How the Library fits into the Club
Reproduced from the Winter 2011 edition of The Flyfishers Journal
Members of The Flyfishers’ Club generally regard their Library as a splendid metaphor for what the Club has come to stand for: its longevity, the sharing of information and experience which draws anglers together, and the tradition that inspires fishermen to write about their sport.
Naturally, with such a diverse membership, the intensity of feeling about the Library varies. Some members experience it as no more than a wall-paper that is a part of the inventory of furnishings and adornments that make the Club premises so appealing. Rarely do such members touch a book, whereas others often find themselves compelled to take one down for perusal. These members may be checking a recollection, seeking an answer or simply satisfying their curiosity. They may find what they are looking for in a few moments of browsing, or take advantage of the entitlement to borrow a book for closer scrutiny at home. For a minority of members the Library is a living resource with which they can interact often and beneficially. These readers may be engaged in their own serious research or just inherently disposed towards digging deeper into the history and mysteries of our sport.
It follows that there has to be a design concept behind the construction of the Library. Simply relying on haphazard donation, while most welcome, is unlikely to create the ideal collection. But this is not leading towards a plea for the use of more Club resources to make further acquisitions. Instead it is to report to members on what has been achieved and where we stand today. Having thought deeply about it, I am confident that we can say that the Flyfishers’ Club Library is the best working library of the literature of flyfishing in Britain anywhere in the world.
That is quite a statement but to my knowledge there is no national library or university that comes close, and I know of no private collection that so successfully brings together the principle ingredients called for by my claim. These I take to include substantially complete collections in at least the following categories: key titles recording the history of the sport in all significant editions; books by members; recently published works that record where flyfishing is today; a comprehensive collection on flies and fly-tying; key angling journals in near-complete runs; and complimentary reference sections on subjects such as fishery management, aquatic natural history, and flyfishing abroad.
Within the Flyfishers’ Club, the core resource of the Library is of course enhanced by our possession of collections of photographs, correspondence, diaries and other manuscript material, artificial flies, natural flies, and historic rods, reels and other tackle items. These are often the subject of articles in this Journal by our Curator, John Morgan, other members of our sub-committee or experts brought in as advisors.
An important consequence for the Club of having a working library is that, thanks to the way the tax rules are written, it qualifies us for a significantly reduced level of VAT, a saving that falls through to the benefit of Club funds. To reap this reward we have to ensure that the Library is available to members as a research resource. We also consider serious applications from non-members for access. Usually we require that the individual knows what it is that they wish to see, so that we can show them in a supervised situation. We do not have the facilities for researchers to go off on wide-ranging searches, but we are always as helpful as we can reasonably be.
Amongst our members, two of the most eminent writers who have made extensive use of the Library in recent years are Tony Hayter and Fred Buller. Tony’s excellent biography of Frederic M Halford is shortly to be followed by a companion volume on the life of GEM Skues. Tony found much of value to both projects in the Club Library, whether it was the chance to examine books he does not own himself, or to look at manuscript material and correspondence in the Club’s possession, or search for new facts in our collections of newspapers and journals. Fred Buller has also been an assiduous sleuth in his search for monster salmon, many of which first made an appearance in The Fishing Gazette. Amongst non-members who have published important books that owe something to the access we allowed them to our Library are Chris Knowles, Terry Lawton and Chris Newton; all have new books in progress. A pleasant by-product of our helpfulness is that we usually receive a nicely inscribed copy of each new book to go into our ‘precious’ collection of books donated by their authors.
It may be helpful to remind readers that books on open shelves may be freely browsed and, if required, borrowed. Books behind glass and in other locked cupboards are there because of a combination of their rarity, fragility and value. They can be seen, most easily by making an arrangement with me as Librarian to show them to you.
We will continue to grow the Club Library, but on a carefully planned basis. We do not aspire to own everything ever written on the subject as we are limited both by space and economics. But there is always a ‘wants list’ in my mind, consisting of books that I think should be in the Library according to the list of categories I described earlier. In this area I am always open to suggestions from members who can make a case for titles that we do not have.
Because space is at a premium, we have a storage facility outside the club in which we keep books on some of the less frequently called-for topics. These can be seen at relatively short notice.
The Flyfishers’ does have an impressive collection of books and other forms of angling memorabilia. While we can to some extent keep members informed about all of this through these pages or the occasional Winter Talk, any member who is not satisfied by this is very welcome to contact myself or John Morgan to arrange a showing of whatever it is that interests them.
David Beazley – Hon. Librarian