Glasgow University Library

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University of Glasgow Library
Glasgow University Library 000 0124.jpg
The Main Library Building with the Round Reading Room in the foreground.
Country Scotland
Type Academic library
Established 1451
Location University of Glasgow
Coordinates 55°52′24″N 4°17′20″W / 55.8733°N 4.2890°W / 55.8733; -4.2890Coordinates: 55°52′24″N 4°17′20″W / 55.8733°N 4.2890°W / 55.8733; -4.2890
Items collected Books, manuscripts, journals and electronic resources
Size Over 2.5 million volumes
Legal deposit Formerly (1709-1836)
Access and use
Access requirements Staff, students and alumni of the University of Glasgow
Population served Over 20,000 members

The University of Glasgow Library in Scotland is one of the oldest and largest university libraries in Europe. It holds more than 2.5 million books and journals, as well as providing access to an extensive range of electronic resources including over 30,000 electronic journals.

The current 12-storey building, opened in 1968, is a prominent landmark in Glasgow's West End, and may be classified as a mid-rise skyscraper and its distinctive outline can be seen from several kilometers around.


The first explicit mention of the Library is dated November 1475, when the first donations by the University's Chancellor, Bishop John Laing, were recorded. The Library grew steadily throughout the 18th century due largely to the fact that it was granted legal deposit status between 1710-1836. Legal deposit ceased in 1836 and the Library was granted an annual lump sum which allowed it to develop its collections in line with the University's teaching and research interests. The library of the royal physician to Queen Charlotte, William Hunter, received in 1807, comprised some 10,000 volumes that augmented the library's holdings by fifty percent, and extended their reach well beyond the contemporary curriculum; of Hunter's 650 manuscript codices, over a hundred are illuminated, and his incunabula "accorded Glasgow a prominence that it could not have achieved with its own resources".[1]

By 1888 the holdings of the Library had risen to around 126,000 volumes, due in part to large donations and contributions by wealthy private collectors, such as William Hunter, John Smith of Crutherland, George Walker-Arnott, William Euing and David Murray.

From 1870 until 1968, the University Library was housed within the main Gilbert Scott Building. The old Library closed in July 1968 and the new building opened to readers on 30 September 1968.

Current building[edit]

Designed by William Whitfield, the present library was constructed in 1968, and extended in the 1980s and 1990s. It formed the centrepiece of the new campus buildings built across Hillhead during the 1960s. In line with architectural fashion of the period, it is of Brutalist design, being clad in Precast concrete flint aggregate panels. (However, as of 2012, the building is being overclad in an "aluminium rain screen system" due to deterioration of the original panels.)[2] The main library floors are stacked in a central core with the peripheral towers containing services. The cluster of towers are reminiscent of San Gimignano, and form part of a complex that also incorporates the Hunterian Art Gallery. The original building has been extensively refurbished to facilitate a modern information technology environment. The library has collections ranging from astronomy to zoology, as well as a world-class Special Collections department. Special Collections on level 12 has an internationally significant collection of manuscripts and printed works. In the foyer there is a display area featuring changing exhibitions of rare material from their collections. In 1993 the Glasgow University Library complex was selected by the international conservation organisation DoCoMoMo as one of sixty key Scottish monuments of the post-war era.

Open 361 days of the year, the library provides a resource not only for the academic community in Glasgow, but also for scholars worldwide. There are study spaces for more than 2500 students, with over 800 computers. Wi-fi access is available throughout the building. A new cafe and social learning space was opened in 2009, followed by an exhibition gallery, and a level dedicated to post graduate study.

The library staff comprises a team of over two hundred daytime, evening and weekend staff. The University Librarian is Helen Durndell, and the University Archivist is Lesley Richmond. The Friends of Glasgow University Library, an educational charity formed in 1975, is open to public membership, promotes the Library and its work, and each year presents a series of talks and events. The first fully illustrated History of Glasgow University Library, from 1451 to the present day, is being published in April 2016, with Forewords by The Chancellor Professor Sir Kenneth Calman and the Principal Anton Muscatelli.

Notable collections[edit]

The Library & Archives includes the University Archives accumulated since 1451, and the Scottish Business Archives of internationally important collections of business records covering the whole of Scotland and its global trades from the 18th century to the present.

The Library`s Special Collections are classed as being of national and international importance. Its subject strengths include art, languages, literature, history and the history of law, science and medicine, represented by over 200,000 manuscript items and around 200,000 printed works (1,000 of which are incunabula, printed before 1501.) The holdings of medieval and renaissance manuscripts, and emblem literature, are of international status. Collections include those of George Buchanan from 1578, the Hunterian Library, the Stirling Maxwell Collection including emblem literature from 1531 onwards, the James McNeill Whistler Archive, the Euing Collection of music and Bibles, the Dougan Collection of early photography including Hill & Adamson, the modern Edwin Morgan Scrapbooks and the Scottish Theatre Archive.

The Prince Bandar Collection is a collection of 1000 volumes given to the university by Prince Bandar in 1997. The volumes, written in Arabic, detail knowledge regarding Islam, Islamic law and modern Arab law.[3]

The library is the only European Documentation Centre (EDC) in the west of Scotland, and one of the largest in the UK. The EDC is part of the Maps, Official Publications and Statistics Unit on Level 7. The centre contains full texts of legislation and proposed legislation, as well as reports and statistics from the European Union.[4]

Specialist collections for veterinary medicine, dentistry and chemistry are held in separate branch libraries around campus. Additionally, the Adam Smith library holds undergraduate social science materials. Other notable collections include music scores, Russian and East European material and significant 18th and 19th century print books and journals at the Library Research Annexe. The 2015 public exhibition in the adjacent Hunterian Art Gallery, Ingenious Impressions -The Coming of the Book, is the largest such exhibition of incunabula in Britain.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]