A recent question regarding the availability or otherwise of the Robbins Report into Higher Education from 1963 in digital form on an education librarians’ mailing list highlighted two excellent resources for finding this sort of material. In a way they are polar opposites and a good example of the sheer range and type of resources now available to researchers if they know where to look. The House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database http://parlipapers.chadwyck.co.uk/marketing/index.jsp contains over 200,000 House of Commons sessional papers from 1715 to the present and is a subscription service available to registered staff and students using their Athens accounts. The other is Derek Gillard’s own website The History of Education in England http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/index.html which provides free access to some of the important historical official information relating to education plus some of his own articles and other sources of information.
Official information is one of those areas which feels quite daunting to a researcher. In the library we catalogue all official information if it’s available in print and have a huge collection. We have an online guide to help too.
For the last few years we have been struggling to do the same with the vast amount of electronic publications (and indeed have done so) but this is becoming increasingly difficult and time-consuming not to mention frustrating, with links to documents disappearing left, right and centre and documents that we know to have existed disappearing into the virtual wilderness (fear not, we have paper backup copies of many of them).
But we are about to unveil a really exciting project that we’ve been working hard on for the last year which should really help with the preservation and access of the increasing amount of electronic only material related to education – watch this space!