A brief history of the Brynmor Jones Library
We begin our library history in 1929. Only a few months after the University College began operations in October 1928, its Library - the predecessor to the Brynmor Jones Library - opened its doors on 8th March 1929.
Agnes Cuming was the first Librarian, a post she held for 27 years.
When the Library first opened, full time registered students could take out 4 books at a time, and had to renew them after only 4 days. In the year ending July 31st, 1930, the library issued 6,007 books and 400 gramophone records. In the following year, 1931, the library issued 10,186 books and 507 gramophone records.
Library minutes 1928-1936
During World War II,the already small staff decreased to only two and threat of bombing meant almost 32,000 (around half of the library) books were removed from the library for safe keeping. They were categorised with essential books staying in the Library and slightly less essential books were moved to the Arts College on campus. Books sent to the Arts College were marked with their categorisation - ‘b’ in their front cover, if you find this in any of these older books, then you know that it was moved to the Arts College in the 1940s. More valuable books were sent further afield to places such as Goodmanham, Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, and even Cambridge.
These books, and the locations they were moved to, were meticulously detailed by the Librarian, Agnes Cuming, and returned in 1945.
Resource: U Lib/2/77 Dispersal of the Library 1941/2
The Library gains its first proper entrance and issue desk.
When Agnes Cuming retired, there was still no purpose built Library. Her sucessor, Philip Larkin, did, however, inherit 11 members of staff and around 125,000 books. Larkin went on to further develop the bookstock, and oversaw the design and construction of the Library buildings you see today.
The East Building of the current library (then known as Stage 1) opens in September. This low red-brick building was fairly typical of its era, with a large open reading room, two-tier stacks, and a number of unusual features, including large oriole windows and sculptures by Willi Soukop (one of an Owl and another representing the light of knowledge). It took 18 months to build and was officially opened in June 1960 by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The number of staff at the Library continues to grow, with 46 members of staff. In the early 1970s it reaches its peak with over 100 people.
A small three-storey extension is added to the north of the original stage 1 building.
Professor Brynmor Jones becomes chairman of the Library committee. He was also the Vice Chancellor of the University (1956-1972). In March 1967, Council resolved that the Library should be named after Brynmor Jones in recognition of his University work, and in particular his support for the Library.
Stage 2 of the Library, a nine-storey tower block, is opened in July. It was fully air conditioned, books were organised across six floors by subject and the periodicals floor had space for up to 10,000 current periodical titles.
Bookstock at the Library doubled over the last 10 years, from 153,777 in 1959-60 to 333,185 in 1969-70.
The Philip Larkin Collection is established, and a full time archivist post is appointed.
The University computer is installed in the Library basement. It takes up around one third of the entire space!
In April 1978, over 8,000 people visited the library on open days, doubling the number from the previous year.
Library Committee Meeting 1977-78 to 1981-82
The Library begins the process of computerisation. An automated issue system was introduced in October 1980, and by April 1982, all of the book stock was entered into the system.
The library was one of the first UK libraries to move to an online catalogue. The GEAC Library System was already in use in Canada. The total cost for the library was estimated at £135,000, plus £30,000 for processing stock (approximately 25,000 books) and reader tickets, plus £15,000 per annuum to run. But was expected to lead to permanent staff savings.
Library Committee Meeting 1977-78 to 1981-82
By this time the Library holds 750,000 items, including a significant addition of archival material, manuscripts, and special books.
Ian RM Mowat becomes Librarian. His style was very different from Larkin's, and he embraced the onward development of the newly automated catalogue with relish, and soon established Hull as a place for both library innovation in the use of technology, and as a significant centre for special collections.
Under Mowat a Sub-Librarians' Meeting was established (comprising the Librarian and his senior staff); this, in slightly expanded form, became the Library Executive Committee in 1990 . Whilst Staff Committee continued to meet during this period (re-organised on a more democratic and representative basis), a larger middle management grouping, or Section Heads Committee, was established , which lasted between 1987 and 1994. Minutes of all these committees were made freely available to Library staff.
Minutes at U LIB/2/3-7, U LIB/2/21-22
Dr. Richard G Heseltine becomes Librarian. Following the dissolution of the Library Commitee, the Librarian reports to the newly formed Academic Services Directorate.
During Dr. Richard G Heseltine's time as University Librarian he supported a re-development of the Brynmor Jones Library to bring the services and asthestics in line with the modern day.
Hull History Centre opens in the City Centre. The Hull History Centre is a partnership between Hull City Council and the University of Hull, and houses Hull City Archives, Hull Local Studies Library, and Hull University Archives.
Throughout the years, there have been many notable alumni at the University, you can find out more about them with our Spotlight on Alumni Reading List. Each month our Spotlight Team highlights a different area of the collection.
After some extensive planning, the Brynmor Jones Library started its £28m re-development in the Summer of 2012. It included a new Reading Room which was re-created with the original lights from Larkin's day, an Art Gallery, and Exhibition Hall.
This was completed in 2015 with the Library being offically re-opened by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy
Michelle Anderson is appointed University Librarian from the 1st November 2016, joining us from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. She was part of the Scottish Digital Library Consortium, the North East Scotland Visual Art & Design Festival, and Aberdeen International Youth Festival, a member of the SCONUL Leadership Strategy Group, and had previously held positions with the Scottish Consortium of University and Research Libraries (SCURL).
Michelle was a source of great support at the University Library encouraging research, opportunity and oversaw the Library reaching the University's first Customer Service Excellence award.
The University Library supported Hull City of Culture 2017. The prestigious exhibitions included important new cultural partnerships between the University of Hull and national cultural institutions like the British Museum (for the Lines of Thought exhibition of drawings by artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer, Degas, Michelangelo, Matisse and Rembrandt, attracting over 20,000 visitors in January and February 2017), the National Portrait Gallery (commissioned portraits of some of the UK’s best known cultural figures by BP Portrait Award Winners – the exhibition attracted over 16,000 visitors (in April and May 2017).
The Library has continued to showcase a cultural program since 2017, hosting art from Glasgow Girls and Boys, Peter Huby and Andi Dakin.
Folowing two years of holding the post on an interim basis, Chris Awre became University Librarian in 2022. He continues on the work and heritage of the role, providing opportunity to engage with our stakeholders and develop our Library collections.