50 years ago students at the University of Reading Library used no laptops, phones or even calculators
It is exactly 50 years since the University of Reading Library at Whiteknights was officially opened. Half a century later, student study methods may be a little different, and their numbers greatly increased, but the Library is still at the heart of the student experience – the reason the University is still investing in adapting the building for current student needs.
Library history at Whiteknights
The Library was the third academic building built in the new Whiteknights campus, acquired in 1946 for expansion from the original London Road site. Initial designs date from 1958. Construction began in 1960 and was completed in 1963, having been delayed by a serious roof fire and ferocious storms that January. Library stock transferred from The Old Library at London Road over the Christmas Vacation in December.
The Library was officially opened on 15 May 1964 by the Chancellor, Lord Bridges
An official opening ceremony took place on 15 May 1964 when the Chancellor, Lord Bridges cut a ceremonial ribbon beside the Library’s architect, Frederick Preston. It was followed by a special degree congregation in the 2nd Floor Reading Room, bestowing honorary degrees on Preston, publishers, librarians and authors including W.H.Auden.
The new Library was designed to serve for a student population of 3,000 but there was already talk of an extension to the east. Whilst Reading only had 1,537 students in 1963, it aimed for 3,700 by 1967-68. In fact there were nearly 5,000 by 1969 and University numbers – and aspirations for expansion – kept rising.
The Library extension was agreed in 1981 and opened in 1985. It reconfigured the north side, adding stack space on three subject floors, a 1st Floor current periodicals area (now S@iL) and Ground Floor administrative space. A new entrance was let into the west side, replacing two north and south entrances. The former north entrance was enclosed, becoming the Short-Loan Collection. The old south entrance is now one of CaféLibro’s windows, by the self-service machines.
In January 2000, the largest PC area on campus came into the Library. Computers were now essential for writing, communicating and research since the internet’s 1995 birth, but students still wanted to be in the Library.
In 2006, University archives and special collections relocated to a new state-of-the-art store and reading room service at Redlands Road (University Museums and Special Collections Service, UMASCS). This released 1st and 5th Floor space at Whiteknights for student study space.
In 2007, Ground Floor £1 million refurbishment created new areas for student group work – an increasingly important aspect of study – and a new Course Collection for in-demand course texts and a café.
Smaller steps, as funding was available, brought group study pods and display screens in 2011.
Today students need collaborative study pods and power sockets at each desk for effective library study
Most recently our 2009-2014 Collections Project review of all stock, and acquiring an Off-site Store, gained valuable study space within the Library. Major refurbishment in summer 2013 and 2014, in all worth £4.4 million, delivers:
- upgraded individual study areas: Silent Study 5th Floor (2013); Quiet Study 2nd Floor (2013), 4th & 3rd Floors (2014)
- more collaborative study space: 2nd Floor (2013), 4th Floor (2014)
- many more sockets to power laptops and mobile devices, now essential for students.
Opening hours have also changed in the last fifty years. In 1964, where students were largely full-time and locally resident, the new Library was only open on term-time weekdays until 9.45pm and closed at weekends. To satisfy current student needs, where students may be part-time, need to take jobs or simply want the choice of early or late working, 2014 saw the permanent establishment of 24-hour Library opening.
Rachel Redrup, Library Marketing Co-ordinator