Readers' Newsletter


Library building programme enters final phase

Model of the University Library showing the gap for the final phase of building between north-west and south-west corner extensions


The removal of the scaffolding from the north-west corner development marks a further stage towards the completion of the Library's current building programme. By the time the next Newsletter appears in October, readers of manuscripts and rare books should be ensconced in the superb new reading rooms now nearing completion in the north-west corner extension. At the opposite corner, work is on schedule for the completion, in early 2003, of the enlarged reading rooms for Official Publications and microforms, and a new IT resources area. From the summer of 2001 until then, Official Publications, microforms and the Royal Commonwealth Society's collections will be read in the new north-west corner reading rooms.

As the illustration shows, and as anyone looking at the Library from Grange Road can see, there is a large gap between these two corners, and it is the filling of this gap that marks the final stage of the Library's current fundraising and building programme. Once this stage is built, the development plan for the Library, approved by the University in 1993, will have been completed, though the far-sighted decision in the 1920s to obtain ownership of the whole site back to Grange road means that further expansion in the longer term has not been ruled out.

The two areas currently under construction will provide comfortable working places for readers, in sufficient numbers to meet the expected demand both from within and from outside the University. What they do not provide, however, is any increase in the storage space necessary to house the Library's constantly growing collections. Ten years ago, many people were predicting the death of the book. As we all know, this announcement proved to be premature, to say the least. So far, the increasing availability of electronic information resources has not led to any decline in the paper-based output of publishing houses; the number of books received by legal deposit - a good indicator of UK publishing trends - has remained remarkably constant over the last few years. Electronic resources augment print but are certainly not replacing it at present. This means that the University Library continues to need over a mile of new shelving every year to accommodate its intake.

The basement storage area and the Aoi Pavilion, both opened in 1998, gave us about five years' capacity and facilitated a major reorganisation and respacing of the open-access areas of the Library. However that five years is coming to an end and we need to start within the next two years on the construction of the new stack, which, when complete, should see the Library through to about 2020-2025 at the present rate of growth.

Who knows whether that rate will in fact be maintained? It is likely that journals in the sciences will go completely electronic during the next couple of decades and so future issues will not need to be stored on shelves. However, when that happens, many scientific departments may want to release library space for other purposes by relegating back issues of journals to the University Library, a process that has already started. So the UL's need for space to store its collections is unlikely to diminish significantly.

One of the aspects of the Library most frequently commented on is its 'user-friendliness' compared to that of other libraries of a similar size and status. Much of this is due to the fact that readers can go straight to the shelves for a significant proportion of the collections - we think the UL is the largest open-access library in Europe. And even when books and journals are stored in closed access and have to be requested, the fetching time is far more rapid than for other similar libraries, because all the collections are housed on site and do not have to be transported over considerable distances. The new building development will allow us to continue that policy and to continue to provide a high-quality service to the users of the next quarter century, but a sum of approximately £12 million is needed before this work can start.

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Arthur Tillotson (1908-2001)

Arthur Tillotson, who died on 27 February at the age of 92, worked at the University Library from 1934 to 1975. From 1949 until his retirement he was Secretary of the Library, the last holder of a post whose functions were taken over by what he found a gratifying multiplicity of administrators. As a memorial tribute we reprint, with the kind permission of the editor of the Bulletin of the Friends of Cambridge University Library, extracts from a talk Mr Tillotson gave to the Friends in October 1998 entitled 1934: the two University Libraries, both for their intrinsic interest at a time when further extension to the 1934 building is envisaged and for the flavour they give of the man.

After reading History and English at Peterhouse I joined the Library staff in March 1934. At that moment there were two University Library buildings in Cambridge - the old Library in the centre of the town and the University (historic, beautiful and completely full) and the new one beyond the river (stark, enormous and completely empty). The contents of the old building were to be moved to the new building in the long vacation.

I had been appointed a Superintendent of the Reading Room. This Reading Room was in the new building, and could not be superintended until October. In the meantime until the move started in June I was surplus to requirement. The thoughts of the staff were concentrated on the coming transformation, and I must have been rather a nuisance...

The University Library in the centre of Cambridge finally closed at 5 p.m. 31 May 1934. Some natural tears were dropped, no doubt. On the following day at 8 a.m. the move started. I was in one of eight groups of three, who were packing books in the old building; another eight groups of three were unpacking them in the new building. We were provided with 1000 plywood boxes made by Papworth Industries, and Eaden Lilley supplied the transport between the two buildings ... The old Library was a complicated building and a brute to clear. Half the books needed ladders to reach them, and they had to be kept in the right order. The periodicals had been reclassified, but perforce left in their existing places. These had to be moved in their new order. All these matters meant that the tempo of the move was about right for the horse-drawn transport, as had been expected. I assisted in clearing the Cockerell building. The galleries had only narrow spiral staircases impractical for boxes, so sloping planks were used, and the laden boxes were sent down them with a sort of bungee exhilaration, but were always stopped in time... The move was completed on 26 July, and involved packing, transporting and unpacking 23,725 boxes of books ...

And what of this new building, to which I had been sending boxes of books for two months as though to an Oxfam Special Appeal? ... Staff and readers shared the feeling of well-being. It was like being freed from captivity. There was space, unbelievably ample. For the first time for some hundred years the Library was a unit, and housed in a beautiful building with space inside and space outside available as far as to Grange Road ... The open-shelf books were now displayed in order, and all within reach. There was now no need of ladders. We could move about easily, in broad corridors, and with lifts - Bliss was it in that dawn ... The Library had become the best working library in the country.

And it was not just a matter of utility. It was beautiful too ... I am an admirer of the Reading Room. I was privileged to see it in its pristine glory in October '34 when it was the site of the royal opening of the Library. And it has worn well. It rises above the added bookcases that beset it. A person would find it well worth while to sit at the end of the room and contemplate it - the windows that follow inexorably, the elaborate corbels between them, the three noble portals, the intricate ceilings - they all show an architect at the height of his powers ...

The layout of the departments in the new building had been carefully planned. It is interesting therefore to note that only one department is still in its original position: maps. (Plus of course the Main Reading Room - nothing can alter that.) This does not prove the uselessness of planning, I hope, but the ability of Scott's building to permit changes and enlargement. Let us be grateful for all those who made 1934 possible.

The full text of this talk can be found in the Bulletin of the Friends of Cambridge University Library, no.19, 1998.


The Reading Room in its original state from a contemporary postcard.

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Words and letters in wood and slate


From Typography by Eric Gill, based on Gill Sans typeface.

A ceremony on 20 February in the Morison Room of the University Library marked the completion of a project suggested by the Heritage Lottery Fund when contributing to the cost of converting the room and creating the adjacent Exhibition Centre. Recipients of funding are encouraged to commission a piece of art for inclusion in the area concerned. The Library, seeking something appropriately typographical or related to letter forms turned to two local centres of excellence and offered Sebastian Carter of the Rampant Lions Press and Lida Cardozo Kindersley of the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop a wall each. The `Tree of Script', a wooden construction designed by Sebastian Carter with joinery by Giles Munby and showing some of the type designs issued by the British Monotype Corporation during Stanley Morison's period as typographical advisor, was installed over a year ago. It is now joined by the Cardozo Kindersley contribution, eight slates reflecting 2500 years of script, books, libraries and letter forms (Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Caroline Minuscule, Black-letter, Italic, Copperplate and Sans Serif). Each is eighteen inches square, cut in Welsh slate and offers an interpretation in text and letter form of the age it represents. Quotations on books, reading and libraries were selected from suggestions solicited throughout Cambridge and beyond. Reproductions of the slates also form eight of the twelve sheets of a calendar for 2002, published by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop and on sale at the Friends' desk in the Entrance Hall on Thursdays.

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Saturday afternoon opening

The Library Syndicate have for some time been keen that the University Library should be open on Saturday afternoons, but resources have not been available to achieve this. Now, thanks to a generous grant from Trinity College, augmented by funds from the General Board and the Higher Education Funding Council for England's Research Support Libraries Programme, plans are well under way to open the Library on Saturday afternoons from next term. The success of this scheme will depend upon the willingness of Library staff to change their Saturday working hours and on the availability of temporary staff to make up the numbers. More details will be given in the next Newsletter.

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Charges For Inter-Library Loans

When we are unable to meet users' needs locally, the University Library and the dependent libraries are happy to try to acquire on loan books, periodicals, theses and photocopies from other libraries, however far-flung. The costs incurred can, however, be very high, with the flat rate charged by us to readers representing only a small fraction of them. The charges made by the British Library Document Supply Centre were increased in October 2000 with the result that the cost of acquiring a photocopied article can now reach £22.50 and the costs of a loan range from £6.39 to over £36 (plus VAT and return postage charges). The Library Syndicate, taking into account the level of subsidy provided by the Library and the principle of how far external readers should be subsidised, has accordingly set new rates which will apply from Tuesday 17 April 2000. We regret the need to make these increases but, as can be seen, they still include a large subsidy for all but a small number of requests made by external users:

All members of the University of Cambridge
(including students, staff, resident and non-resident MAs/BAs)
All other readers£6.00
Urgent Action Service (for all readers): 
Photocopies received via mail£9.00
Photocopies received via fax£12.00

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Periodical Transfers

In preparation for the opening of the Betty and Gordon Moore Library in October some three to four hundred journal titles in the physical sciences, technology and mathematics have been identified for transfer from the University Library to the new building in Wilberforce Road. Lists of these titles will be displayed in appropriate areas of the Library to give readers an opportunity to comment on the proposed transfer of individual periodicals. A full list of proposed journal holdings, with the current location (whether at West Road, in the Scientific Periodicals Library, or a departmental library) can be found on the Moore Library home page

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New University Library Exhibition

Fantasy to Federation: European maps of Australia to 1901


Extract from a 1635 map of India and adjacent islands by Willem Blaeu showing, on the right, the first European discoveries along the western coast of the Cape York Peninsula.

The new exhibition in the Exhibition Centre of the University Library marks the centenary of Australia's foundation as a federal state.

The exhibition tells the story of Australia as seen through the eyes of European cartographers from the early explorers until the creation of the modern state in 1901. Although Europeans did not discover Australia - a flourishing Aboriginal culture already existed there - they became the driving force behind the mapping of the continent. When they first saw the Australian continent in the seventeenth century, they thought it might be part of Terra Australis Incognita (the unknown southern land), a place of pure fantasy shown on many of their maps. Gradually, as different parts of the coast were sighted and as the relationship between these parts of land became better understood, the true shape of Australia emerged. In tandem, the existence of the mythical southern continent was disproved.

The earliest item in the exhibition is a 1540 map of the world by Sebastian Münster from which the landmass of Australia is absent. The first discoveries, made by Willem Jansz along the western side of the Cape York Peninsula in 1606, are illustrated in a map by Willem Blaeu, an extract from which is illustrated here. Captain Cook explored Australia's previously uncharted coast in 1770. Apart from the maps and views displayed in the exhibition, the CD ROM Endeavour tells the full story of the journey using text, images and sound.

Once the first settlement was established by the British at Sydney Cove in 1788, attempts to explore the interior of the continent began and, once again, speculation about what lay in the interior gradually gave way to an understanding of the true nature of the land. Settlements were established in various parts of the country, initially in coastal areas, and the continent was divided administratively into colonies. On 1 January 1901, the six separate colonies by then established became the six member states of a single new nation, the Commonwealth of Australia. Maps, views and two manuscript letters illustrate these changes.

The exhibition is open from 3 April to 15 September 2001 (closed 13-16 April & 27 August) Monday - Friday 09.00-18.00, Saturday 09.00-12.30. Admission is free. For more information: telephone: 01223 333000; website:; email:

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The Friends Of Cambridge University Library

Forthcoming meetings:

Meetings are held in the Morison Room, University Library.

Wednesday 2 May, at 5.00 p.m.

Francis Spufford

`Blizzard of words: how writing shaped Polar exploration'

Saturday 5 May, at 11.30 a.m.

Sir Roger Carrick

`100 not out: a century of Anglo-Australian history, from Federation to today'

This event is organised in co-operation with the British-Australia Society

Wednesday 9 May, at 5.00 p.m.

Rodney W. Shirley

`Maps and charts of the early explorers'

Saturday events are free of charge to Friends. Members wishing to attend weekday evening meetings pay at a special rate of £2.50 per head, to help us recover costs. Non-members are welcome at all talks; the admission charge is £3.50

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Donation from a grateful reader

Professor Norman Pounds, Emeritus Professor of Geography and History at Indiana University, whom many readers will know as the driver of the high-speed motorised wheelchair that zooms around the Library, has recently made a very generous donation of £10,000 to establish a new 'Library Staff Development and Welfare Fund'. He has done this in order to recognise and thank all the members of Library staff who have gone out of their way to help him over the many years that he has been using the Library - he started as a reader 70 years ago, when the Library was still in the Old Schools, but at that stage his rugby playing had not yet taken its sad toll of his mobility. Professor Pounds hopes that the existence of such a fund will encourage further donations from readers who wish to recognise the help they receive from Library staff. The fund has been established to assist Library staff who are pursuing training in librarianship, information studies or related professional work such as binding or conservation, and to assist any member of the Library staff who faces hardship as the result of an accident, illness, etc. and who is not adequately covered by other sources of support. Any reader who would like to contribute to this fund is invited to contact the Librarian.

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033