Click here to skip to content

Italian Studies Library Group Minutes

AGM (The British Library, 21 June 2011)


Committee members:

Andrea Del Cornò (London Library), George Ferzoco (Bristol U.), Clare Hills-Nova (Oxford U.), Chris Michaelides (BL and incoming ISLG Chair), William Pine-Coffin (ex-Warwick U.), Denis Reidy (BL and outgoing ISLG Chair),

Other members:

Helen Byrne (Casalini), Charlie Carpenter (Reading U.), Doris Fletcher (BL reader), Zara Frenkiel (Natural History Museum, London), Cecilia Izzo (Oxford U.), Vernon King (ex-Cambridge U.), Maureen Pinder (Leeds U.), Kamila Reekie (Natural History Museum, London), Emeritus Prof. Corinna Salvadori Lonergan (Trinity College, Dublin)


Hélène Fernandes (Modern and Medieval Languages Library, University of Cambridge), Bettina Rex (Cambridge University Library), Bess Ryder (UCL Library), Anna Beasley (ex-Reading U.), Peter Larkin (Warwick U.)

1. Introductions

All attendees introduced themselves.

2. Minutes of the AGM, British Library, 29 June 2010

MP corrected the section covering budget cuts at Leeds: The cuts were in the region of 10%, not 60%.

The minutes were otherwise approved.

3. Matters arising

a). DR confirmed the opinions expressed immediately following Brian Richardson’s lecture (which had followed the 2010 AGM). Subsequently-received feedback had been extremely positive. Prof Richardson had agreed to the publication of his lecture in ISLG Bulletin n. 9.

b). DR announced Christopher Duggan’s inability to deliver his lecture later in the day owing to sudden illness. Fortunately, DR had persuaded Dr. Maurizio Isabella (Queen Mary College London) to step into the breach. His lecture would be entitled “Italian exiles in Britain during the 1820s”.

c). DR also announced that, in honour of the 150th anniversary of Italian Unification and the consequent theme of the 2011 lecture, it had been thought that attendance might include a number of Italian dignitaries (e.g., the Ambassador, the Consul General, etc.). In the event, it turned out that there would be no official representation after all. (This was in part due to Prof. Duggan’s cancellation as the Ambassador, et al., had heard Dr. Isabella speak only recently.) Approx. 35-40 attendees were expected at this year’s lecture. (The total was 47 attendees.—DR, 08/2011.)

d). Attendees were reminded that 2011 was a year of anniversaries:

-It was the 150th anniversary of Italian Unification

-It was the ISLG’s 10th anniversary

-And Emeritus Prof. Corinna Salvadori Lonergan had been in teaching for 50 years (at TCD)

4. Treasurer’s report

Hélène Fernandes had sent her report ahead of the meeting.

The ISLG was looking good financially. While production costs of the ISLG Bulletin had increased (owing to higher postage and printing charges), the 2010 AGM reception expenses had decreased.

The end-of-year balance stood at £1,111.46.

5. E-secretary’s report

CM reported that he had distributed details regarding the AGM and lecture via various “new media” vehicles, including Twitter. He said that he would update the ISLG website – adding the ISLG Bulletins nos 6-8 and the AGMs 2005-2009.

6. ISLG Bulletin

ADC reported that arrangements for the next Bulletin were now rather unsettled. The initial plan had been for three articles :

i. Christopher Duggan (University of Reading): the text of his June 2011 AGM lecture (now postponed).

Since Prof. Duggan was unable to give his lecture, but had offered to reschedule, the question was whether to delay publication of the Bulletin until this lecture could be included; or to find an alternative.

ii. Simonetta Agnello Hornby (novelist): on I vicerè (confirmed).

ii. Sara Mori (Scuola Normale, Pisa): on 19th century publishing in Rome (confirmed).

Future issues of the Bulletin would include details regarding the ISLG’s Constitution as well as information on how to become an ISLG member.

(DR noted that SIS membership had decreased from 300 to 250 approx., probably as a result of the financial situation and also because members who retired from their parent institutions tended not to continue their membership. He noted that, while ISLG membership had not dropped, a significant increase would be helpful. Arriving at this objective in the present financial climate, however, would be difficult.)

Identification of appropriate advertisers was moving forward slowly. Maney and L’indice had been contacted but to date no reply had been received. Routledge had agreed to pay the Bulletin’s increased advertising fee.

7. ISLG Elections

DR confirmed that he was standing down as Chair (having served for six years), and that CM had been elected as the incoming Chair. (CM would continue to act as E-Secretary.)

CHN had been elected Secretary, replacing CM.

There were no other changes.

8. Updates from members’ institutions

Helen Byrne (Casalini)

HB announced the launch of Torrossa, Casalini’s upgraded full-text platform. (See press release at Casalini was working with a variety of publishers to increase the range of e-books available via this platform.

Charlie Carpenter (Reading U.)

CC announced that the merger of Italian studies programmes noted at the 2010 AGM was continuing. The amalgamation of all programmes in the Social Sciences and in the Arts and Humanities was projected. To date, materials budgets had not been affected.

Andrea Del Cornò (London Library)

ADC discussed the Library’s difficult financial circumstances which had affected (a) staffing levels and (b) pensions.

George Ferzoco (University of Bristol)

GF announced a modest increase in the materials budget.

Zara Frenkiel (Natural History Museum)

ZF announced that the Images of Nature Gallery had been launched to great acclaim.  This year's theme was Chinese watercolours, featuring botanical and zoological works from the collection of the 19th-century amateur naturalist, John Reeves.

Considerable reorganisation was underway, including of the library reading rooms; and at Tring (Natural History collections formed by Walter Rothschild) and Wandsworth (Etymology).

An offsite facility for the library collections was under review.

A further round of redundancies was in progress.

Clare Hills-Nova & Cecilia Izzo (University of Oxford)

CHN and CI said that many major projects appeared to have converged on the year 2011 :

-The transfer of approx 2 million vols. from a variety of locations, to Oxford’s offsite storage facility at Swindon was in full swing. Anticipated completion date : 12/2011
Major renovations had begun, or were about to begin at :

                -the Bodleian
                -the New Bodleian (which would be closed until 2015)
                -the Taylorian

All these projects necessitated extensive collection reviews involving transfers to offsite and/or deaccessions. (For example, at the Taylorian 20,000 modern language titles had been reviewed, of which 3,000 were on Italian lit & language.)

By contrast, plans for a new Humanities complex, including a Humanities Library, were on hold owing to lack of funding.

Staff reductions across the Bodleian Libraries were ongoing, including many early retirements with staff members not replaced. Among these was Amanda Peters, the Taylorian’s Librarian in Charge. Jill Hughes, the Taylorian’s German and Yiddish Librarian, was now Acting Librarian in Charge; and James Legg, Taylor Librarian and also Head of Humanities Libraries, had moved his office to the Taylorian.

There were no major changes in the materials budgets. At the Taylorian, the cancellation of some overly-priced Italian periodicals (totalling £3-4,000.-) had enabled increased expenditure on monographs.

A new LMS was about to be introduced.

Maureen Pinder (University of Leeds)

MP reminded everyone as to the 10% cut in the 2009-2010 budget, affecting both materials and staff. The 2010-2011 materials budget had slightly increased (2%), but there was no change to the staffing budget.

The result was a further amalgamation in subject specialists’ collection responsibilities. MP, for example, was now responsible for Arabic, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Communications Studies.

A new University Librarian had been appointed: Stella Butler, formerly Deputy Librarian, Manchester U.

It seemed likely that a new Head of Collections was about to be appointed as interviews were currently being held.

An extension to Boyle Library, previously rejected, was now being reconsidered.

William Pine-Coffin (formerly Warwick University)

WPC reminded everyone that he was no longer a staff member at Warwick. The French Librarian, Peter Larkin, was now responsible for Italian as well.

Denis Reidy and Chris Michaelides (British Library)

DR and CM noted several positive initiatives as well as a number of discouraging developments.

The BL had signed an agreement with Google to digitise titles published 1700-1870.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council contract (an additional £800,000) in support of the Italian Academies project had been signed. Reading University had joined founding members Royal Holloway and the BL in this initiative. An Italian Academies workshop would be hosted by Royal Holloway at its Bedford Square (London) premises on 27 June 2011.  DR would be speaking on the Italian Academies at the upcoming SIS conference (St. Andrews, July 2011).

The BL would be hosting ‘Crime across the Continent’, a conference on European Crime Fiction. (Organisers: Geoff West, Head, BL Hispanic Section, and Barbara Hawes, BL Scandinavian Section.)  Giuliana Pieri (Royal Holloway) had agreed to speak on Andrea Camilleri’s ‘historical’ Sicilian crime novels set in the Unification period. [The conference is scheduled for 18 November but as yet there is no further information on the BL website.—CHN, 08/2011]

Major reductions in staffing levels had been announced, with 215 posts cut over three years. It was hoped that the majority of these departures would be through retirements or moves to other positions rather than forced redundancies. Reduced staffing of the Rare Books Information Desk and the Humanities Information Desk was anticipated.

Corinna Salvadori Lonergan (Trinity College Dublin)

CSL reminded everyone that the financial situation in Ireland was dire and that funding was extremely tight. Staffing levels were particularly badly affected :

-The Early Printed Books Librarian would not be replaced.

-The Manuscripts Reading Room had reduced its opening hours.

-A projected exhibition of Italian incunabula, in celebration of the upcoming “Settimana della Lingua”, was on hold as it was unclear whether staff would be available to support the endeavour.

The impact on acquisitions for Italian literature and language was similarly affected more by reduced staff in technical services than by purchasing costs. Nevertheless, CSL was continuing to make recommendations, all of which, to date, had been filled.

9. Future plans

Twice-yearly events

GF proposed holding two ISLG events p.a., with one in London and the other a slightly less formal event possibly in a location other than London.

Extensive discussion ensued, with members contributing a variety of views :

 -The postponed Christopher Duggan lecture could be part of this new cycle. (But this would depend on when and where he would be able to reschedule.) DR agreed to follow this up. [DR has since confirmed the rescheduling of this lecture for Monday, 21 November at the British Library.—DR, 08/2008]

-Other groups – e.g. the Middle East Libraries Committee (MELCOM) – had a history of twice-yearly meetings (in various locations) so this might be feasible for ISLG as well.

-A London-based event was always preferable as (a) it was easier for most ISLG members to get to and (b) it would attract more attendees.

-The second event could be held in conjunction with a departmental event, e.g., a research seminar.

-The second event could be held in conjunction with an ISLG Committee meeting.

-There should be a reception.

-The second event could be organised on an ad hoc basis.

-Travel costs to a second event, at a time of reduced institutional funding, could be difficult.


It was agreed that discussion would continue via e-mail and that the Committee would review all proposals.         

10. 2012 AGM and lecture

It was agreed that holding the AGM and lecture in late June was the most convenient time of year; and that the BL as a venue worked for everyone.

DR and CM noted, however, that the BL had changed its policy on which days would be available to hold events without charge. The AGM and lecture could no longer, therefore, be scheduled for a Tuesday as in 2011 the meeting rooms would be available on Mondays and Fridays only.

Members preferred moving the AGM and lecture to a Monday.

CM said that 2013 would be the bicentenary of Verdi’s birth. DR added that it would also be a Boccaccio anniversary year. Hence one of these subjects might be a suitable topic for the 2013 lecture. DR also reminded members as to previous speakers and their subjects :

  • 2006 : Dr. Alison Wright, UCL (Art History)

‘Relief and representation: the framing of honour in Italian art of the early to high Renaissance’.

  • 2007 : Prof. David Forgacs, UCL (Film)

‘Neorealism and photography: document, reportage and film in Italy 1936-1962’

  • 2008 : Prof. Iain Fenlon, King’s College Cambridge  (Music)

‘Italia in Iberia: Renaissance music for the Spanish market.’ 

  • 2009 : Prof. John Woodhouse, FBA, Oxford (Literature)

 ‘From poet to pirate: the life of Gabriele D’Annunzio’

  • 2010 : Prof. Brian Richardson, FBA, Leeds (Literature)

‘Transformations of a text: Boccaccio’s Decameron from manuscript to print and beyond’

CM noted that Prof. Brian Richardson would give the BL Panizzi Lectures (autumn 2012) on ‘Women in the Italian Renaissance’ (title to be confirmed). The 2011 Panizzi Lectures would be given by Professors Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume on ‘The Publication of Plays in Eighteenth–Century London: Playwrights, Publishers, and the Market’ (24, 25, 31 October).

Suggestions for the 2012 ISLG lecture, possibly based on a 2012 anniversary, were invited.

Among the proposed topics:

Leonardo da Vinci (It was pointed out, however, that a major exhibition on Leonardo was due to open at the National Gallery in November and hence this topic would be extensively addressed elsewhere.)

The Fascist period
Sports (because of the 2012 London Olympics)

Among the proposed speakers :

Andrew Graham-Dixon (Art historian and tv presenter)
Dr. Nicholas Penny (Director, National Gallery)
Prof. John Took (Chair of Dante Studies UCL)
Prof. Federico Varese (Criminologist, Oxford)
Prof. Stephen Gundle (Cultural historian, Warwick)

Members were asked to send their suggestions for speakers/topics to DR, CM and/or CHN by 15 July. The Committee would continue the discussion via e-mail, etc.

11. Any other business


12. Date, venue and time of next AGM 

Monday, 18 June 2012 -- British Library -- 2:00PM

[NOTE : Christopher Duggan’s postponed June 2011 ISLG lecture is rescheduled for Monday, 21 November; venue : British Library.--DR, 08/2011.
The next ISLG Committee meeting will be held the same day.—DR, 08/2011.]