National Chess Library closure

Debate directly related to English Chess Federation matters.
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gpjelliss
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National Chess Library closure

Post by gpjelliss » Sun May 17, 2015 4:31 pm

I am concerned to learn that after only seven years the University of Brighton in Hastings has decided not to continue to host the National Chess Library, where it was offered a "permanent" home, and that the ECF has decided to put the collections into storage where it will not be possible for anyone to consult them.

If neither body is prepared to sustain the project, I would like to suggest the setting up of a separate National Chess Library charity with the aim of lobbying for funds and sponsorship to maintain the library in some accessible form. This would not necessarily involve some other academic institution but simply acquiring a property where the Library could be housed and made available to visitors on a regular basis.

The problem with housing such a collection within a University Library is that the subject of chess is peripheral to their interests, and with changes of personnel there is the danger of the collection being made more and more difficult of access until it ends up in a storage room in the basement, as has happened at the University of Brighton in Hastings.
George Jelliss

Mike Truran
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by Mike Truran » Sun May 17, 2015 5:51 pm

If neither body is prepared to sustain the project, I would like to suggest the setting up of a separate National Chess Library charity with the aim of lobbying for funds and sponsorship to maintain the library in some accessible form.
If you have some time on your hands, I'm sure a lot of us will appreciate you leading the charge on this.

Jonathan Bryant
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Sun May 17, 2015 6:38 pm

gpjelliss wrote:... simply acquiring a property where the Library could be housed and made available to visitors on a regular basis.
You might first want to set up a charity to simply acquire a space ship to fly the ECF Board to the moon and back.

I don’t know what the chances of storing the library at your home are, but whatever the odds I’m afraid that’s a better bet that the ECF acquiring a property for the library at any point in the foreseeable future.

Tim Harding
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by Tim Harding » Sun May 17, 2015 11:50 pm

The long-imminent closure of the National Chess Library, and issues arising, has been under discussion for some months in the Chess History section, so perhaps the moderator should decide where future postings on this topic go.

As I see it, the move to the Hastings university set-up was a good idea IF the university could see that it was attracting researchers, but unfortunately Hastings is not that easy to get to (even from London). From my point of view, based in Dublin, the great chess collection in The Hague is much more accessible. So I suspect the library was mainly used by people living locally such as Brian Denman and Bernard Cafferty,

ECF never made active steps to encourage the university to set up, for example, chess history courses or a conference in which ECF and the university could have been partners. Back in the CJ days, shortly after getting my PhD, I did spend quite some time drawing up a proposal that they could have acted on, but their attitude was "great idea, you get on with it" which I was hardly in a position to do. The move had to come from them.

So at this stage they should just give everything to the British library.
Tim Harding
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Author of 'British Chess Literature to 1914', Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography', and 'Eminent Victorian Chess Players'
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gpjelliss
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by gpjelliss » Mon May 18, 2015 10:47 am

If this problem has been brewing for some time why has no-one from ECF contacted the relatives of the contributors of collections to the library to warn them of the possible closure and need for funds or for a new home?

I contacted Charles Clarke who opened the library in 2008 and it was the first he'd heard of the moves. Part of the library is based on the records of his father Sir Richard Clarke the statistician who devised the ECF grading scheme.

I also sent notices to the local press to try to arouse more public interest. It would be best if this discussion remains in the news section - it is a current issue, not a matter of chess history.

The problem of Hastings being difficult of access works both ways. I find London has been difficult of access from Hastings, especially over recent years and at the weekends when rail-replacement bus services seem to be always in operation. If the National Chess Library has to move elsewhere I would favour somewhere outside London, such as Leicester.

In the British Library, obtaining access to material in the vaults is time consuming in my experience. Chess is not a subject to which they give any value. During the war a lot of chess material was left in storage in Woolwich to be destroyed by bombing, whereas other items were moved to Wales.

What is needed is a place that will become known as the centre to go to in this country for all aspects of chess research.
George Jelliss

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Mon May 18, 2015 12:06 pm

"What is needed is a place that will become known as the centre to go to in this country for all aspects of chess research."

I suspect most of us would agree with that.

When I visited the library in Hastings, the staff were extremely helpful. I assume the decision to get rid of the collection was made by some senior bozo who never leaves his/her office and has no idea what happens outside that office.

Jonathan Bryant
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Mon May 18, 2015 5:23 pm

Tim Harding wrote:As I see it, the move to the Hastings university set-up was a good idea IF the university could see that it was attracting researchers, but unfortunately Hastings is not that easy to get to (even from London)
I went several times a few years back. I didn’t find it difficult to get to (from London). I did notice as early as my second visit that the system for recording visitors who were using the chess library was so slapdash and haphazard that it would be impossible to tell how many people were using the library/how often.

I’ve used the British Library often too. I was there saturday. I don’t recall having to wait more than 30 minutes for material to be brought to me. Some of the staff can be a bit funny - I did once get into a row with somebody who was insisting the book that she handed me was the one that I asked for even though it had a different title, author and id number - but they can be massively helpful too.

We have forgive them for the fact that they let some chess stuff get bombed 70 years ago and move on.


I"m not against the idea of there being a centre for chess research but the idea of us getting one at the moment is totally fanciful. It’s not just the cost of hiring the building. Who is going to open the doors, keep the material in order/hand it out to visitors?

Where’s this money going to come from? It’s a huge task. It’s not as though there’s bucket loads of sponsorship out there for the taking.

gpjelliss
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by gpjelliss » Tue May 19, 2015 11:07 am

It is going to cost the ECF several thousands per year to keep the library in storage anyway.

It is possible to rent a lock-up shop for £5000 to £8000 pa in this area. There is one currently advertised in Sackville Road, Bexhill, not far from the station, for just under £8000 pa. No doubt there are other costs as well of course.

Volunteers to look after the library and the visitors would no doubt be forthcoming if there was a definite proposition. I for one, being retired, would be available. No doubt it would be possible to continue to use my computer on the premises for my own purposes during quiet periods.

My personal interest in this matter is partly because I contributed nine boxes of material to the library on behalf of the British Chess Variants Society with which I was involved. It used to be in a bookcase in my living room, but now languishes in limbo somewhere.

It doesn't seem to me that this is an outlandish proposal. Of course it would help if other sources of funding could be found.
George Jelliss

Mick Norris
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by Mick Norris » Tue May 19, 2015 11:53 am

It might be worth looking at the Finance Council papers to see what the actual position would be

The attached may help
Attachments
2015.04.18 Finance supplementary paper.pdf
(230.81 KiB) Downloaded 70 times
2015.04.18 Finance Director report.pdf
(101.02 KiB) Downloaded 151 times
2015.04.18 National chess library.pdf
(214.28 KiB) Downloaded 101 times
Any postings on here represent my personal views and should not be taken as representative of the Manchester Chess Federation www.manchesterchess.co.uk

Gordon Cadden
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by Gordon Cadden » Tue May 19, 2015 1:22 pm

The all important information in the NCL attachment provided by Mick Norris, is that the Library in Hastings was visited by less than ten persons per year. This should give G.P.Jelliss pause for thought.

David Robertson
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by David Robertson » Tue May 19, 2015 1:46 pm

Ten different people? So many?

Mike Gunn
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by Mike Gunn » Wed May 20, 2015 7:32 pm

There was an item on the BBC London news tonight about the Science Museum getting £8 nillions from lottery funding to help preserve/ display items relating to the history of medicine. (If chess were recognised as a sport we could apply for lottery funding. too.)

gpjelliss
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by gpjelliss » Fri May 22, 2015 10:26 am

The NCL PDF provided by Mike Norris above says "The ECF received notice that the National Chess Library MUST move from its current location by March 2015" (my emphasis), But there is no indication whether any negotiation on this took place with the University other than to allow more time.

The PDF also says that the Library Committee made "searches for a new location free of charge". But why does the location have to be free of charge? If the ECF is willing to pay several thousand to put the library in storage, why not pay the same for it to be kept open? A much better use of the money.
George Jelliss

Brian Denman
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Re: National Chess Library closure

Post by Brian Denman » Fri May 22, 2015 1:42 pm

The figure quoted of less than ten people visiting the library per year is misleading. For the last two to three years people wanting to view books had to give 24 hours notice during which time the staff would look for any material in the basement. One could not walk around and browse at the collections and under these circumstances it is hardly surprising that hardly anyone used the library. Before 2012 when one could look around the library and take one's time to see exactly what one wanted, there would have been much more than ten visits per year. I know this as I personally would have used the library significantly more than ten times per year.


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