scholarship, and the stats are skewed by n.d. materials. You can do the same by visiting and chosing the export function, and playing with data analysis tool in your favourite spreadsheet or statistics software.

Books by decade

2) 14 years equates to roughly 210,000 emails sent. This explains why the letters are no longer present on several of the keys on my keyboard. Historians in the future will be aghast at this method of working (and in other spheres the loss of the historical record).

3) Over $1-million worth of books acquired for the nation. This is the one statistic that staggers me, and is a reminder of the vast resources lying in the basements here in St Pancras or in the low-oxygen stores in Boston Spa. I wish there could be a blog post - and a reader- for each one of them.

4) circa 330 exhibition labels for nine exhibitions, meaning around 330,00 words, no doubt cut down from 500,000.

5) I am not calculating the number of teas or coffees consumed in the staff canteen, except to say the appropriate way to measure out my life here is by the helpful conversation and companionship of colleagues.

7) several ml of blood in paper cuts.

8) 240 miles covered for the Tour de BL.

9) several hundred infractions of the Optimum clock (my DPhil was on the history of timekeeping, so I feel justified in noting here).

10) 59 calories: the estimated amount of energy required to walk from the British Library to the Institute of Historical Research, where I am pleased to say I will be starting work as librarian next week. I suspect has not included the stairs in this calculation. And I'll be cycling in any case.

Thank you for reading over the years - this blog, as well as, of course, the collections.  You will, though, be in very capable hands as Laurence, Beth, Matthew and Mercedes continue posting here, and helping to keep the Americas collections the extraordinary research resource (and site of memory) that I have been enormously privileged to work with.

— Matthew Shaw



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