British Caving Library Report to BCA AGM 2017


Well-known member
This is being posted on behalf of Jenny Potts.

British Caving Library (BCL) Report to BCA AGM 2017

Library Use

The use of the Library continues to increase steadily, particularly the number of visitors who appreciate the facilities we provide: use of a computer, scanning, printing, copying, WiFi, etc; help in finding items in advance of a visit to save time and on-site help for our visitors. 

The chart shows the progress in enquiries and visits for the years 2010 to 2016.  Additionally, during the first 4 months of 2017 we have welcomed a further 27 visitors to BCL and answered 38 more emailed enquiries.  Last year for enquiries the ratio of straightforward copies to items requiring research was 65:35; this year it is approaching 50:50.  We receive an increasing number of enquiries from abroad.  Enquiries are handled by the Librarian, Mary Wilde.


The Library is also used for meetings of BCRA Council and BCA Training Committees and is able to accommodate meetings of up to 12 people.

Increases in Holdings

We now hold over 400 runs of UK periodicals and also periodicals from 51 different foreign countries (with over 400 titles), including 35 received in regular exchanges for BCRA Caves & Karst Science.  We have over 1750 books and now hold collections of unpublished cave science theses, sets of documents from caving organisations, International Congress Proceedings, expedition reports, DVDs, etc.  We also have an increasing number of archive items: log books, photographic collections, etc. and have recently received a donation of a number of cave surveys of varying vintage to add to our existing collection, which already runs to well over 1000.

We are gradually integrating the John Beck collection into the Library holdings and this includes probably yet a further 1000 cave surveys, as well as journals and books.  The Doug Nash collection of items of mining historical interest has been passed to the Peak District Mines Historical Society or, in the case of original records, to the Derbyshire Record Office.

In order to house all this we have increased our shelf length from its original 70m (when BCL was ?the BCRA Library?) to 250m, the maximum we can fit in the space currently available at Glutton Bridge, and we also now have 6 map chests holding surveys and maps as well as 2 cupboards and 4 filing cabinets.

We receive regular donations of books, journals, surveys and other material and, where these are duplicates of our own holdings, we try to pass them on to other caving libraries or else to the general caving public by ?lucky dip? at caving events, the proceedings from which are spent on library acquisitions.  (The Lucky Dip at Eurospeleo2016 raised over ?400, much of it from our foreign visitors; some overseas Librarians were particularly pleased to find we could supply items from their country which they did not have themselves.)

More recently we have acquired some archive material from the late Robert Leakey, though this was fragmentary and unsorted, and we are grateful to Andy Chapman for going through this for us and creating a preliminary catalogue.

The Library On-line

BCL has an increasing on-line presence, firstly with the on-line catalogue and bibliography, which is maintained by Martin Laverty from update records from the Librarian and me, which are emailed on to him.

John Gardner has steadily increased the holdings of the very popular on-line Audio Archive, comprising over 30 hours of fascinating interviews with cavers past and present.  John is also responsible for the BCRA Archives, a collection of digitised archive material, which is also gradually being added to.  More recently he has created and maintains an on-line Register of Caving Collections, allowing researchers to track down not only BCL?s and BCRA?s archives, but also various collections of interest to cavers available on-line or, in some cases, as collections of log books, documents, etc. held by museums or other libraries.  Where possible there are links to other online collections, including the BSA/Eli Simpson archives held by BGS.

All these facilities are accessible via the Library website:

Where we are now

The British Caving Library now has a far higher profile and is far more part of the mainstream of the British caving world than ever before.  We have an international presence, contributing to the UIS Informatics Commission Publications Exchange Working Group.  An expression of faith in our perceived permanence is that a Derbyshire caving club last year transferred their entire Library to us.  The Library Facebook page, set up by the Librarian, now has over 900 followers, including a number from abroad - that means over 900 people in the caving world who are actively interested in what we are doing. 

Jenny Potts, BCRA Library Co-ordinator,
3rd. May 2017​

cap n chris

Well-known member
It's all excellent and commendable but can someone confirm or deny that the BCA library receives ?20,000 per year from BCA/BCRA to keep it going? If so, with fewer than 75 visits doesn't this equate to a subsidy in excess of ?250 a pop? It's an amazing facility. Lucky people.


Cap'n Chris said:
It's all excellent and commendable but can someone confirm or deny that the BCA library receives ?20,000 per year from BCA/BCRA to keep it going? If so, with fewer than 75 visits doesn't this equate to a subsidy in excess of ?250 a pop? It's an amazing facility. Lucky people.

From the 2016 accounts it looks like it's been ?10,000 per year. That works out as almost exactly 10% of the income from membership (for 2015 and 2016 at least. For a CIM (the majority of members) that's about ?1.70 per person.

I agree that the cost per visit/enquiry seems a lot, but the cost per member certainly isn't. I think there's a strong argument that the value of the BCA library is more than just the number of visits/enquiries in the last calendar year. I've not used it myself, but I have benefited from the knowledge others have gained from using it, and I'm certainly happy to pay ?1.70 a year to have the option of using it. We're all lucky people because we can all access it.


Well-known member
Couldn't agree more MarkS; I am more than happy to pay ?1.70 a year (or more) just for the knowledge that our caving literature is being preserved, cataloged and maintained, even if I'm not making direct use of it myself on a regular basis at this point in my life. Maybe I will one day. A big thank you to all those who make this possible. 



I've used the library to get copies of articles when planning digs or exploration. The service from Mary Wilde has always been excellent. :clap:


Thanks for all your feedback -  it is useful to hear it , both good and bad.

We are currently working our way through a massive cataloguing exercise  - original holdings, new stock and donated stock.  On top of this we have archive material, photographs etc etc. We welcome visitors to do their own research, just have a look around, to look through our 'lucky dip' boxes (take what you want but give us a donation), or even to help with some cataloguing. 

Once we are further through this huge task it will be easier to satisfy specific queries and  far easier for visitors to find what they want.  We hold some rare and fascinating items. Enquiries from non members bring in  income via charges or donations.

The photo attached shows just some of the donated items we still need to catalogue.

Do come along - but email first so we can make sure the library will be open for you.   


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Jenny P

Active member
As many people seem to be unsure how the British Caving Library is funded, I have written a supplement to my Report to the BCA AGM which I hope will explain things to those who are not aware of the history.

Item 16: Supplement to Library Report

The British Caving Library (BCL) has evolved from the BCRA Library, which from 1980 had been hosted free of charge in the Local Studies Section of the Derbyshire County Library in Matlock.  The shelf length space at Matlock was around 70m, located in a back room with no space to work so that items requested had to be brought out into the main L. S. Library.  There was only a printed catalogue, the most recent being dated 2003; the Matlock Library was not open at weekends and parking was difficult.

The then BCRA Librarian, Roy Paulson, had not alerted BCRA Council to lack of space to shelve new items at Matlock but had simply kept these, unsorted and un-catalogued at his home.  Following his death in 2007 all this material was removed from his house and had to be placed in 2 x 150 sq. ft. rooms in a storage facility at a cost of around ?3800 a year.  No access for research was possible and there was no way of cataloguing this excess material.

BCRA decided in 2008 to pay a professional Librarian to begin to sort out the Library and, since BCRA has no premises of its own, a place had to be found where it could be worked on - the site chosen was the 1000 sq. ft. room at Glutton Bridge.  At first BCRA paid a Librarian and an Assistant Librarian to work part time but this was reduced in 2010 to the present arrangement of a Library Assistant paid to work one day a week.  Also in 2010 BCRA was asked to remove its Library from Matlock so this had to be moved to Glutton Bridge, consolidating the Library on one site.  Most of the equipment, storage and computer facilities now in use have been donated or bought second hand, though most of the actual shelving had to be purchased new and up to date software was bought.  A great many of the incoming publications are donated to the Library or received by exchanges but some new publications are bought.

The Library now has a secure base, accessible to cavers on request and with facilities for dealing with enquiries by email and, although volunteers do a great deal of work, it has a paid Library Assistant to provide continuity.

BCRA itself did not have an income stream which could support the necessary expenditure to maintain and run the Library. Hence in 2009, following the production of a Business Plan for the Library, BCA offered a grant of ?10,000 p.a. for the upkeep of the Library, now designated as the British Caving Library, with its facilities available to all UK cavers.  Any expenditure over and above this grant is met by BCRA.

As an example, expenditure for 2016 was:
?  4,800 Rent p.a. Glutton Bridge (incl. lighting, heating, rates, security system & small kitchen)
?    500 Broadband/WiFi and phone
?  3,200 Library Assistant
?  1,200 Approx. cost of BCRA  publns sent to Libraries abroad in exchange for foreign publications
?    370 General expenses (printer inks, stationery, etc.)
?    247 Publications bought

In addition, a total of ?1719 had to be spent during 2016 (+ ?567 in 2015), on temporary storage of the John Beck legacy (comprising thousands of publications, maps and surveys), while new shelving was bought for the Library and changes made to the layout to enable this to be installed.
10 June 2017

If you have any questions about funding, I'll be happy to answer to the best of my ability.


New member
rhychydwr1 said:
Ian Ball said:
I believe the library is world class.  Thumbs up from me for the investment.

I second that.  A pity it is not nearer to Mendip.

Glutton bridge is only about 40km from Appleby Parva, the population central point of mainland UK (  - so close enough.


I make them about 80km apart. In any case, everyone knows that Meriden is the centre of the UK.


Well-known member
I have made email enquiries to the library a number of times over the past several years and the service is excellent. It is a great resource and is there for all cavers to use. Keep up the good work  (y)


TheBitterEnd said:
I have made email enquiries to the library a number of times over the past several years and the service is excellent. It is a great resource and is there for all cavers to use. Keep up the good work  (y)

I'll second that.  :beer: (y)