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ASSAP History: 'Library'
by Val Hope

History Index

ASSAP might have no premises, but it has a peripatetic library, currently in its fifth home to date. The books and journals have been collected over the years, some bought, some donated, some bequeathed. Many authors have provided us with copies of their works, and publishers have submitted books for review. ASSAP’s librarian also once looked after the BUFORA library and the SPR’s ufology collection.

From 1982 the library had a long spell in the basement of Purley Library, due to the kindness of ASSAP member John Rimmer, who happened to be librarian at Purley. The first typewritten catalogue was launched in 1985 under librarian Wojtek Gaworzewski, at a cost of £3, shortly after a donation of 50 books and 200 magazines from the Fortean Times’ Bob Rickard. In 1990, when Croydon decided to rebuild its central library and needed our space for its own stocks, we became homeless. Following a stint stashed in boxes in members’ homes (thank you Tony Pritchett and David Christie-Murray), ASSAP’s expanding collection moved as a guest library in 1992 to its own space in the Senate House library of London's esteemed University College. This prestigious site in central London also played host to the Harry Price Collection. Our collection, however, wasn’t quite so famous. Our dark room at the end of the corridor was visited regularly by successive librarians bearing torches and armsful of books (largely Adam Bailey and Jim Clark for the period in question), but relatively few ASSAP members made use of the stock.

Our 25th anniversary year saw another threat to the library. The Senate House library found itself required to claim back its space or demand rent of £1500 per annum. This sum was quite beyond us, so we had to move on. Various options were explored again, ranging from returning books to donors; reducing the numbers of books by selling off or discarding selected publications; temporary storage; arrangements with academic bodies to share the books in return for shelf space; finding a friendly third party willing to house our books; and so on. The best option was shown to be Pleasley Vale Mills in the Midlands, an entertainment centre in a listed building. A new librarian, Terry Porter, and a team of helpers were recruited to enable members to use the collection. A change in ownership of the site meant that arrangement came to an end prematurely, and the end of 2006 saw the books move to a temporary home in Lincoln College, Oxford, where Mike White became de facto librarian, albeit in charge of a pile of boxes in a giant cupboard.

Clippings

Not actually kept with the library, but forming a reference collection in its own right, is the PASS clippings collection, a repository of information from ephemeral sources such as daily newspapers, company newsletters and glossy magazines. This clippings archive was launched in 1984 by then archivist Dr David Salt before being taken over by Dennis Bury for some years. It is Dennis to whom we owe the name ‘Press Abstracts and Survey Service’ and its acronym. Dennis in turn handed it over to Val Hope, who began to put the references into a database. Work is underway to produce an abstract of every article in the collection. Currently 2500 articles are recorded in the database, but abstracting the information from the articles takes time and a backlog of a similar size awaits. The aim is to give members access to the database through the ASSAP website. This will enable them to check up not only on cases that have been in the public domain, but also research conducted on themes such as alien life, ancient civilizations and the mind, and a fairly random selection of interviews, reviews of books, films and TV programmes.
© Valerie Hope 2007