Monday, October 10, 2016

Opening the doors

Last month, for the first time ever, my library took part in Doors Open Day. My organisation has taken part in DOD for many years, but the library had never been involved before. From my first days in the library, I was aware of the need to raise its visibility, both internally, and externally. We've been working hard internally to raise awareness of the service, so that was being dealt with. To add to that, taking part in Doors Open Day seemed to be a good way to show the public more of what goes on in the organisation, and what resources are available to the service users.

My colleague and I worked hard to make sure that the library would be an interesting destination, and the public would know about it. Because the library is in a secure area, the only way to visit was to book onto one of the two tours running throughout the day, and choose at the end to come to the library. We made posters to leave at the booking desk, and another popular visitor area, to tell people how to get into the library. We put signs up in our windows, which many members of the public passed on their way into the building. We told other members of staff about the activities and items we had in the library, so they could tell the public. We're unsure whether it was the effect of this promotion work, or just general curiosity about the existence and work of the library, but visitor numbers exceeded our expectations - we suspected maybe only 5-10 visitors would continue on past the end of the tour to the library, but in the end at least 20 visitors per tour came to the library, meaning at least 200 people visited the library on the day.*

We restricted access to anything beyond the main ground floor corridor - we couldn't allow visitors to go where we couldn't see them, so we had to keep them in this space. To block access to the rest of the ground floor, we used roping, kickstools, and...Magnus.

Magnus, our skeleton staff. Many people think that Magnus retired from the Assistant Librarian role, but we know better...
So what did we have for visitors to do and see int he library? We had three desks to use for display in the ground floor space, and we used each for different purposes - one for an activity, one for display only, and one for browseable texts. We also used the library service desk to display additional items, and freebies for people to pick up. A window hosted a display usually managed by another department, but which we used this year, and which worked well with the materials we had to show.

Unfortunately my phone camera doesn't cope very well with the contrasts between the areas of dim and bright light in the library, so these photos make it look like there were some very bright lights on the books, when they weren't anything like as bright as that!

Ink, quills, pen pot, calligraphy examples and an original, hand-annotated copy of a text

At the first desk, we were hosting the materials which another department usually displayed, on technology through the ages. These materials included old quills, ink pots, document bundles and handwritten ledgers, along with a typewriter, floppy discs and dictophones, and these were placed in the empty window space above the first desk. To complement this, I bought quills, a dip-nib pen and nibs, and calligraphy inks. These were put on the desk in front of the technology display, with a layer of blotting paper, laminated example sheets of calligraphy, and a pile of squares of paper, to allow visitors to try their hand at writing with quills and nibs. This proved to be hugely popular, with all ages of visitors - frequently, people were already trying out the quills even before I had welcomed them to the library and invited them to try them! Almost every person who visited the library left with some sort of inked item: the Chinese ladies' names were particularly impressive, as was the beautiful poem about souls left behind by one visitor.
Historic texts on display on book pillows
We had a display of some of our older and more interesting texts from the special collection on the second desk. This included a 1699 text by George MacKenzie on "Laws and Customs of Scotland in Matters Criminal " which discusses the crime of witchcraft in some depth (accompanied by a modern English translation by me of the first few witchcraft pages), a text open at a 1665 case of son of a William Wallace trying to claim his inheritance, a text from the 1800s on the trial of Lord Melville for "high crimes and misdemeanors", a Latin text from the late 1600s, a copy of Regiam Majestatem from 1609, with additional annotations, a book on "the Douglas Cause", and a selection of other interesting books. After this picture was taken we also added a selection of handwritten deeds from 1700, with beautiful handwriting. Although the library has many modern texts, and electronic resources, we felt that they aren't as interesting to the public as "old stuff"!  The materials on this desk were the source of most questions from visitors, with people wanting to know about book ages, authors, history, contents,the legal system, the handwriting, and all sorts of other random things!

Books on the crimes, the law and notable trials
 We had a third table, with dictionaries of crime for people to look up the changing penalties for certain crimes. There were also exampes of books about practitioners of the law, and how they view themselves (the Punch drawing about the absurdity of women barristers was well liked - apparently, they'd just have their silly little heads turned by fashion) and materials on notable trials, including one being re-enacted on site that day. These were for visitors to flick through themselves,

The library service desk was used to display a large volume of the record edition of the Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, with a Glendook duodecimo edition for comparison.

Magnus checking the card catalogue for overdues
We had a tour group arriving approximately every 20 - 25 minutes, with the visitors able to stay up to 15 minutes in the library. As the library is in a secure area, someone was needed to escort visitors from the library and the building when they wished to leave. My colleague took this role on, and was busy constanly going back and forth as people requested to leave. I therefore was responsible for doing the talking - not a job I'm generally particularly keen on, and it was quite challenging - getting the attention of an unknown group, who were leaving at random times, and trying to explain the different desks and their contents to them, along with answering totally unpredicable questions. I think I got into the swing of it quite quickly, and I got quite a few laughs from the visitors - one even said I'd made a location and information that could be dry and boring into something interesting and fun, so I'd say I got away with it!

It was great to be able to speak to members of the public about what the library and the library staff do, and they had some interesting questions, which put my general and legal knowledge to the test! Some I knew, some I didn't know and have found out, and some I've yet to check.

  • Where did you get the quill pens from? And the ink? 
    • Feathers I bought on eBay and cut myself, and calligraphy inks that work well with dip-nib pens from Cult Pens
  • Who was the last person to be tried for witchcraft?
    • Helen Duncan, during WWII
  • Was the law to prosecute witches still in force?
    • At the time - I don't know, probably not! Now - I know it was repealed by the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 (probably something to do with Helen Duncan, but I've not had time to check this)
  • Which court room would trials for treason in the 1700s been heard in?
    • I'll need to double check this one, but renovations in the 1800s mean I'm unsure without checking about which courtrooms were where
  • When were women first allowed to sit as jurors?
    • I've not had time to properly check this yet, but I suspect it was at the same time, or soon after the point when we gained the right to vote. It may have been the Representation of the People Act 1918, or the Equal Franchise Act 1928
Also, there were some unexpected things: someone was so keen on the quill and ink that I decided to give them a few of the spare feathers, to take away and showed them how to cut the shaft to be able to use it to write with. Another person was so fascinated by the translation of the witchcraft text that he asked if he could take it? We were happy to oblige, and printed ourselves another copy. Someone else wanted to understand and discuss the comparable points of Swiss and Scots law. An English-qualified retired legal practitioner wanted to know what the equivalent of Halsbury's Laws of England was, as she'd never known but assumed it existed (it's the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia of the Laws of Scotland). Magnus also was occasionally "interfered" with by visitors, and I sometimes spotted people taking books off the shelves which had a rope in front of them to discourage that. As they weren't special or unusual, I wasn't concerned about this, but it was surprising to me that people would touch things that were obviously meant to be off-limits. I suppose I'm just not used to how odd the public can be!
Overall, it was a hectic, exhausting, but very fun day - I'll definitely be taking part again next year - will you be visiting?

* This is just an estimate - we were way too busy herding people to be able to count them, especially when two tours colluded and we had 40+ visitors in the library at once!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Relaunching a library service

What do you do when you decide to do what is verging on library-based insanity, and basically scrap your current library service, and relaunch everything - physical layout, LMS, and classification system? In my case, spend a year, planning, developing, preparing….and then a frantic few weeks hauling stock!

The background to this apparent madness is this: when I took on this role I inherited a library using a layout that didn’t seem to make sense, a classification system I wasn’t familiar with, and an LMS that had been in place for 20 years but didn’t seem suited to our needs. As I was new to the library, a major part of the time I had available while settling in during my initial few months was dedicated to exploring how well these things were working, both for users, and library staff. I had the benefit of my colleague also being new to the library, only a few months after me, so together we looked at these issues with fresh eyes.We came to the following conclusions:
  1. The physical layout over the three floors was not intuitive, and separated core materials over multiple floors, which led to confusion for users and extra travel around the library.
  2. The classification scheme was more suitable for a large library in a common law jurisdiction than a medium sized one in Scotland. Materials on the same topic were split by jurisdiction into different locations in the library, which was confusing for users and did not allow users to browse easily.
  3. The LMS was more suited to a large institution than one the size of my library, and had accumulated too many errors in records to be regarded as reliable. It was also overly complex and difficult for library staff to use, and far more expensive than equivalent products with better functionality

So, what was my solution to these issues?

  1. I decided to change the way the library was physically laid out. This was linked to the classification scheme.
  2. I changed the classification scheme from Moys, to one developed in-house for Scottish law firms - this scheme allows far better browsability of the shelves, and is designed to incorporate the specific legal terms and issues unique to Scots law.
  3. I worked with Procurement to identify and implement a new LMS, which halved the ongoing costs of the system, and gave library staff a greater ability to manage materials effectively.

Well, those are the main points of my relaunch plan. The actual implementation takes a little bit more effort than that!

  • I needed to adapt the classification scheme I had chosen, and update it - it was developed in the 1990s and some of the terms used in it were very dated. It was also originally developed for use in a commercial law firm library, and therefore neglected most areas of criminal law - this whole area needed to be expanded massively.
  • I wanted to be sure the subject terms we would use would reflect current legal terms in use on standard legal databases. I downloaded a standard legal taxonomy from a large publisher, and went through it methodically, pulling out the terms I knew we would use, and adding in some Scottish-specific ones. This was imported into the new LMS and allows us to tag materials consistently, and in a way that users would recognise.
  • I’ve been working with the Assistant Librarians (there’s only one AL, but one is on maternity leave, and the cover librarian has picked up where the initial one had to stop) to import the records for all of our textbooks from COPAC, and catalogue them in the new system. We have at least 3,500 textbooks and 45,000* other items in a variety of locations (both in the library and in a multitude of sub-sites within this building and others), so our focus has been on getting the core textbooks onto the system. I made the decision that we would also be cataloguing the contents pages from the textbooks, to make sure that the books and their contents were findable through the LMS in a variety of ways.
  • The AL and I have manually added hundreds of staff/users on to the system, and monitor staff bulletins to ensure that new staff are added as soon as possible.
  • I measured every shelf in the library, and every law report series/run of primary and secondary legislation/journal volumes, to calculate how much shelf space they’ll take up, then drafted a detailed plan for exactly where they’d go on the ground floor in the new layout (I ran out of time to do the same for the other floors).
  • We decided on what items can be sent to our storage and archive rooms, to reduce duplication in the collection.
  • The three staff currently in the library spent many hours mapping the old classification system to the new one, to enable us to relocate the textbooks from their old shelfmark to their new one more efficiently .

Since last week, my colleagues and I (the excellent Assistant Librarian and a fabulous intern) have been working on the actual physical relocation of stock. We’ve now got the ground floor rearranged to its final layout, have moved half the stock from the mezzanine floor to new (temporary and permanent) locations, and we’re now ready to do the big shift of the textbook stock. This is where the users are going to see the biggest change, as almost everything on this floor will be changing its location.

We’re now in the quiet period for my workplace, and luckily we have had the extra help of that fabulous intern - having three people work on this has been so helpful, and we’ve got about half of the stock-moving done in a week. Since I estimate that we’ve moved about 8,000 volumes in the last few weeks, and we probably have the same to move again before we’re done. It’s physically demanding and exhausting, but it’s satisfying to see things taking shape.

Despite me having tried to explain what we were doing in the library and why to a variety of people in advance of this move, it’s only now that people can actually see for themselves how things have changed that they’re beginning to see what I’ve been talking about. Already we’ve had positive feedback, which is very good to hear - it’s been a LOT of work to do this, and knowing that users are happy with what’s been done is a great vindication!

It’s not finished yet either - once we have the bulk of our textbooks on the LMS we’ll be officially launching the new system to users, and training them on the new uses of the system - they can see their own account to check what they have on loan, see who has the items they want out on loan, request books of photocopies be sent to them, and all sorts of exciting new things that just weren’t possible before. The relaunching of the service continues...

So, what would I advise if you were planning to do something similar in your service, that on first glance seems to be verging on masochism?

  • A core part of this relaunch was the new LMS. Take the time to find out the detailed specifics of how you can buy a new or replacement service - despite trying to get this sorted out early, not having been involved in a public sector procurement process before I had no idea quite how long it would take - what is simple in the private sector (“this is the best product for our needs”) becomes an epic and labyrinthine process (“we need a new LMS...this is what an LMS is”). I had trialled a variety of LMS, expecting that I would be able to then select the most suitable one, only to find that all my efforts had to be scrapped and I had to start again, and work in a very convoluted structure. So - seek advice early! I did, but unfortunately, what I was told was incorrect, so - seek advice early, AND get a second opinion on that advice too!

  • Despite all my best efforts of measuring, and matching, and over-estimating, and allowing for expansion space….things haven’t gone quite as hoped with how materials fit on the shelves. This has meant making some ad-hoc decisions on temporary new locations, and will mean another phase of stock moving will have to come later. So - even if you think you’re giving plenty of space...give more.** And have a fallback plan in case of overspill of stock if the estimates don’t work out.

  • Things will always take longer than you think - I wanted the new LMS to in place and being catalogued onto by September 2015, but due to a variety of delays, it wasn’t partially ready until December 2015, properly useable/staff being trained until February 2016, and our old LMS went offline at the end of January 2016. This meant we had only a few weeks to try and get stock onto the new system before it went live and our old one became inaccessible. Needless to say, this was NOT ideal! It also pushed back our stock move plan from spring 2016 to summer 2016.

  • Don’t get distracted - the AL and I keep on finding things that need sorted as we look closely at the stock while moving it*** and have to keep reminding ourselves of our priorities - just get things moved, THEN you can fiddle with them.

  • Ask for more storage or disposal boxes than you think you need, because these sort of stock moves also include some informal stock reviewing - I’ve decided to send a variety of things for disposal (no, we didn’t need that partial third set of those law reports), and others to storage (SIs and SSIs are not something I expect to need regular access to). However, I had only requested enough crates for what I had already decided to send elsewhere, and additional items needing moved weren't accounted for. The lack of crates to put things in for these purposes means stock sitting temporarily on trolleys until we can get

  • We weren’t able to get internal physical help for this stock move (it would have been available to us), as so many of the move decisions were based on knowledge only I had in my head, and because we kept having to make ad-hoc decisions, it would take as long for me to instruct someone who was helping to do it, as to do it myself. I hate having to work like this - I try and share my knowledge with my colleagues as much as possible, so this was not a natural way for me to work. It also meant I needed to be constantly involved, which was difficult to balance with my normal demanding workload. If you have the time to plan something like this, try and factor in writing up detailed instructions/guidance for anyone who’s offered to/been instructed to help.

*To be honest, it’s probably actually far more items than that - we just keep finding more stock in random locations!

**How can something that took up 30 inches of shelf on one floor take up 40 inches on another floor?

*** Why were the loose parts from that volume from 1991 not sent for binding? Does this volume need a repair on the spine? Everything is so dusty, should we be cleaning these?

And now...time to get these empty bookshelves filled up!

Monday, June 13, 2016

When mentoring malfunctions

Mentoring's one of the standard activities that you'll come across in the information profession. We're very caring and sharing like that, wanting to support people in their professional development.

As you start your career as an information professional, you'll regularly hear the advice: get a mentor.
Or, as you advance in your career and seem to be doing well, you'll be advised to become a mentor.

This is fine: yes, both being mentored and being a mentor can be excellent relationships, and very useful for both parties involved. But.....mentoring relationships are like any other relationships: they can go wrong. And they can go wrong in a whole lot of ways.

I've heard of mentors and mentees whose relationships have malfunctioned due to mismanagement, wrong focus, disinterest, and inappropriate behaviour. Like any other relationship, bullying and abuse can happen in mentor/mentee arrangements, but it can be very difficult for the participants to escape the relationship.

However, this seems to be the side of mentoring that isn't ever discussed. There's plenty of guidance and information out there to help you with finding a mentor, or to help you to get involved as a mentor, and to tell you how positive a relationship it will be. But there seems to be no guidance for when either the mentor or mentee want to go their separate ways. There's also no discussion (other than in whispered asides, or confidential chats with trusted contacts) that identifies those participants in mentoring relationships who should really not be allowed to participate in any others due to their actions. This can leave those who're stuck in a bad relationship feeling that it's their fault that it's not working, as it seems to work well for everyone else.

So, what are your options if, as a mentor or mentee, your relationship isn't working? can confront the person causing the problems, and get the issues out into the open. That might work, but it might also blow up in your face, and cause all sorts of further problems. So it doesn't seem that direct confrontation is the best way to manage failing relationships. Additionally, if you're a mentee you're often in a position of vulnerability - your mentor is likely to be further advanced in their career, has a lot of professional contacts, and will be well respected. You might feel you won't be believed if you tell anyone about the issues. As a mentor, you may feel that others will think you've let down your mentee if the relationship isn't working, and it could impact on your professional standing.

I don't have a solution for this problem, but please feel free to leave comments and make suggestions of your own. Have you been in a bad mentoring relationship yourself? What would you suggest could help when problems arise? Do we need more involvement from professional mentoring scheme arrangers, maybe by creating compulsory review points during mentoring arrangements, when participants can step back from/leave the relationship, with no explanation needed? Should there be some professional penalty for abuse of mentoring schemes? Should there be a whistleblowing option for these schemes, so vulnerable participants can flag up the actions of the other participant, and trigger a review from the scheme arranger?

How can participants in mentoring relationships get out of them when they go wrong, and how can people who are acting inappropriately in a variety of ways in mentoring relationships be prevented from continuing to do damage?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

LinkedIn dating

After receiving yet another LinkedIn contact request from a complete stranger (with the accompanying over-eager email from LinkedIn a few days later, saying "hey, this connection request is still waiting!!), I asked friends on Twitter:

Why do people ask to connect on LinkedIn when they don't know you, and have never met you?

There was a variety of responses from people about their reaction to these requests, but the majority response was definitely one of annoyance. In the end, I came to the conclusion that interactions on LinkedIn are a lot like dating.

Now, having had my fair share of dates and dating-related interactions both online and in person, I thought I'd help out by giving a couple of etiquette tips for LinkedIn, and also for life generally (and dating).

  • If you want to get to know me, spend some time on it
So many times on LinkedIn, I get a generic "X wants to connect" request. No information about why they think they'd like to connect with me, and no clue about what it is that they think we should connect for. Now, on a dating site, that generic contact (in that case, usually a message that just says "hey", "hi" or hello") is a big red flag. It means you've looked at something superficial, and decided you want to have it. On dating sites, it's only my photo you've looked at. On LinkedIn, it's my job title. In either place, that type of no-content contact just gets immediately deleted rather than acted on, because you've given me no reason to pay you any more attention on first look at your request than you paid me when you looked at my profile...if you even went as far as looking at my full profile, rather than just the eye-catching bit of the photos/title. 

Moral: If you want to connect with me, tell me why.

  • Nobody wants to be part of a cult
One of the commonalities with these LinkedIn invites is that the person asking to connect with me usually seems to be just gathering numbers of connections in an attempt to look well-connected and important, often because they're job hunting, or "seeking new opportunities". The other people who like to gather lots of people to look important are...cult leaders. And I ain't willing to go live in a bunker. Or connect with people who just want to gather a lot of meaningless connections in an attempt to look import. Those connections don't actually translate into useful professional relationships, and are therefore pretty damn meaningless.

Moral: Develop some sort of relationship with your contacts, don't just gather them as if they were possessions.

Tenuous dating analogies aside, there is a point to this post. Honest!. 

The point is that if you're going to be using it, you really do need to be aware of what you're doing on LinkedIn, and understand what you want to get from it. Do you want to develop a network of proper, meaningful professional connections who're happy to be linked to you, or a sprawling and meaningless guddle of strangers and semi-strangers who won't ever assist you because they don't actually know you? LinkedIn itself says this about connection requests:

We strongly recommend that you only accept invitations to connect from people you know.

So by extension, if you shouldn't accept invitations from people you don't know, you shouldn't be sending them to people you don't know either!

In the Twitter discussions about our feelings about  LinkedIn requests received from complete strangers, one friend was an exception, and said that she was quite happy to be invited by random people to connect on LinkedIn. There's a good reason for this though - this friend manages an events venue and professional society, so she's happy to be able to expand her pool of contacts in this way, as each new contact could be for the potential benefit of her employer. However, myself and another librarian find these contacts from totally unknown people to be intrusive and timewasting - we have to spend time to try and figure out if we know the requester in real life, on social media (perhaps under a different name/username), or through other personal or professional contacts (both in real life, and checking by looking at the LinkedIn 1st and 2nd level connections visualisations), in order to make a decision on whether this is someone we're happy to connect with. As we work for a public sector body and a private commercial law firm, connecting with complete strangers is of no real benefit to us or our employer, and doing this checking just wastes our time. And timewasting means we get annoyed, refuse the request, and remember that the person asking to connect had been acting inappropriately. Making people annoyed with you, and remembering your name as someone who acts inappropriately online is not really a good thing!

Part of the problem here is the design of LinkedIn itself, which despite saying you should only connect with people if you know them, makes sure you can ask to connect with people that you don't know. It's unfortunately set up to make requesting connections with people to quick, easy and impersonal from certain parts of the site, e.g. at the point when you've just accepted a connection request, it loads a page that only requires you to click on a person's image when they're displayed as part of a "you might want to connect with these people" option in order to ask to connect with them. This means those people get a non-personalised, random email saying you want to connect. The only situation where it's ok to do this is when you do actually have some sort of connection to those people, at a level where they won't need you to explain who you are, and why you want to connect with them. You could justifiably use this option when connecting with a past or current work colleague, or other people you may know, if you already have some sort of contact or relationship with them.

Otherwise, if you want to use LinkedIn in an real, professional manner to develop your professional network, I'd suggest you avoid using that quick-and-easy-and-annoying connection request option to mass spam strangers, and restrict your connection requests to people you've already met in some form, whether in person or online. If nothing else, by doing that you'll at least avoid aggravating a lot of people you don't even know!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The legal forger

I'd never heard of the prolific forger "Antique" Smith before I saw the email notification about the talk on him from the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland. But I like archives, and history, and the fact there was a legal case that arose from it meant it sounded like an interesting outing. So last night I went along to the National Library of Scotland, where this talk was being hosted.

So, what did I learn? Mr Alexander Howland "Antique" Smith had quite a busy time of it between 1887 and 1893, churning out at least 500+ known (at a conservative estimate) forged manuscripts and letters attributed to a wide variety of well known people over all sorts of time periods. However, he seems to have had a particular liking for Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott....or maybe they were just more saleable items!

He was trained as a law clerk, in the firm of Thomas Henry Ferrier WS, and it seems that old legal documents stored in the firm may have been the early source for paper for his initial fakes. Apparently, the skills he would have learned in this role would also have been just what he needed to become a good forger - patience when drafting and copying lengthy documents, and attention to detail when drafting. Although he needed to pay a bit more attention to detail than he did in the end!

He was a very prolific forger, and used the flyleafs of period books bought secondhand as the basic material for his documents. He used various techniques to age them, including dipping them in weak tea, and rubbing dirt into creases to give the appearance of age, especially in areas where they would have been expected to be folded and refolded over the years. However, he was somewhat lacking on real attention to detail, and his forgeries were riddled with problems.

In the case of his forgeries of Scott's letters, it was noted that his way of folding the letters he made differed from the way Scott would have folded them. Letters were regularly noted as being from specific locations, often some time after the real writer had moved away, e.g. Robert Burns apparently wrote a letter from a home he'd left a year before. One person wrote a letter, despite having been mortally wounded in a famous battle the day before. Cromwell wrote while in another city to the people who were be in charge of Glasgow, telling them to maintain order...but at that time, he was in Glasgow himself. Written materials which would not normally be signed, e.g. memos, had signatures attached, purely because it would make the letter more valuable. The paper he was writing many of his fakes on had a bluish tint, like the paper used for legal documents, rather than normal writing paper. He used modern (in the 1880s) pens and ink, there was no attempt to try and match the writing materials of the appropriate time periods. He would work around wormholes in old paper, giving the impression that the worms must have been considerate animals indeed. And his attempts at actually matching the handwriting, although probably informed by having seen some samples of the real writer's style, were not hugely successful. Although in the case of Robert Burns, his own handwriting did vary with time...and drink!

Quite a catalogue of ineptitude!

Despite all this, he still managed to sell a lot of forgeries to a lot of people. There were a variety of wrangles prior to him being discovered as the creator of the forgeries. They related to manuscript collectors who had been defrauded, concerns about the honesty of the alleged document experts who had somehow vouched for the authenticity of these shoddy copies, charges brought in the Sheriff Court against Smith of theft/fraud (he was found not guilty), a case raised in the Court of Session in 1891 against a seller of some of the fake documents (the pursuer eventually instructed his law agents to drop the action, so it didn't progress), and requests to have the disputed documents assessed by staff at the Faculty of Advocates to check their authenticity (an offer which the document expert refused to take up), he was identified as the originator of the flood of fake documents which had suddenly appeared on the collector's market.

He was brought in front of the Court of Session in June 1893, on 4 charges relating to pretending to various booksellers and pawnbrokers that false documents were genuine. There were 98 examples of his work gathered as evidence against him, and together with the existence of his forgery hut/summerhouse (with its contents of pens, inks and books on copying handwriting) and the testimony of the many witnesses who had bought from him or seen him with a large volume of old documents, unsurprisingly he was found guilty on all charges. The recommendation from the jury was for leniency, so instead of penal servitude, he was sentenced to a year in prison. After he served this, he mostly drops out of history.

The irony is that, despite not being very good forgeries, Antique Smith's fakes are now collectable items in their own right. To this day, they're still being uncovered in archive collections around the world, have appeared listed as genuine in auction listings (although identified and removed from sale before the actual auction), and many more may lurk in the collections of notable families who kept quiet at the time of the trial, not wanting to admit that they'd been duped. However, if they were discovered now, the forgeries would be left physically untouched, with careful cataloguing demonstrating their provenance as forgeries. Unlike the examples we were shown from historic collections, which were gleefully marked repeatedly by some long-gone document manager with purple stamps saying "SPURIOUS"!

Outside, there were examples of original letters by Burns and Scott, and Antique Smith's forgeries of these two author's hands...I decided against testing my fake spotting skills though!

Your guess is as good as mine

Of course, what I want to do today is start looking in the Session Cases and see if it's a reported case....
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