Record

CodeNA15949
Dates1510-
Person NameUniversity of Aberdeen Library; 1510-
ActivityThe library of King’s College, Aberdeen, was begun with the bequest of the library of its founder, Bishop William Elphinstone, between 1510 and 1514. It included law and divinity books, but also some medical and liberal arts texts. The collections and works of Hector Boece, the first principal of the college, and his colleagues, were soon added and the core of the library was established. The earliest record of loans and library business dates from 1557, when the books were housed in the south-east tower of the college in Old Aberdeen. The library of Marischal College, founded in 1593, began to be established in 1613 with the bequest of the mathematician Duncan Liddell’s library. He had spent most of his teaching career in Germany, and his library had a distinctly European flavour, which was not unfashionable at the time. Thomas Reid, another alumnus and the Latin secretary to James VI, also left a substantial collection to Marischal, and about this time both colleges began actively to buy books and to raise funds from students and staff for this purpose. Junior staff were given charge of the library for set periods and required to provide catalogues, though these were of varied quality. In 1709 an Act of Parliament decreed that the four Scottish universities should each receive a copy of every new book in Britain: however, the Act considered the two Aberdeen colleges to be one university, and there was a long and acrimonious debate, which King’s won, over which college should have custody of the Aberdeen share. King’s also did well from bequests and gifts in the eighteenth century, and Marischal did not, but staffing arrangements remained much the same. The libraries were open only a few hours a week, and borrowing was extremely restricted: at Marischal it seems that students could not borrow books at all. However, the buildings were changed and improved several times. In 1828 King’s students formed their own library in protest at the expense and inconvenience of using the college library. In 1860 the colleges were united to form Aberdeen University and the libraries were divided according to subject, with arts, divinity and general subjects at King’s, and medicine, law and science at Marischal. The post of Librarian was combined with various other ones, including secretary to the Court and Registrar, though these non-teaching librarians did much good work in development and revision of the libraries. P. J. Anderson was the first full-time librarian, appointed in 1894, and he was responsible for considerable reform in the library, including reasonable arrangement of books and useable catalogues, and extended opening hours. He was succeeded in 1926 by W. D. Simpson who continued his work and expanded on the intentions laid out by Anderson in 1914 for an outstanding university library. This sustained the library through its expansion and development throughout the twentieth century, including the introduction of electronic cataloguing and the establishment of a central site at the Queen Mother Library in Old Aberdeen. At the turn of the twenty-first century the Queen Mother Library was still the central repository, with separate medical, law, science and agriculture libraries, a small remaining section at Marischal College in New Aberdeen and the Special Collections and Archives at King’s College.
Corporate NameUniversity of Aberdeen Library
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