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National Committee for Information Resources on Asia Conference

By Vanessa Freedman, on 3 December 2015

I recently attended the National Committee for Information Resources on Asia (NACIRA) Conference in the beautiful surroundings of the Centre for Applied Buddhism at Taplow Court near Maidenhead.

Taplow Court exteriorThe theme of the conference was ‘Bespoke Libraries’ and the speakers were from small and little known libraries related to Asian and Middle Eastern studies.

The first speaker was Akira Hirano of the Lisa Sainsbury Library at the Sainsbury Institute for Japanese Arts & Cultures in Norwich. He spoke about the disadvantages (having to do everything yourself) and advantages (lack of bureaucracy) of being a solo librarian, and about the challenges of attracting users to a library that is rather out of the way (they have accommodation for visitors!) Unfortunately the future of the library is rather uncertain at present.

The second speaker was Steven Spencer from the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, whose talk had the intriguing title ‘A Land of Beauties and Terrors: The Salvation Army in East Asia’. I had never heard of the Salvation Army’s library and archive in Camberwell, which could be a useful resource for researchers and is open to the public.

Finally, we heard from Pauline Malkiel of the Valmadonna Trust Library, one of the finest private Hebrew  collections in the world. It was amassed by diamond merchant and bibliophile Jack Lunzer over many years and eventually took over most of his house in North London, where it was available to researchers. In view of Mr Lunzer’s advancing age, the trustees decided a few years ago to sell it to an institution and it was shipped to Sotheby’s in New York, where an exhibition attracted thousands of visitors. There was some consternation among Jewish Studies librarians recently when Sotheby’s announced the sale of 12 items (mostly manuscripts) from the collection. However, we were assured that the trustees still plan to sell the library (almost) in its entirety rather than auction it off piece by piece.

CAB LibraryWe also had the opportunity to explore the stunning  19th century house and grounds and to view the library, which contains over 17,000 volumes on Buddhism and related subjects.

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