National Library of Conductive Education

Rare books lost forever in fire

I received information from two friends yesterday about a terrible fire in one of Russia’s university libraries.

The blaze, which started on Friday and was still not completely out on Saturday evening, ravaged 2,000 square metres (21,500 square feet) of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) in Moscow, which was created in 1918 and holds 10 million documents with some dating back to the 16th century

It is believed that up to a million rare documents may have been destroyed and much of the damage was caused by the water in the  firefighting.  A major calamity, not just for Russia, but the world too. Fortunately no-one was injured.

It is a stark reminder of how vulnerable libraries are, how easy it can be for disaster to strike, and how important the printed book still is. Librarians are just custodians of collections for future generations, keeping them as safe as possible against fire, water and theft and often feel  their libraries are as important as a member of the family to them. Those working in this Library must be devastated.

I remember that not so long ago there was a fire at the Foundation for Conductive Education in Cannon Hill House which started with a faulty light fitting in the Library, and the Fire Brigade was called out. Fortunately no damage was done to the stock, and only a little to the walls etc.  What a lucky escape! There is much in that Library that is irreplaceable, not available elsewhere.


Libraries, what are they for?

 Ever since I was a child I have used libraries for pleasure and information. Most people of my age that I know do the same. But how many other people actually know what they are for, and use them for this? Even students seem to struggle at times.

  • Libraries are depositories of information which is organised and arranged to make retrieval as easy and quick as possible.
  • Their contents are listed in a catalogue which can be searched to indicate whether and where information is stored.
  • Librarians are professional people trained in organising such information, helping users find what they want and establishing the location of such material in their own library – or elsewhere.

This is put beautifully in this excerpt from Libraries are Essential:

 There is much more to doing real research than typing a few words into a search engine such as Google. Librarians are trained to do high-level research, which supports scientists, doctors, lawyers, professors, writers, government officials, and other important professionals every single day. Without the aide of librarians, all of these people would be making decisions without having all of the relevant knowledge they need on their topics.

Conductive Education libraries

 Libraries and librarians may seem an easy target when financial cuts are to be made, which means that valuable resources are not being exploited to the full. Conductive Education publications are limited in number and new, accurate material can be hard to find. Five years ago the Foundation for Conductive Education decided that it could no longer prioritise the expertise of a professional librarian for its library and recently the Pető Institute lost its librarian (I do not know whether a replacement has yet been appointed. Would not this be public information deserving of prioritisation?). Who is maintaining and developing these libraries now?

 I do not know.

SAHK in Hong Kong has a library but I do not think it is open access as the others are. A few years ago a ‘mobile’ library was established to be used by all the conductors and centres in New Zealand. Again I do not know if that is still a going concern.

As far as I know there are no other collections of any size other than personal ones.

The Virtual Library of Conductive Education

 In 2009 I started collecting information on items on the Internet and catalogued the details in the Virtual Library catalogue. This now  has a new format and an updated help page.Yesterday I spent time entering further details of material available on line into this catalogue.

I will post occasional lists of yet more items added here on this blog.

Other sources of information

Information about Conductive Education is now accessible via e-conduction’s website which acts as a knowledge portal leading people to blogs, books, unpublished material, and conductors’ workplaces:

Previous postings on libraries and information:





Fire alarm

How safe are libraries?
We all rely on libraries being there when we want them and believe they are a safe depository of books, journals, papers etc. In the main they are, as precautions are taken to avoid losses due to damage such as fire. But…
In the past the great library in Alexandria was burnt down
and, incidentally, a library in commemoration was  recently been opened there in 2002.
and several years ago, if I remember correctly  the library in the Goethe Institute in Germany suffered a lot of damage due to a fire. Anything lost in such circumstances can be irreplaceable especially if it is old and possibly the only known copy.
On the grapevine I have heard that there was a fire due to an electrical fault in the National Library of Conductive Education at NICE in Birmingham this week. This has happened before but the fire was quickly put out so there was  no losses of stock (or harm to individuals). At the time it was suggested that the library contents be scanned in case of any further fire, but this would have been an enormous and expensive task, so nothing came of it.
Rumour says that the fire was worse this time and it was necessary to throw a bookcase (or just its contents) out a window! Whether this is the complete story or just the story growing as it was passed on, I don’t know, but it is extremely worrying as most of the collection is unique and not available anywhere else.
The  material on the Internet listed in the virtual catalogue at
cannot be destroyed in the same way but is still vulnerable to the whims of the Internet machine and could be taken down or moved. At least it is there.
Perhaps we should all look to the safety of our personal collections of valuable materials in Conductive Education (and other areas) and consider their future.

Where on earth do you find it all?

I have been asked how I, as a librarian, find material on Conductive Education and this is a brief response to the questions posed in the comment on my previous posting. (Maguire, 2009).Before I start it is worth noting that the Internet has changed everything, removing the previous limited options to publishers’ catalogues or journal indexes and abstracts, enabling access to all sorts of things which would have been impossible before. This is extremely useful to a small library with very limited resources and little money to access databases and journals.Conductive Education does not have much of a ‘traditional’ literature, with lots of books, journals and conference proceedings, so tracking new material down can be quite difficult. Searches have to be done on a regular basis and knowing the field and its sources is crucial to success.

Useful ways of tracking, finding and getting hold of information
Networking – New publications, whether books, journal articles, conference proceedings are usually announced somewhere and the necessary details circulated to people or institutions who might be interested, by the writers, publishers or other interested parties. If I knew people who would be attending a conference I would always ask them to collect copies of any handouts, abstracts, newsletters, publicity material for me. Unfortunately, the rise of the PowerPoint presentation has virtually killed the writing down of conference papers and much valuable information has been lost, unrecorded. I do at least though get my hands on the names and email addresses of those who have presented. Then it’s up to me to write and nag for copies of anything relevant. And nag. And Nag!
Journals each issue of those subscribed to will need to be checked as soon as it is published for relevant articles, possible references, book reviews, news etc.


Reference lists   The bibliographies/reference lists of these new or newly acquired publications can then be checked for anything not already known or held in the library. Then these have to be tracked down, and nagged for, or copies obtained in other ways.
Academic databases/indexes   Relevant examples are Medline, British education Index, ASSIA. These give abstracts or basic details of articles published. These have to be gone though carefully to find relevant materials. Previously only available in paper form, it is now possible to access them via the Internet if you have a subscription. I was lucky to be able to do this via the University of Wolverhampton’s subscription. Not now, unfortunately. Then there are the specially compiled lists that are circulated to anyone interested, like the weekly cerebral palsy research listings compiled by the Spastics centre library in Australia. They have to be gone through too for anything of relevance.
Search engines  There is an amazing number of search and meta-search engines out there on the Internet, all offering something slightly different . Google tends to be everyone’s first choice with everyone for good reasons but others can be useful too ( see my earlier posting, Maguire 2008) .
Alerts  Some search engines offer an Alerts service for items in your area of interest and you can use a number of key words and phrases e.g “Conductive Education”, “cerebral palsy”, “charities” for new entries on the Internet each the moment that they appear. Google also offers this service blogs.
Online news services  Those search engines who provide daily news e.g. Google, Yahoo, MSN may have an archive for retrospective searching too.
Google Scholar and Books   Also useful listing of items searchable by keyword. Some books are also available in full.
Book sellers/publishers   Such sellers as Amazon,, Abebooks continually update their listings and also offer items at competitive prices alongside second-hand copies. Publishers such as Blackwells, and other online catalogues can be useful too.
Other languages Searches on the internet for CE using other languages, particularly Hungarian, German, Portuguese are also very productive.
Serendipity  Quite often I’ve found things while looking for something else using any of the above means.One search engine, Bananaslug is particularly useful for this and will join your keyword with a selection of other random words and bring up very interesting results!
Enquiries  those who make contact for help with their dissertation/project/research have always been asked to present a copy of the finished work to the Library and this can then be checked for further unknown items.
CE Centre Newsletters These usually quite often contain information about local events, research projects etc which can be followed up on. Some are not available on the internet and have to be requested , even begged for! Over the years the National Library has established a considerable stock of such publications, probably a unique record of the history of the internationalisation of CE.
Academics Because there are virtually no academics working continuously in the field, personal bibliographies aren’t found on the Internet. One exception to this is Jo LeBeer, Utrecht University. (Lebeer, 2009). It would be nice to have more like this. Established fields take them for granted. Some (not all) of the academics working in CE briefly, can be very good at producing items and giving copies on request. Lena Lind (Sweden) has been particularly good at this.
Press cuttings This is a colossal task (now done mainly through Internet editions of newspapers, magazines and other media) and needs tracking via several news services on a daily basis. A knowledge of the field is particularly useful here as many items do not actually include the words Conductive Education. Knowing the name of a centre or conductor or celebrity can make the difference and cerebral palsy articles are frequently about Conductive Education and don’t mention it.

Keep on searching  When new material is published, I make a search to check around the names, places etc mentioned for other items. For example, take the new article mentioned in the previous posting. The article comes from Hawaii. I used as many of the above options as I’m able to now and searched for Conductive Education and Hawaii. I did not get very much, but enough to provide an interesting lead to follow up with a personal email enquiry. This doesn’t mean there isn’t anything more, just that nothing has been found yet. It is worth remembering that a different day can produce a different selection using the same search criteria. Most of the references appeared to be old, pre 2000, but I found an email address for the one-time CE Centre in Hawaii and have written to ask for more information. A quick look at the online catalogue of the University of Hawaii only produced one reference on Conductive Education, Cottam and Sutton (1986). Surprisingly, the article in question does not refer to this. I found no other association with Conductive Education for the two authors. Before, as librarian at NICE, I would have contacted them to let them know about the Library, ask for a copy of their work, and offer the library’s services. It is surprising how many people do not know of the Library’s existence despite the internet and networking.

Copyright  After finding new material it is important to adhere to Copyright Law before printing off from the Internet, so necessary permissions have to be requested . This can take time and occasionally no reply is forthcoming so the attempt to obtain permission needs to be formally recorded.

Passing this on  A newsletter was circulated to staff at NICE every six weeks or so listing the fruits of such searches. I hope to continue with these on this blog and posted the first one recently (Maguire, 2009b).

Cataloguing etc   Finally, – how do I remember things – well, I’ve been lucky to have a good memory all my life and working with the literature every day made remembering things relatively easy, but I’m sure that, as there is so much now, I have forgotten things too. That is what libraries have catalogues for. The classifying, cataloguing and preparation of items for users are the next stages and this systematic organisation of the library’s contents helps to make the items easily accessible, if not always remembered. Great care needs to be taken choosing the appropriate keywords and classification for each item and this part of library management would make a blog all of its own!

Cottam, P. and Sutton, A., ed. (1986) Conductive Education: a system for overcoming motor disorder. London: Croom Helm.

Lebeer, J. (2009) Academic bibliography.
Maguire, G. (2008) What does a librarian do?

Maguire, G. (2009) We seek it here, we seek it there

Maguire,G. (2009b) News on the Internet no.1.

Thanks again

Over the past few weeks I have continued to receive more notes of appreciation for the National Library, its services and my contributions to them and I would like to say thank you again to all those who have taken the time and trouble to contact me. I have replied to each of you individually and hope I have not missed anyone out – if I have, please accept my apologies.

It is still my hope that the National Library of Conductive Education will become a ‘living’ library again, providing all established services and perhaps introducing a few new ones. Who knows? A new librarian, a new era, could bring fresh ideas. What is important to me is that the library goes on, carries on being an important resource for all those interested in Conductive Education.

Many of you have asked what I will do now, and all I can say is that I hope to stay in touch with the conductive world and though I am not retired in the full sense of the word, I am not ‘working’ either. So please do stay in touch and let me know how CE, and you, are in your neck of the woods.

Meanwhile I shall continue a skeleton news and information service here on Let me know if you think that there is any help that you would like from a ‘librarian without a library’!

Now is the time to say goodbye to an era

I worked for the Foundation for Conductive Education for eighteen years and was there as it grew, faltered, grew again and is now struggling to deal with the effects of the economic downturn leading to my redundancy this week.

I was employed to establish, run and maintain a Library that would hold information about Conductive Education that would be available in one place to anyone who wanted to find out more. Initially its basis was Andrew Sutton’s own collection, held in a single but overflowing filing cabinet and this has developed into a unique collection of books, manuscripts, articles, conference papers, conference proceedings, press cuttings, dissertations, videos, CDROMs, DVDs and Internet links – all about Conductive Education.

Over 2,000 of them.

Associate material on educational systems, special education, motor disorders, therapies, child development, psychology, neurology, anatomy, physiology, disability issues, disability experiences, disability fiction, history, has swelled the collection to 8 thousand items.

It has not been easy to bring all this together. There is very little published material on Conductive Education and tracking items down and obtaining copies has been quite a challenge at times, but worth it. Finances have been very limited and donations rather than purchases have been heavily relied on. Resources and equipment have also been minimal and lag far behind the big public and university libraries . There is no security system and items get ’lost’, no self-service photocopying, no self-service issuing and returning system. But its size and set up have also been one of its strengths, enabling ease of access to the material and the librarian.

This library has developed an international reputation and received many visitors not just from the UK but from all over the world, and enquiries, other requests and all sots of problems to be solved come in regularly via email and telephone. Along the way the Library has helped bolster the collections of other Conductive Education institutions around the world.

Initially I was apprehensive about taking this job on but went on to derive great pleasure and satisfaction from building this Library. In the process I learnt a lot about the conductive system, about running a library, publishing a journal and editing books, and most of all, myself. I think I can say these years have been my conductive upbringing. This has only been possible because of the support, knowledge and encouragement of Andrew Sutton. Thank you, Andrew.

But what now? All things must come to an end and my time is up. I want this Library to develop even more, continue to be a worldwide resource and help further the knowledge. At the moment there is no one to hand over to and its future is unknown.

I am sure that I will have more to say. Please continue to watch this space.

Library has good start for 2009

2009 looks as though it could be a good year for the Library after a very quiet end to 2008. It has started with a number of requests, one for photocopying material for personal study, and several for information covering all aspects of the stock here, ranging from the very general to the specific. All in the past week, at a time which is traditionally quiet here. I have been asked for information on how Conductive Education got its name, Pető, rehabilitation, and ‘for everything you have on cerebral palsy’. The last is an impossible thing to do as there are books, articles, leaflets, journals etc at a variety of levels. So, please be as specific as possible when making enquiries.One enquiry which I blogged and seems to have created a lot of interest, is the one made by Susie about when Conductive Education became known as Conductive Education, as the Hungarian term means something very different. You can see my response to this enquiry on this blog at

with comments that followed, and also

and other relevant postings can be found on Andrew’s blog at

and Susie’s

As I have said already, this subject needs a lot more time spending on it and would be a very interesting project for someone, as its name and the use of the various terms now used, has affected the support and development of Conductive Education worldwide. The facts presented in my previous postings are just the result of a brief survey of materials held here and a thorough investigation would reveal so much more. So please keep this interesting discussion going as that in itself provides a valuable resource for those who wish to extend their knowledge of Conductive Education.

I have also been pleased to see that the number of hits to this blog is now well over one thousand and I hope some of these people will start to make enquiries, ask questions and make comments.