In the next of our series introducing members of the team who you might meet at our sites or across the University, #DULibIntroducing welcomes Dr Danielle Westerhof who you may meet at our Palace Green Library. Do Say Hello!
Please state your name, full job title, and a description of what that entails:
Danielle Westerhof, Rare Books Librarian.
I’m responsible for the early printed book collections held at Palace Green Library, basically anything printed between 1455 and 1860. My role covers book cataloguing (including updating older records that don’t have much information in them); supporting the Ushaw rare books cataloguers; organising displays for teaching sessions and public events; answering enquiries; helping to provide search room cover; working with the Exhibitions and Learning teams; consulting with the Conservation Team about books that need some TLC; researching individual books and our named collections, such as Cosin, Routh and Bamburgh, as well as presenting the results of some of that research at conferences. I’m also involved with the Historic Libraries Forum and I’m the Secretary of CILIP’s Library and Information History Group.
How long have you worked at Palace Green Library?
I was appointed to a 1-year project post to work on the Bamburgh Library in October 2017. The following year I was lucky enough to be taken on in the role I have now. Before then I worked freelance as a rare books cataloguer, historical adviser, historic libraries consultant, editor – a proper portfolio career!
What is the most interesting/enjoyable aspect of your job?
Although the job can be a bit stressful at times, I really enjoy the variety, the fact that I get to work with these amazing collections and the opportunity to share what I know with others.
What are you reading at the moment, and would you recommend it?
Mostly work-related stuff, so unless you are a rare books librarian, it’s possibly not very interesting… I’m fairly eclectic in my taste when I do get the opportunity to read for fun and relaxation, but would recommend anything by the late Ian M. Banks. The City and the City by China Miéville is also worth reading for the clever conceit of two cities co-existing but not quite as we know it (don’t bother with the TV adaptation though).
If you had unlimited budget, what would be your dream book purchase for the Library?
Where to start? It might have to be a Gutenberg Bible, a first edition Vesalius (we have a facsimile copy of this and “only” an original second edition), anything in a significant binding or a book owned by an important historical figure (and I’m open to suggestions who that person should be).
Where is your favourite place in the world? (General or specific!)
Somewhere that doesn’t exist yet.
If you could invite one person from history for a coffee, who would it be?
Only one?! In a previous life as a medievalist I was intrigued by Berengaria of Navarre, who was married to Richard the Lionheart. So little is known about her and she appears to have been completely overshadowed by the people around her and by the events she was caught up in. I would also love to have a chat with any member of the Sharp family. Their library came to the Lord Crewe Trustees at the end of the 18th century when it was turned into a public lending library for the local community. The children of Thomas Sharp in particular come across as extremely well-read and cosmopolitan, dividing their time between London and Northumberland. They were also very musical and witty. I imagine an encounter with them would be a terrifying and exciting roller-coaster.
What is the best piece of advice (or any tips) you could give to new Library users of Palace Green?
Please don’t be daunted by the glass box or the strict rules about access if you want to come and have a look at items from our collections. We are here for anyone with a research or educational interest in our materials. We also have temporary and permanent exhibitions (all free if you are a Durham University student or member of staff).
Lastly, if we want to know more about your role in the Library, where can we look?
There is a lot of information about what we do and our collections on our website: https://www.dur.ac.uk/library/asc/.