A brief history of the Brynmor Jones Library

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 University is granted its Royal Charter on 6th September 1954. This made it only the 3rd University in Yorkshire and the 14th in the UK. A Royal Charter is a formal legal document, issued by the monarchy, granting rights to an organisation. You can read the University of Hull’s Royal Charter and other governing documents online.

Redevelopment model and filming


Philip Larkin, world famous for his poetry, such as The Whitsun Weddings and Bridge for the Living, served as the University Librarian for thirty years. Read more about Larkin in Hull on our library blog

Willie Soukop






A small three-storey extension is added to the north of the original stage 1 building. 

The new tower block is compared to a ‘Giant Licorice Allsort’ by students. Read more using the British Newspaper archive online. 


Bookstock at the Library doubled over the last 10 years, from 153,777 in 1959-60 to 333,185 in 1969-70. 


Reading Room


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! 

computers 1970s

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

 Start digitisation


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. 

Materials 1954

Much more can be found out about the history of the Brynmor Jones Library at Hull History Centre, which holds the Library’s archive. Find out more about using the archives at Hull History Centre. 

Ian Mowatt


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




You can search resources written by Ian Mowat using Library Search. 



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.

National Portrait 2


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. 

Lines of thought


During the City of Culture year of 2017, 55 thousand people visited the Art Gallery, an increase of 785% from the previous year! Read more in the City of Culture evaluation written by the Culture, Place and Policy Institute. 

Read more about our journey of the exhibition space during City of Culture in our library blog.



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.