Cathedral library collaboration

Can we work together?

Lambeth Palace Library would like to share its new building, and the resources and expertise we have here, with cathedral libraries and archives.

Project update, December 2023

In May 2023 we contacted cathedral archives and libraries to find out more about their needs. We asked each cathedral to rate ten suggestions in terms of potential benefit to them. These are suggestions which arose from initial conversations with a small number of cathedrals; Lambeth will not necessarily be in a position to offer each activity but we are keen to understand the full picture of cathedrals’ needs. You can read the ten ideas below, and see how cathedrals prioritised the suggestions.

Ten possible avenues for collaboration between Lambeth Palace Library and cathedrals:

a) Digitisation service
Digitisation carried out by Lambeth staff in Lambeth’s reprographics studio. Items would be assessed for suitability and volume through a video call; the material would need to be couriered to and from Lambeth.

b) Digital image storage and public access
Development and maintenance of a cross-cathedral image database, into which cathedrals could upload their images and users could search across multiple collections.

c) Online exhibition platform
Development and maintenance of an online exhibition platform into which contributing cathedrals could upload content for their own individual displays and collaborate with others on common themes. This could be used for both multiple-exhibit projects or showcasing individual items.

d) Preservation surveys

Surveys undertaken by Lambeth’s collections care team to highlight the areas that individual cathedrals may wish to prioritise. This could cover buildings and environment, procedures and condition of collection items.

e) Preservation supplies
Distribution at cost of small quantities of preservation material bought in bulk by Lambeth but which can be prohibitively expensive if bought separately by individual cathedrals.

f) Conservation
Treatment of selected items at Lambeth’s conservation studio; items would need to be couriered to the studio. A site visit by a member of Lambeth’s Collections Care team may be required for a preliminary assessment.

g) Training on areas suggested by cathedral libraries
For instance, on running exhibitions or training volunteers / staff in aspects of collections care (see Q.6).

h) Box-making service

Creation of individual tailored boxes for collection items using Lambeth’s computerised box-making machine. This would require cathedral library staff to be trained in measuring items for phase boxes. 

i) Guide to Cathedral Libraries
Creation of a guide for students or new researchers to introduce them to the material they are likely to find in 
cathedral libraries and archives, and the tools that can help them navigate the collections.

j) Use of Lambeth’s meeting / seminar rooms 
For cathedral library events.

23 cathedrals responded, equating to around 80% of cathedrals with relevant collections. The chart below is an extract from the survey results indicating how each of the suggestions listed above were rated, for instance, option ‘f’ from the list above was the most popular, with 23% of cathedrals putting this as their first choice.

Options ranked one to ten by the Cathedrals

Next steps

We are working through the responses from cathedrals and the questions they raise. Some of the suggestions, such as setting up an online exhibition platform or a digital image storage space are significant projects, while others such as training events and preservation surveys are quicker to get up and running. We are identifying areas where our capacity and skills match cathedrals’ needs and hope this will enable us to define a specific service to cathedrals in 2024.

If you have any thoughts or questions about this initiative, please do get in touch.

Rachel Freeman