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Durham University

Durham University News


Bill Bryson renames University library and opens new wing

(27 November 2012)

Bill Bryson and the Bill Bryson Library

New East Wing is part of £22m investment in Durham University’s modern and historic libraries

Bill Bryson returned to Durham University on Tuesday November 27, to rename the main library and open its new wing.

The opening of the £11m East Wing at the Bill Bryson library makes the main library building 42 per cent bigger and provides 500 new study spaces across four floors.

The development is part of Gateway, Durham University’s major £60m estates project which incorporates a new Law School and a dedicated building for student support services, The Palatine Centre.

Dr Bryson, who served as the University’s Chancellor from April 2005 to December 2011, is making his first visit back to the University since he bid farewell last year.

He said: “As somebody who has been privileged enough to have books at the centre of my life, I can’t think of any greater honour than to give my name to Durham University’s library and the pursuit of learning for generations to come.

“I once wrote that of all the things I am not very good at, living in the real world is perhaps the most outstanding.

“Libraries and books are a doorway to a whole new world – democratic access to a galaxy of infinite possibilities beyond the routine and the mundane that really make life worth living.”

The Bill Bryson Library, which is built on a former colliery, houses the majority of Durham University’s modern printed book and journal collections.  Access is primarily for staff and students but librarians also work with local schools on specially designed research skills sessions, amongst other outreach projects.

The new East Wing has been designed to produce a light and spacious study environment, including 21 individual and six group study rooms.

It has enabled the library to rearrange its collection of 1.5m books into one sequence and to make 120,000 books previously in storage available in open access shelving for the first time.

Jon Purcell, University Librarian, said: “Feedback from the National Student Survey, social media and our Student Users Forum told us that our students needed a bigger and better library. Student representatives were consulted throughout the design and development of the East Wing. Maximising study space and providing a range of facilities was a priority for us."

Mr Purcell added: “The renaming of the Bill Bryson Library, which never had a site specific name before, recognises Bill’s time as the University’s 11th Chancellor, his ongoing links with the library, and the continuing development of the site.

“Bill was a frequent user of the library during his time as Chancellor, and made full use of the study facilities and resources in the course of his research.

“Library staff were often surprised to come across Bill using the photocopiers and reading on Level one amongst the students!”

The Bill Bryson library is the largest of five libraries which make up the Durham University Library Service, which is receiving a £22m investment.

The other four libraries are:  Palace Green library (exhibitions, special and local collections); The Queen’s Campus library; the Leazes Road library (additional educational materials); The Business School library (additional business school materials).

The library service can trace its roots back to 1669, when John Cosin, Bishop of Durham, paid for a library to be constructed on Palace Green close to his residence, Durham Castle, which contained his extensive collection of books. This became the library for the newly-founded Durham University in 1833.

As well as giving his name to Durham University’s main library, Bill Bryson has also become the President of the newly-founded Friends of Palace Green library, which will be home to the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in summer 2013.