Archives of the University of Hull Brynmor Jones Library



Admin History:

The history of the Library has been well documented, both by the first University Librarian, Agnes Cuming, and more especially by Philip Larkin. In brief, the Library first opened its doors to readers on 8 March 1929, some months after the University College had officially commenced operations in October 1928, and just one month after Agnes Cuming took up her post. She therefore had little or no say in the design of the Library. The next few decades were something of a struggle for Miss Cuming and her small staff. Whilst the bookstock, for which funding was initially quite generous, grew quite rapidly (with some 40,000 volumes in the first three years), the associated buildings were quite inadequate. By the 1950s the result was, as Larkin put it, 'a series of badly-designed, ill-lit, sometimes unheated and frequently unrelated areas', with the main location on the ground floor of the what become known as the Science and Social building - one of just two main buildings owned by the University until the 1940s.

In October 1930 a second floor of the same wing of the Science and Social building was taken over - unfortunately separated from the ground floor rooms by the intervening Senior Common Room, with only a hand-operated book lift between them. By 1939 there were still only four Library staff, including the Librarian, a total immediately reduced to two at the outset of the Second World War. As a result of the threat of enemy bombing, during 1939-1940 much of the stock had to be re-located both within the College and, in the case of rare books and manuscripts, to vicarages and other houses within the region.2 Things were little better during the years after the re-constitution of the Library during 1945. By 1948 the staff still numbered only six, with the Librarian, one senior assistant, and four library assistants. A Deputy Librarian (Arthur Wood) was appointed from October 1948. There was no proper entrance or issue desk until 1951, when connecting stairs were at last built between the two floors of the Library. Expansion was catered for by housing much bookstock (along with many reader spaces) in outlying rooms and one large 'temporary' hut, later known as the Sub-Library.

By the time of Miss Cuming's retirement in March 1955, there was still no purpose-built Library, but there were about 125,000 books and 11 staff. It fell to Philip Larkin, who had previously been sub-librarian at Queen's University, Belfast, to preside over an impressive expansion in facilities during the next two decades. Indeed, during the 30 years of his Librarianship, the bookstock increased six-fold, and the Library grant by a factor of 100. In this process he was greatly assisted by the onset of a boom in funding and resources for British higher education generally, and by the firm support from 1956 of the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull, Brynmor Jones. Hull had become a University in its own right in 1955: ambitious building plans were in place, and Brynmor Jones ensured that the Library stood at the head of the queue.

In practice, much of Larkin's first 15 years involved overseeing the design and construction of two new buildings, and the massive expansion of holdings. The first building, known as Stage I (and later the East Building), took 18 months to complete and was opened in September 1959. The official opening was performed in June 1960 by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. 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 sculptures by Willi Soukop, and a large oriole window.

Planning for Stage II (later known as the West Building) began shortly after the completion of the first stage. Progress was helped by the continuing rapid expansion of higher education supported by the Robbins Report (November 1963) and backed by a well-financed University Grants Committee, which strongly approved of Hull University's vision of an enlarged central Library to house up to one million volumes. Given the cramped nature of the site, however, it was necessary to build upwards, and the resulting large nine-storey tower block was eventually commenced in 1968 and opened in July 1969. Before then, a small, three-storey extension to the north of the original stage I had been opened in 1967. This contained a Rare Books Room, Poetry Room, a Record Lending Library, Seminar Room, and microform reading room, plus other offices. In March 1967 Council resolved that the Library should be named after Brynmor Jones in recognition of his University work, and particularly his support for the Library.

After moves of bookstock during 1969-70, the two buildings officially operated as the whole Library from 29 June 1970. The tower block enjoyed full air conditioning, some 138 study carrels, 6 stack floors organised on a subject basis, and a periodicals floor with space for up to 10,000 current periodical titles. The official opening took place on 16 December 1970 in the presence of Lord Birkenhead, the Chancellor. Further expansion came when the new social sciences and law building opened in October 1970 included a large sub-library administered by the BJL. Also in the summer of 1970 the Library of the Institute of Education (which had operated since its inception in 1948 from entirely separate premises) moved to the top floor of the East Building. Administrative amalgamation with the BJL took place during the 1977/78 session. Eventually, in the summer of 1985 the Education Library re-located from the top floor of the East Building to the former after-hours reading room in the same building.

During the 1960s the Library was one of the best funded in the United Kingdom, and its bookstock doubled from 153,777 in 1959/60 to 333,185 in 1969/70. This began to be matched by the expansion of archives and special collections, particularly in the area of modern political papers and labour archives. A full-time Archivist was appointed in 1973. Special book collections included the Library of the Fabian Society and the two thousand volume library from Busby Hall, near Northallerton, as well as earlier collections including the parish libraries of two Hull churches. Despite the continuing functional organisation of staff, this period also saw the designation of subject specialists amongst Library staff, liaising with Library representatives amongst academic staff in departments, principally in the area of book purchasing. and reader instruction. This period also saw the production of subject and other library guides. Additionally, a Library Consultative Board was established in 1967 to promote discussion of matters of user interest with student representatives. This later became the Library Users' Sub-Committee.

By the early 1970s the national and financial climate had changed, inevitably impacting on the fortunes of the University. Sir Brynmor Jones retired in 1972. The financial recession had its biggest effect in the area of periodicals, particularly as during the mid- 1970s prices were simultaneously increasing by up to 30% per annum. Some 800 titles were cancelled between 1973/74 and 1976/77, and deep cuts were also made in book purchases. Thirteen and a half Library posts were suspended during the same period. The situation was not helped when in May 1973 the Publishers' Association withdrew the Library Licence (thereby losing a 10% discount on certain book prices) that had been held since 1930 following a dispute over the matter of public access to the Library - a condition of the Licence.

From 1974 the University's Computer was installed in the Library basement, occupying about one-third of the available space in that area. Ironically, the Library itself did not venture into computerisation until late 1979 when it was decided to purchase a Geac Automated Library System, the first example of this Canadian system to be installed in a European Library. The automated issue system became operational in October 1980, facilitated largely by the employment of large numbers of temporary staff on government funded job-creation projects who undertook the tasks of inputting data and bar-code labelling stock. All Library bookstock was entered onto the system by April 1982. This system also became the basis of an On-Line Public Access Catalogue, also covering the whole of Library stock to an acceptable cataloguing standard by the late 1980s. This was also accessible via the campus network from March 1985. A new post of systems librarian was created by internal re-deployment in 1984.

The financial situation again worsened in 1981. More posts were frozen, and further rounds of cancellations of periodicals occurred. Despite this, by December 1985 the bookstock had reached a total of some 750,000 items. In Addition, there had been further significant additions of archives, manuscripts, and special book collections, including the establishment in 1973 of the Philip Larkin Collection. Nevertheless, following the freezing of thirteen posts by 1979, a further twelve posts were lost by 1985. Several senior staff took early retirement, including four sub-librarians (Cataloguing, Services to Readers and Periodicals, and the University Archivist) and the Map Curator). In October 1985 the Deputy Librarian left to take up his new position as Librarian to the University of East Anglia, and his old position remained unfilled at the time of Philip Larkin's death in post on 2 December 1985, his deputy having taken up the post of Librarian at UEA in October. The post of Deputy was subsequently deleted from the establishment.

A visitation by the National Audit Office in October 1985 concluded that the Library's space was in excess of its current needs, resulting in a decision by the University that the Library should vacate the stack floors of the East Building which would then be converted for teaching use by the Education Department. These moves were completed during the summer of 1987. This controversial episode (there was a campaign to 'Defend Larkin's heritage' which included many Library and University staff) brought a sad PostScript to a highly successful career - possibly in some respects too successful.

Library organisational structure

Although there was literally no Library until March 1929, the Library Committee first met on 28 October 1928 under the chairmanship of Professor TE Jessop. This Committee, responsible to Senate, remained the over-seeing authority to which the Librarian reported until the formation of the Academic Services Directorate (into which the Library was subsumed) in 1996 and the establishment of Academic Services Committee. The nature and style of management has largely depended on the personality of successive chief librarians. Under Agnes Cuming, under-staffed and under-resourced for the whole of her period in office, the emphasis was very much on building up and organising the bookstock. This is reflected in the minutes of Library Committee, with a high-powered Book Selection sub-committee (which as late as 1954 including the Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellors) devoted to book purchases. [See minutes at U LIB/1/22]

Small staffing establishments do not require formal committees and/or working parties to organise activities, nor minutes of meetings or copies of memoranda to record decisions and issue instructions. So the period of Miss Cuming's Librarianship has left relatively little evidence of meetings with staff. She gained a professional assistant in 1938, only to lose him again as he was called up for service at the commencement of World War II. This post was re-instated after the end of the War, and she acquired a deputy in 1948.

The rapid and prolonged expansion of buildings, staff and stock under Philip Larkin from 1955 dramatically changed the situation. From the early years, when he had 11 staff, organisation was largely on a functional basis, with divisions directed (eventually, as posts were secured) by a sub-librarian. By 1961-62 the establishment had doubled to 22 (including sub-librarians in charge of Services to Readers [Peter Sheldon] and Cataloguing [Brenda Moon]), and a photographer (Alan Marshall). By 1966 it had doubled again to 46, reaching a peak of over 100 in the early 1970s. At this high point, there were initially two deputies (until the death in post of Arthur Wood in 1971), and five sub-librarians: Book Acquisitions, Cataloguing, Periodicals & Binding, Services to Readers, and, from 1973, a University Archivist.

With the exception of Arthur Wood, whose role (valuable in the context of building up a Library) was confined largely to Acquisitions, Larkin was both fortunate and heavily reliant on a succession of first-rate and effective Deputies whom he could trust and who were able to manage the Library in his absence. In January 1980 Miss BE Moon (who was promoted Deputy in 1968) became Librarian of Edinburgh University; in September 1984 Thomas W Graham, her successor, became Librarian at York University; and his successor David Baker (previously Sub-Librarian reader Services) moved to UEA in October 1985. This was particularly important as Larkin's role outwith the Library, both within the University, and professionally and otherwise in the region and at national level, grew considerably, necessitating his frequent absences in a way unheard of during Miss Cuming's period. Thus, at various times he was a member of committees within the University, and of committees of the Library Association, SCONUL, UCR, etc. regionally and nationally.

Larkin held regular - sometimes weekly - meetings with his senior staff. These are documented (in the form of his own notebooks) from 1959 [U LIB/2/345-349]. He also held 'Departmental' or Staff meetings with senior colleagues from April 1955 [U LIB/2/338-339], a format succeeded by the more formally constituted Staff Committee in 1964. Minutes of this group cover the period 1964-1991, when it was abolished. Records of meetings during 1984-85 with the then Deputy Librarian, David Baker, were fully documented [U LIB/2/1]. There are also records of the senior Management Team established to manage the Library during the period of Larkin's serious illness in 1985, which continued in place until the arrival of his successor and the third University Librarian, Ian Mowat, in 1986.

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 [minutes at U LIB/2/3-7]. 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 [minutes at U LIB/2/21-22], which lasted between 1987 and 1994. Minutes of all these committees were made freely available to Library staff. However, those of the Librarian's Group, the senior management group set up by the new Librarian, Dr Richard Heseltine, in late 1994, were not and remain closed. This Group dealt with strategic-level decisions, whilst another grouping entitled Library Operations Committee, concerned itself with implementation of decisions and the resolution of day-to-day issues. In a further move, the traditional divisional structure was replaced in 1995 by a team structure. The new structure also involved the establishment of planning groups, designed to tackle or create initiatives in areas of policy or interest that went beyond individual Teams, such as publicity, quality, environment and income generation.

In 1996 the Librarian's Group was abolished as the Librarian became Director of Academic Services responsible additionally for the Computer Centre and other academic services of the University. A Head of Library Services - also a member of the new Academic Services management group - now chaired the new Library Management Group, the equivalent of the former Library Operations Committee.

Chairmen of Library Committee

1928-1934 Professor TE Jessop

1934-1942 Professor WS Vines

1942-1947 Professor C Gill

1947-1948 Dr CE Lucas

1948-1952 Professor H King

1952-1954 Professor II Bowen

1954-1957 Professor RL Brett

1957-1967 Professor PG 'Espinasse

1967-1968 Professor Brynmor Jones

1968-1971 Professor Garnet Rees

1971-1972 Professor ADB Clarke

1972-1974 Professor RH Barback

1974-1988 Professor EA Dawes

1988-1990 Professor DC Earl

1990-1993 Professor A Pugh

1993-1996 Professor G Chesters


1928-1955 Miss Agnes Cuming

1955-1985 Professor Philip A Larkin

1986-1991 Ian RM Mowat

1992-2016 Dr Richard G Heseltine (from 1996 also Director of Academic Services)

2016 - Michelle Anderson


This collection effectively covers the organisational history of the Library from the time of the establishment of University College Hull in 1928 until the early 1990s. It has been assembled and catalogued chiefly as a means of enabling those interested in the career and work of the University's second Librarian, Philip Arthur Larkin, to gain access to an additional valuable source covering a relatively neglected aspect of his life between the years 1955 and 1985. Additionally, the collection will be of interest to researchers in the field of modern library history shedding, as it does, much light on the growth and development of a modern British university and its library during its formative years.

The collection excludes individual personnel records, and the extensive holdings of photographs. It is hoped that the latter will be catalogued and made available at a later date.

The main collection is organised on the basis of hierarchical provenance (Library Committee - Librarian and Librarian's Office - Deputy librarian). Selected records relating to automation have been retained given the significance and pioneering nature of this aspect of the Library's operations from the late 1970s. Records relating to individual parts of the Library are essentially held, or at least duplicated, in the Librarian and/or Librarian's Office files in section 2. However, as an example of how one key part of the Library was managed (and in recognition of the fact that the records have been well produced and maintained), records of the Periodicals and Binding Division have also been included. Records of other parts of the Library have either been largely destroyed, or are still retained for working purposes in their respective areas.

Section 1 comprises the minutes of Library Committee between 1928 and 1987, together with Philip Larkin's associated working papers for the period 1972-1982. There is also one volume of Library Committee's Book Selection Committee minutes for the period 1934-1955 [U LIB/1/22].

The second, and easily the largest, section comprises files drawn from the Librarian and/or Librarian's Office between 1928 and 1996. There is some overlap between this section and section 4, files of the Deputy Librarian.

A large series of plans for the design and construction of the University Library, throughout what is referred to as Stage 1 and 2 of the University Library project. Stage 1 comprises the construction of the original library building which was later referred to as the East Building. Stage 2 comprises the construction of the West Building and the refurbishment and addition of a north extension to the East Building [U LIB/10].