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Durham University

University Library

Library History

Durham University Library was established in January 1833 on the Palace Green site with a collection of 160 volumes donated by William Van Mildert. Today, the Library's collections amount to about 1.63 million printed items, major collections of manuscripts and archives, and a wide and rapidly increasing range of online and electronic resources, including around 19,500 e-journals, approaching 415,000 e-books, and major databases.

Highlights in the University Library's history include:

  • 1832: The first University Librarian, the Revd Patrick George, appointed
  • 1854: Dr Routh's collection bequeathed to the University Library
  • 1856: Bishop Maltby's collection donated to the Library
  • 1859: Dr Winterbottom's collection bequeathed to the Library
  • 1937: Cosin's Library collection becomes part of the University's trusteeship
  • 1950: Oriental Library established
  • 1957: Sudan Archive established
  • 1958: Bamburgh Library collection deposited with the University Library
  • 1965: Science Library established
  • 1979: Education Library incorporated within the University Library
  • 1983: Science Library extended to become the Main Library
  • 1983: Online circulation system introduced
  • 1987: Basil Bunting Poetry Archive acquired by the Library
  • 1990: Online cataloguing introduced
  • 1992: A campus library is established at Stockton-on-Tees
  • 1993: Middle East Documentation Unit is transferred to the University Library
  • 1995: European Documentation Centre granted 'comprehensive' status
  • 1996: The University Library joins CURL, the Consortium of Research Libraries in the British Isles - now RLUK (Research Libraries UK)
  • 2001: Automated borrowing machine for customers introduced, at the Queen's Campus Library
  • 2005: Library-wide reclassification initiated
  • 2005: Cosin's Library and the Sudan Archive are 'designated' by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
  • 2007: Expansion to automated borrowing services for customers across the University Library
  • 2010: Cosin's Library copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, stolen the previous century, is returned to the University
  • 2011: Law and Music collections are transferred to the Main Library from Palace Green Library, which is refocused solely to special collections and galleries
  • 2012: A major extension to the Main Library is completed with the creation of a new East Wing, and the Main Library is renamed the Bill Bryson Library
  • 2012: The Meissen Library, the largest gathered collection of German theological materials in Britain, is transferred from Durham Cathedral to the Bill Bryson Library
  • 2013: With iconic exhibition loans from the British Library and other institutions, a Lindisfarne Gospels Durham exhibition is held at Palace Green Library, with ticket sales of 97,000

Full guides to the History of Durham University Library are also available.


View of Bishop Cosin's Library, showing students taking exams [1842].

Contact Details

Mr Mike Wall
Deputy University Librarian

Bill Bryson Library
Stockton Road