Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Library Committee of the Society for Psychical Research

Part of the new SPR library

On 4 August 2016 I was elected chair of the Society for Psychical Research’s Library Committee, the previous incumbent, Guy Lyon Playfair, having stepped down (though he remains a member).  Guy had held the position for many years, and I was honoured to be asked to take his place.

I have been on the committee since 2010 though I had originally been invited to join it in the mid-1990s by the then chair, Andrew MacKenzie.  Unfortunately I had recently moved out of London and didn’t think I would be able to attend meetings regularly enough, so declined.  These days a lot of our business is done by email, though we do have occasional meetings at the SPR’s London premises.

Being chair ties in well with my role as Reviews Editor of the SPR’s Journal. which involves keeping my ear to the ground for suitable new books.  I add details of these, plus others of a more popular nature, to a section of the SPR website devoted to publications of interest.

The SPR’s collection is among the best of its kind in the world.  Its formation was one of the first acts of the new Society in 1882, and it has continued to grow.  It is split between London and Cambridge University Library, where the rare books (designated ‘Z’) are housed in secure conditions, along with the archives. 

The Library Committee’s primary responsibility is to procure new books and periodicals, either by purchase or donation, exercising quality control over what goes onto our shelves.  Its members have considerable expertise between them and are able to ensure that researchers have access to as wide a range of material as possible within psychical research and parapsychology.  Suggestions for potential purchases, and of course donations, are always welcome.

With the move from very cramped quarters at Marloes Road to our own premises at Vernon Mews earlier this year we have extra space to house acquisitions, and the reading experience is much improved.  While the Library Committee may not have the cachet of some other SPR committees, such as those devoted to spontaneous cases or survival research, it is nevertheless a vital component of the Society’s organisation, and I am pleased to be able to play a significant part in its activities.