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Royal College of Surgeons of England

Library of the Week: 11th March: Royal College of Surgeons of England Library! Find out more in this brilliant new piece written by Corinne Hogan (Assistant Librarian) –  thank you for taking part!

Here at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Library and Archives department staff provide access to both cutting-edge (pun intended) new surgical resources for our various membership groups and in-person and remote access to our heritage collections for external researchers.

Members’ Library

Revision session in the Members’ Library

The customer service team run the day-to-day service that the Library provides at our Lincoln’s Inn Fields site. All categories of membership and course participants can use the Members’ Library without a prior appointment. This part of the Library provides a comfortable space for reading and working.

Research Room

Person studying in the Research Room

By contrast, anyone from the public who wants to study our exciting heritage collections can do so with a planned appointment in our Research Room. We arrange these in advance to allow us to retrieve material, confirm that items are suitable for consultation and set expectations over how many items can be viewed in one visit. Medical historians, in particular, are spoilt for choice, and it may feel bit overwhelming when the scale of the collection is first appreciated. The email exchange, prior to the appointment, can sometimes mean that even before a reader arrives, a rapport is established; the team prides itself on being friendly and helpful and supporting researchers as much as possible. We enjoy collecting feedback and hearing about where their research will take the reader next.

Visits and Displays

As part of our work to bring the College Library collections into focus for members, the public, specialist groups, staff and colleagues from other libraries, we have a year-round commitment to running group events. Visitors discover more about the work we do and see firsthand the treasures from our holdings. We like to include an element of handling in each display, which is where we may differ from other libraries. This carries forward the historical ethos of the Library, which was originally started as a curatorial collection, used to help the custodians of the famous Hunterian Museum collection in their work, it was only later that the idea of a collection to support members was envisaged and turned into a reality. We think nothing beats being able to leaf through an original text and see knowledge of surgery, and a host of other subjects, advance before your eyes.

Digital Services

As well as answering enquiries from staff, members and the public and providing services like document delivery, the wider team supports all aspects of our digital library offer, allowing the department to serve a worldwide community of surgeons at all career stages with eBooks, e-journals, 3d anatomy tools and clinical databases.

Collection Management

The collections team work towards maintaining the high quality of the information in our catalogue, keeping track of our collections on and offsite, arranging retrievals from our storage partners and relocations as needed. They also work on solving authentication/access issues that sometimes arise with our journal and database providers and helping new members navigate the resources.

Evidence Support

Recognising the pivotal role of evidence in surgical practice, the Evidence Support Team delivers a suite of essential services for the modern surgeon. Our offerings include a range of literature searches including training, support for systematic reviews and publication, and providing the evidence for over 100 clinical practice guidelines over the last year. Additionally, our current awareness Specialty Updates, delivered via concise email summaries, serve as an indispensable resource, supporting surgeons to stay abreast of the latest evidence, guidelines, and technological advancements in specific surgical fields.

Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows and Voices of Surgery

Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows is a biographical register of the fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England containing over 10,000 obituaries from the foundation of the fellowship in 1843 to the present day. The Library team oversees the administration of the service, which is a valuable historical source in addition to a memorial to our fellows’ lives and contributions to surgery. The Voices of Surgery Oral History Project is a new project aiming to capture the experiences of surgeons and record the stories behind advancing surgical care in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Henry Lumley Collections Engagement Grant

Wendy Suffield 2023-24 HLCE Grant recipient

Alongside delivering these valued member benefits, part of the Library’s strategic mission is developing a diverse community of external researchers. The fine collection of rare books is supplemented with a large online library of fully digitised tracts and pamphlets. To encourage engagement with these the Henry Lumley Collections Engagement Grant was established and run for the first time last year. Researchers in any discipline who are interested in receiving a grant of £3,000 towards subsistence and travel expenses, access to study space in the Library and support from staff with specialist knowledge of the collections should read all the details and submit their proposals by 14 April.

Favourite Item from the Collections

I am quite a bibliographical butterfly and my favourites change all the time so it seems appropriate to mention that recently I came across John Hunter’s 1778 copy of Moses Harris’ ‘The Aurelian, or, Natural History of English insects, namely, moths and butterflies: together with the plants on which they feed…’. I find the dual pleasure of appreciating the beautiful hand-coloured engravings, alongside the knowledge that Hunter may have held this book in his hands, really exciting. It is also apparently very rare in this format as the expert Lisney noted when he studied it at the College ‘[he] declared the bilingual text to be one of only two extant copies and ‘probably made up from the original part-issues’.

Hunter’s copy of ‘The Aurelian’

Where to get more information

Our library blog and the Bulletin provide a rich source of articles about the collections. Last April, the Library started a new account on Instagram; we use it to tell members, researchers and staff more about aspects of our collections and projects. Follow us for up to date information on all that we do!

Our Research Room is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 5pm, more details are available from our website. We ask all readers to book an appointment in advance by contacting us at  new users also have to register with us and provide identification.

Corinne Hogan – Assistant Librarian

All images copyright of Royal College of Surgeons of England, reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder.


Follow us on Instagram

Apply for our research grant

Our tracts and pamphlets on the UKMHL

To make an appointment

Lives of the Fellows

Voices of Surgery

You can explore the library’s collections on Discover and find further contact details on their Discover information page.

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