Blog - Reader Services

Posted - 23-10-2017

Collections / Digitisation / Exhibitions / Reader Services

King Arthur and the Welsh print collection

With the Library’s current exhibition Arthur and Welsh Mythology looking at Wales’ rich tradition of myths, legends and folklore, including the Welsh Arthurian tradition, now is perhaps an opportune moment to note that amongst the Library’s Welsh Print Collection is one of Wales’ largest collections of Arthurian literature and works on the Arthurian legend.


With its roots in early Welsh poems such as Y Gododdin, early Welsh tales such as Culhwch ac Olwen and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Brittania, the Arthurian legend encompasses a variety of literary forms, including the chronicle, the romance, poetry and the novel, and a number of other artistic forms such as opera and film. The Arthurian legend and its mythos also give us an example of a truly Trans-European literary tradition (or transatlantic tradition if we include the Connecticut Arthur). Starting from its roots in Welsh poetry and folklore, Arthurian literature and legend spread across Europe, with English, French, Italian, German and Nordic influences, amongst others transforming, cross-fertilising and enriching the genre.


The Arthurian legend has also proved to be an especially durable and enduring literary tradition, from early Welsh poems and folk-tales through to the chivalrous romances of the medieval period, the Arthurian revival in the nineteenth century and the fantasy novels and historical fictions of the twentieth and twenty-first century. During this time the Arthurian legend has also been used for a variety of political and ideological purposes with the uses made of the legend to support both Welsh and Norman claims to the island of Britain during the medieval period just one example of how Arthur was used in this way.


The Library’s collection of printed works related to the Arthurian legend is as varied as its history. Comprising over 1,500 titles, the collection, dating from the early nineteenth century onwards, reflects its trans-European nature including works in Welsh, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Norwegian. It also reflects the variety of literary forms with works ranging from early Welsh poems and tales, the chivalric poems and tales of the medieval period through to the novels of John Steinbeck, T. H. White, Bernard Cornwell and Rosemary Sutcliffe alongside the Monty Python and the Holy Grail screenplay. The collection also includes a large number of academic works on the Arthurian legend and Arthurian Literature.


So if you have an interest in Arthurian literature, Arthurian legend or the mythology of ancient Britain or are visiting the exhibition and want to learn more, why not take a moment to explore the collection through the Library catalogue.


Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager

Posted - 22-09-2017

Reader Services / Research

A look back at the ’97 Referendum using the Library’s electronic resources

This week saw the 20th anniversary of the Welsh referendum that paved way for the creation of the National Assembly for Wales. I decided to see what I could discover about this historic occasion within the Library’s various online subscriptions.  (*To access these resources from outside the Library building you will have to use your reader’s ticket. If you haven’t got a reader’s ticket you can register very easily here).

Whilst support for devolution was low during the first referendum in 1979, the ensuing political and economic landscape over the next decade and a half led to increased calls for a second referendum. As a result, the Labour party included proposals for a second referendum in their 1992 manifesto, and after their landslide victory in the 1997 general election, these were set in motion.

The Referenda (Scotland and Wales) Act asked voters if they were in favour of devolution for Scotland and Wales. Many commentators analysed what devolution would mean for the future of the United Kingdom, as can be seen in this article from ‘The World Today’:


The referendum was held on the 18th of September 1997, and unlike the referendum in 1979, the result was extremely close. In fact, the votes were so close, the result hung on the announcement from Carmarthenshire. As the result came in, there were wild celebrations amongst the Yes campaigners as devolution was secured by a margin of 6,721 votes.

The Guardian reports for the days after both Welsh referenda can be seen here and here:


As a result of this narrow victory, the Government of Wales Act 1998 was passed by the Labour government to create a National Assembly for Wales:


There was a concern that the low voter turnout meant that voters were apathetic towards the notion of a national assembly, however this study by Roger Scully, Richard Wyn Jones and Dafydd Trystan concludes that this was not the case:


However, even though Welsh devolution was achieved by the narrowest of margins, Richard Wyn Jones and Bethan Lewis were keen to point out that the result was a substantial achievement for those in the ’Yes’ campaign


Following such a momentous change to the country’s political landscape, and following further referendums in 2006 and 2011, it’s only natural that commentators and scholars have sought to discuss and evaluate the impact of devolution on various aspects of life in Wales:

Evaluating Devolution in Wales by Adrian Kay

Serving the Nation: Devolution and the Civil Service in Wales by Alistair Cole

New Labour, Education and Wales: the devolution decade by David Reynolds

Devolution and the shifting political economic geographies of the United Kingdom


Paul Jackson

Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian

Posted - 24-10-2016

Collections / Reader Services / Research

Statista: From late trains to holiday destinations!

Are you fed up with late or cancelled trains? And how often does that happen exactly? There are a number of interesting sets of statistics available on Statista (*To access Statista from outside the Library building you will have to use your reader’s ticket. If you haven’t got a reader’s ticket you can register very easily here.  After choosing Statista click on Login and then scroll down to Campus access and choose National Library of Wales to log in for the first time).


You can see how Arriva Trains Wales are doing in keeping to their schedules:


To see this graph on Statista about Arriva Trains Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


And I wonder how Arriva compare with other train companies in the UK?

Not bad!

To see this graph on Statista about train companies from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


It’s possible that Arriva’s trains are a bit old but are they getting older?


To see this graph on Statista about the age of the stock of Arriva Trains Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


Maybe that’s why more people own one of these in Wales than ever before:


To see this graph on Statista about the ownership of cars in Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


For those of you thinking of getting to your destination on a bike:


To see this graph on Statista about bicycle thefts in England and Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


Be careful of tourists! They’re on the increase in Wales as well.


To see this graph on Statista about tourist visits to Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).


Which isn’t a bad thing for the economy:


To see this graph on Statista about tourists spending on holiday visits to Wales from outside the Library’s building register for a reader’s ticket (see * above).



Robert Lacey

Head of Collection Development


Posted - 26-09-2016

Collections / Reader Services / Research

The Library’s e-resources



The National Library of Wales has by now been buying access to e-resources for more than fifteen years. One of the earliest we offered was Early English Books Online which, despite the name, also includes every Welsh book from Yny lhyvyr hwnn in 1546 until the end of the seventeenth century.


Newspaper collections are popular with readers who undertake research on history, society, family history and many other subjects. The titles which the Library has access to include Y Faner, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Times.


Another popular resource is JSTOR which includes runs of scholarly periodicals on all sorts of subjects.


One of the considerations when offering resources such as these to users is that there should be enough variety in terms of subjects and interest level. Some of the resources such as CREDO and Encylopaedia Britannica offer general knowledge which is suitable for many people. Others such as British Standards Online offer specialist information for people involved in business, building, industry, local and central government. Statista is a similar resource which offers a variety of international statistics in different sectors. It is important that the Library offers remote access to as many of these resources as possible so that they reach a higher percentage of Wales’ population. These resources are not cheap and restricting their access to the population Wales enables them to be affordable. Despite this, there are some resources that are only available within the Library building. These include Ancestry and Find My Past.


It is important that these resources are used, so if you have any questions or suggestions do not be afraid to contact us.


Robert Lacey

Head of Collection Development.

Posted - 13-09-2016

Reader Services

140 years of knowledge . . . meet the Library’s Enquiries Team!

Aberystwyth’s geographical location poses a challenge for some who wish to access our collections, so the availability of a high quality Enquiries Service for those who wish to contact us remotely is essential.  As the Library’s Enquiries Service manager I take pride in the fact that the team and I offer a valuable pathway to users, who may come from the other side of the World or from just down the road in Aberystwyth, and who wish to discover information about our collections and the incredible wealth of knowledge that can be found in our collections.


The enquiries team is the backbone of the service and they answer three quarters of all enquires sent to the Library. There is a wealth of knowledge amidst the team – amongst them there are experts on archives, manuscripts, maps, photographs and newspapers – and between them there is a total of 140 years of experience.




In a month, we receive an average of 350 enquiries, relating to a range of subjects such as family history, local history, biographical information and also requests for images for commercial use. The Service can provide these copies, in several formats, and license them for commercial use, as well as providing copies to researchers for personal use.


We receive enquiries from all corners of the World, many come from Wales and the rest of the British Isles, but we often receive enquiries from Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Brazil.  We’ve even received an enquiry from Alaska!  We were contacted by a family who were trapped in their house for a week because of heavy snow and who had decided to send an enquiry about our collections to pass the time! We really are a point of contact between the Library and the World.


You’re welcome to contact the Enquiries Service team by using our online form, or by email (, telephone (01970 632933) or letter.


Iwan ap Dafydd

Enquiries Manager and e-Resources co-ordinator



Posted - 26-05-2016

News and Events / Reader Services

“Digitisation has made a big difference…reading hundreds of newspapers would be very time consuming”

Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?

From novelists to genealogists, PhD students and poets, we spoke to some of the many and varied readers of the National Library of Wales to find out what they are up to behind the bookshelves.

Ifor ap Glyn, National Poet of Wales and television producer, director and presenter.

“I’m currently working on a book which is based on a unique resource held at the National Library of Wales; the world’s most extensive collection of letters in Welsh,  written from the first part of the First World War.

There is a fascinating collection of 60-odd letters written by Captain Dafydd Jones from Carmarthenshire who was killed in Mametz Wood.

The book I’m writing is part factual, historical and part personal response and travelogue, as I am visiting all the places Captain Jones visited and describes in his letters, beginning at a hotel in Rhyl, one of the places where Welsh battalions were raised and trained. His first letters see him apologising to his parents for leaving his degree in Aberystwyth University to join the Army, but it’s what most of his contemporaries did at the time. I’m about halfway through the journey and the second leg will be the journey to the Somme. Researching the locations is not a completely straightforward task as censorship of letters meant many of the exact locations have been taken out.

“I first came across the collection of letters when I was working on a programme for S4C in 2008 called ‘Lleisiau o’r rhyfel mawr’ or ‘Voices of the Great War” and saw that these letters were one of the most comprehensive collections of the era.

“Researching and visiting the National Library in Aberystwyth is always interesting, and I’ve done lots of work there in the past using the screen archive when I researched the first Welsh language film Y Chwarelwr (The Quarryman). However I have to say since digitisation and resources there recently being made available online, it has made the access process far easier. Not only does it mean I don’t always have to travel down from Caernarfon, the wordsearch facility means I don’t have to physically trawl through hundreds of copies of the Carmarthen Journal held there to find Caption Jones’ name, that would be hugely time consuming.”







Posted - 19-05-2016

News and Events / Reader Services

‘It’s easy to dream up stories here.”

Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?

From novelists to genealogists, PhD students and poets, we spoke to some of the many and varied readers of the National Library of Wales to find out what they are up to behind the bookshelves.

Sarah Taylor, Author of Arthur and Me, winner of Firefly Children’s Book Prize 2014.

“When I was doing my PhD (looking at the Presentation of Aggression in Seventeenth Century British Ballad Literature) I spent every day in the gorgeous National Library of Wales. It’s a wonderful place, a huge open space with bookshelves rising up on two sides of the main reading room and a view out to sea at the end. The staff are lovely and as it’s a copyright library it has an immense collection, including manuscripts, maps and a fabulous sound and video archive.

“I have loved the library since I was a teenager and was actually given special permission to access the manuscripts  library to use church records as part of my A-level work. As soon as I could, I got my own reading card and loved using the library as an undergraduate. After I finished the PhD I worked at York University as a research associate and again the library was a great source of additional material to help with my work.

“As it holds so many birth and death records it’s very popular with genealogists and I used to run into quite a few of them. Their dedication to uncovering every tiny bit of their family’s history was inspiring and I had some great chats with them about the forensic style of that branch of historical research.

One day I got chatting to a lovely lady in the canteen over lunch and she said ‘I wonder if you could help me, being a Welsh girl.’ Well, eager to do my best I said I’d help if I could. ‘I’m a bit confused as to why there were so many dog breeders in Wales,’ she said. I was a bit confused too, so I offered to take a look at the document she was using, although what I know about genealogy you could write on a postage stamp. After lunch we went upstairs and she showed me the records she was using…..and I had to explain as tactfully as I could that that wasn’t quite what ‘collier’ meant.


To this day I am very sure she was winding me up – there was definitely a twinkle in her eye.

When I began writing a children’s book, I I knew that I wanted to write about one of the great heroes of Wales. We are lucky to have so many fascinating folk tales and legends.

“I still find the library it is a wonderful place to plan a book, especially from the seat overlooking the sea. The exhibitions are very inspiring too, and it’s easy to dream up stories when being told stories from Wales’ past in the exhibition halls.”

Posted - 12-05-2016

Reader Services

“There is nothing better than getting a box of documents from the archive and reading through people’s letters and diaries.”

Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?
From novelists to genealogists, PhD students and poets, we spoke to some of the many and varied readers of the National Library of Wales to find out what they are up to behind the bookshelves.

“There is nothing better than getting a box of documents from the archive and reading through people’s letters and diaries.”   

Calista Williams, Open University PhD student.

“I am studying for a PhD in history at the Open University in collaboration with the National Library of Wales (NLW). My thesis explores the development of the NLW and examines how it was established, organised and managed in the late Victorian and early Edwardian era. The thesis also evaluates the impact of the library’s services and explores the connection between the NLW and Welsh national identity during this period.

I grew up in Hampshire and Buckinghamshire and then at 18 I came to Aberystwyth University to study Drama. After finishing my degree, I worked at Aberystwyth University Bookshop but I suppose I still wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. On a whim I decided to start volunteering with the National Trust as a gardener which I loved, and I was given the opportunity to run children’s workshops and help plan events. The staff at Llanerchaeron were so supportive and they encouraged me to apply to do a Masters in History and Heritage at Aberystwyth University. It started from there really. I began the MA part-time and loved it and, at the same time, I also started to volunteer at the NLW. I worked on a volunteer project entitled ‘Corporate Records’ which involved sorting through some of the library’s own archival material  and transcribing it – looking at acquisition records to sheep grazing rights! This was when my interest in the library’s history was piqued and I began to develop a PhD proposal. I was then lucky enough to secure a studentship at the OU in 2013.

Luckily, I only live 10 minutes’ walk from the NLW – the downside is it’s up a steep hill, so I usually arrive red-faced and out of breath! I spilt my time between my desk, which the library has kindly provided for me and the public reading rooms. A couple of days a week I work with a group of library volunteers who have been helping me enter information into a database on the first subscribers to the library building fund and the early readers. I often have lunch in the library café with friends or, if it’s warm, sit outside and enjoy the beautiful views. During the first half of my PhD I spent a lot of time working in the reading rooms looking at archival documents but now I spend more time writing up my thesis. There is really nothing better than getting a box of documents from the archive and reading through people’s letters and diaries – history really comes alive in those moments.

I love the fact that this huge building and archival resource – usually situated in a city – sits above a Victorian seaside town looking out on the Welsh countryside – it is very much unique in that respect. It is special to me personally as it’s where I discovered a real passion for history and since then I have uncovered so many interesting things about the library and its history.




Posted - 10-05-2016

Reader Services

Family and Local History Fair


Hanes teulu 2


Thought about starting your own family history? Don’t know where to start? Why not pay a visit to the Family and Local History Fair to be held here at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth on Saturday, 14 May. It is the ideal place for a beginner to gain some knowledge of how to start researching, where to go and what is available.

This will be the third Fair held at the Library and again there will be over twenty stands in attendance in the Gregynog Gallery. As well as family history experts from the Library, county family history societies will be there to share their wealth of local knowledge, to sell their transcripts and indexes to parish registers, census returns and memorial inscriptions. Others will specialise in local history and the history of Wales. There will be plenty of books for sale – new ones relating to family and local history research, but also second hand books and maps. If you need help with photographs that is also covered as is photo restoration if yours have seen better days.


Hanes teulu 1


Two talks will be available during the day, free admission by ticket booked at

‘Sources for local and family history in Wales’ by Michael Freeman, sharing his knowledge and expertise as a researcher.

‘Identifying and Interpreting Family Photographs’ by William Troughton, the Library’s Visual Images Librarian takes you on a tour of discovery in identifying those essential clues in dating and identifying old photographs.


Beryl Evans

Research Services Manager

Posted - 05-05-2016

News and Events / Reader Services

“It’s one of the only places in the world where you can find absolute silence”

Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?

Matthew Rees, PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University’s International Politics department.

“I’m at the National Library most days. The variety of books, wonderful working environment with excellent light, desks at the right height – for someone who’s 6 foot 6, this is a real benefit –  and really helpful and friendly staff are what attract me. The fact that all the staff speak Welsh, but I don’t think it’s an intimidating environment for my non-Welsh speaking friends, is also excellent, as it’s one of the few places I can use Welsh all day.

I’m originally from Cardiff and was brought up in an English-speaking home, but went to a Welsh medium school. I then went to the University of Warwick to do my first degree in politics. After this I returned to Cardiff to do a masters at Cardiff University. At this time, I became very interested in the relationship between religion and politics, and decided to pursue this interest through research. I arrived in Aberystwyth in 2012 to study for my doctorate. My research looks at faith-based political engagement in the devolved regions of the UK. Religious organisations and faith-based organisations traditionally wielded a large amount of power in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but their influence declined during the 20th century.

The National Library has been such a gift over the past three years of research. Being able to work in a library with almost every book ever published in the UK is such a privilege when studying the devolved regions of the UK. The library’s archives have also been helpful when it came to the primary research on Wales, the very helpful and friendly staff have gone out of their way to give me access to difficult to find sources.

“I usually walk up Penglais hill at around 9 and pop into the International politics department for around half an hour before heading down to the library. I then put my things into one of the lockers, show the porters my readers card and enter the library. I normally sit in the same spot in the North room at the end of the reading room.

“The North room is so beautiful. In a strange way it’s very modern despite also having a grand old feel about it. The library has done a very good job of creating a library space which is fit for modern research, but it keeps its feel as an old institution at the same time. You really feel the sense of history in the place, while at the same time feeling like it’s your library to use and come up with something new.

I like silence to work, with no distractions- that’s why I go to the National Library. It’s one of the few places in the world where you genuinely get that!

Reading and writing a for a thesis takes huge concentration and really drains energy and makes eyes weary, so it’s important to take routine breaks, especially when you’re doing it day in, day out and often on weekends for four years.  The library’s Café Pendinas comes in handy at these points, the coffee shop feels as much like a lounge as a business establishment.

The library staff here are all genuinely interested in what you’re doing. The porters often ask how things are going and you get to know these people after a while. It’s a really iconic place to work, whilst keeping a friendly feel about it at the same time.”

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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