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Launch to raise awareness of historic library in Saffron Walden

08 Nov Launch to raise awareness of historic library in Saffron Walden

The Gibson Library, Saffron Walden’s independent, historic library was formally launched on 16 October following its renaming. Gillian Darley, the writer and broadcaster, was the guest of honour at a reception at the library on King Street attended by representatives of the local community including town and district councillors, Essex County Council Library Services and members of the Gibson Library Society which manages the Gibson Library. The new name recognises the founders and early benefactors from the Gibson family who supported the Library in the past.

Formerly known as the Saffron Walden Town Library and Victorian Studies Centre, the Gibson Library has an historic collection of more than 25,000 volumes, old maps, photographs, directories, periodicals and local material. Books include beautiful medieval manuscripts, rare botanical illustrations and a strong local studies collection. The library also has a research collection of more than 12,000 volumes which is continually added to. Such is the range of this independent library, that it has been described as a “microcosm of the world’s great libraries.”

The Gibson Library is open to the public and all are welcome to visit to view the reference collection or to borrow books from the lending collection. It shares a building with the Essex County Council Public Library and can be reached via the main entrance on Market Place.

Originally founded as the Saffron Walden Literary and Scientific Institute in 1832, the library has been a part of Saffron Walden’s heritage ever since. It has, however, had a relatively low profile in recent years. The launch of the renamed Gibson Library will be supported by a publicity campaign, including a new website, intended to raise awareness of its treasures and to encourage local residents, schools, visitors and academic scholars to make the fullest use of its collections. Changing the name is the first step towards raising the public profile of the Library through an increased number of events, and a closer working relationship with other educational and cultural organisations.

The Gibson Library Society contributes to the cost of rebinding many of the older books and its team of volunteers researches and maintains the collection.

The Society also organises a programme of free talks and events which are open to all. As part of the launch initiative, volunteers will be available in the Library on a regular basis to introduce the library to visitors and to assist readers in finding the material they wish to consult. New members are always welcome.

Martyn Everett, Chairman of the Gibson Library Society, said: “The Gibson Library is a wonderful and unique resource which we want to share with as many people as possible. Whether they are interested in researching the Victorian era or their own family history; love to handle old books or have an interest in photography; or perhaps just want to come and sit in our lovely Reading Room; everyone is welcome. We hope that today’s event and the programme we have planned, will encourage more people to come and discover the Gibson Library for themselves.”