52 Weeks of Historical How-to’s, Week 48: How to Borrow a Library Book!

The University Library, tucked away between North Street and the Scores. Its 1970s architecture is truly iconic.

The University Library, tucked away between North Street and the Scores. Its 1970s architecture is truly iconic.

So, this week, I thought I’d take a look at how to borrow a library book – after all, this is a library blog! I’ve chosen something a little more up-to-date – a University of St Andrews Library Readers’ Guide for 1972-73, from our St Andrews Collection. This is a rather unprepossessing volume, measuring 21 cm in height, and having only 32 pages. Yet it offers a glimpse into the past of how the University Library used to operate. For those used to using the University Library today, the library as it was in 1972/73 will seem worlds away …

The Service Desk in the Main Library before the recent refurbishment, with the very 1970s mustard-coloured carpet.

The Service Desk in the Main Library before the recent refurbishment, with the very 1970s mustard-coloured carpet.

I’m sure that many of our readers will be familiar with the current Library building, with its iconic 1970s architecture. Many may also fondly remember the mustard-coloured carpets, only completely replaced at the end of the recent refurbishment in 2012. Back in 1972/73, however, our current library had yet to be built, and the Library was situated in St Mary’s Quad.

On the left, the Arts Reading Room of the Library in 1965, an extension built in 1888-89; on the right, the Science Reading Room in 1911, in the Carnegie Building extension of 1909. These were the two main reading rooms of the Library in 1972/73, and housed the books on open access in their respective subject areas. Photographs by G.M. Cowie (StAU-SouS-Lib-62) and Partick (StAU-SouS-Lib-21).

On the left, the Arts Reading Room of the Library in 1965, an extension built in 1888-89; on the right, the Science Reading Room in 1911, in the Carnegie Building extension of 1909. These were the two main reading rooms of the Library in 1972/73, and housed the books on open access in their respective subject areas. Photographs by G.M. Cowie (StAU-SouS-Lib-62) and Partick (StAU-SouS-Lib-21).

The buildings it occupied are the L-shaped complex on the left as you enter the Quad from South Street – the buildings which now consist of St Mary’s College Library (which primarily houses books for Divinity and Mediaeval History), the Senate Room, Parliament Hall with the King James Library above, and the School of Psychology and Neuroscience.

The Carnegie Building in 1911 and today (where the roof extension can be seen), the neo-classical extension to the Library, built in 1907-09. The Stacks and Science Reading Room were located in this extension. 1911 photograph A. Downie (StAU-SouS-Lib-13).

The Carnegie Building in 1911 and today (where the roof extension can be seen), the neo-classical extension to the Library, built in 1907-09. The Stacks and Science Reading Room were located in this extension. 1911 photograph A. Downie (StAU-SouS-Lib-13).

An external and internal view of the roof extension to the Carnegie Building, constructed in 1972. This housed the Roof Reading Room, a working area primarily for Research students; it also contained study carrels and typing facilities for Research students. St Andrews copies ALB-41-29.3 and ALB-41-29.2.

An external and internal view of the roof extension to the Carnegie Building, constructed in 1972. This housed the Roof Reading Room, a working area primarily for Research students; it also contained study carrels and typing facilities for Research students. St Andrews copies ALB-41-29.3 and ALB-41-29.2.

Who then, had access to the library in 1972/73? According to Section 1.6

The Library is open to members of the University Court, members of staff of the University, wives of staff, retired members of staff, graduates of this and other universities, matriculated students, and certain other persons engaged in scholarly research (on application to the Librarian).

Oh how times have changed! There is no longer the assumption that members of staff will be male (I’m not myself), and the Library is open to any member of the public, either as a fee-paying subscriber, or as a reference-only user. There is no need to apply to the Librarian (for which I’m sure he’s very thankful); all that is needed is one form of ID. In addition to the categories listed in 1972/73, the current webpage for joining the library includes staff and students from universities participating in the SCONUL Access scheme, staff and students from the University of Dundee or Abertay University, and sixth year pupils from local schools.

The Author Catalogue, or Page Catalogue, still held in the Library, on level 2. This is a useful tool for finding books which may be held by Special Collections, as not all of this material is on the online catalogue (although the Lighting the Past project is slowly rectifying this!).

The Author Catalogue, or Page Catalogue, still held in the Library, on level 2. This is a useful tool for finding books which may be held by Special Collections, as not all of this material is on the online catalogue (although the Lighting the Past project is slowly rectifying this!).

Upon gaining access to the Library, it was necessary to locate the book you wanted, both in terms of if the Library held the book, and getting its classmark in order to locate it on the shelf. To this end various Library catalogues were available, the description of which takes up five pages in the Readers’ Guide.

To aid readers in finding the correct catalogues a plan of the Catalogue Rooms was provided in the Readers’ Guide. St Andrews copy StA Z791.S2R4F72.

To aid readers in finding the correct catalogues a plan of the Catalogue Rooms was provided in the Readers’ Guide. St Andrews copy StA Z791.S2R4F72.

The catalogues were:

  • Author Catalogue (the principal guide to the contents of the Library, known as a “page catalogue”, consisting of type-written entries pasted onto large sheets in loose-leaf binders, arranged alphabetically by author and under each author alphabetically by title)
  • Recent Accessions Catalogue (a temporary drawer-catalogue of slips for books received in the Library over the previous two or three months)
  • Classified Catalogue (a catalogue on cards showing the contents of the Library arranged in classmark order, i.e. by subject; as a guide, the Library of Congress’ list of Subject Headings was shelved alongside)
  • Series Catalogue (giving details of the Library’s holdings in particular series or continuations, such as the Loeb Classical Library)
  • Periodicals Catalogue (a single volume, recording all of the periodicals held by the Library, arranged alphabetically by first word of title, ignoring prepositions and link works such as ‘of’)
As with the Author Catalogue, the Periodicals Catalogue is still available for consultation, on level 2 of the Library. It has grown from one volume in 1972/73 to three volumes in 2014.

As with the Author Catalogue, the Periodicals Catalogue is still available for consultation, on level 2 of the Library. It has grown from one volume in 1972/73 to three volumes in 2014.

Once you had found that the library held the title you were looking for, you could locate the book on the shelves by using its classmark. As now, the Library used the Library of Congress classification scheme, which divides the field of knowledge into main classes (marked A-Z) and numerous sub-classes. For example, P stands for Language and Literature; within this PR is English Literature, whilst PS is American literature. All the books in the Library consisted of a Library of Congress class number, and in some instances a superscript prefix such as ‘s’, or ‘b’, which would give the book’s general location within the Library – in these instances, ‘Stack’ or ‘Basement’.

The Table of Locations from the Readers’ Guide, showing the prefixes which were found on books, the subject class, the location, and who had access to each location.

The Table of Locations from the Readers’ Guide, showing the prefixes which were found on books, the subject class, the location, and who had access to each location.

As today, the books had their classmark on the spine, but whereas now they are shelved top to bottom, in 1972/73 the running order was from the bottom of the book-case to the top.

Some of the book shelves in the library today, arranged in classmark order from top to bottom, not bottom to top as in 1972/73.

Some of the book shelves in the library today, arranged in classmark order from top to bottom, not bottom to top as in 1972/73.

The centre pages of the Reader’s Guide give handy tips for those readers who can’t find the book they’re looking for. “Don’t give up too easily!” it begins. The first tips are those for a book not in the catalogue (such as consulting the correct catalogue, or looking under the correct form of the author’s name), whilst the second set of tips is for when a book is listed in a catalogue, but is not in its place on the shelf. In this instance readers are advised to do such things as check the immediate shelf area (as it may have been shelved out of sequence), or to check the Reserve Books index in case it is on reserve. Should the book be officially listed as missing, readers could ask for a replacement copy to be ordered; “This may not solve your problem but it will help someone else”.

The key and plan of the Library, as it was in the academic session 1972/73.

The key and plan of the Library, as it was in the academic session 1972/73.

Not all books were on the open shelves. All readers had access to the Lower Arts Reading Room and Science Reading Room (both of which housed the books most constantly in use in their respective subject areas), and the Catalogue Rooms and Lower Catalogue Room. The Basement and Stacks were restricted to teaching staff and stack card holders, whilst the West Room and Upper Hall (now the King James Library) were restricted to teaching staff only.

King James Library

The King James Library, known as the Upper Hall in 1972, which now houses the Divinity Library, and is still available as a study space. Photograph by Peter G. Adamson, retired University Photographer (PGA-5.14j).

As today, space was an issue: “For reasons of space it has been necessary to make some temporary transfers of books and periodicals to certain of the teaching departments, and to the Library Store at the North Haugh”. Even 40 years ago there was a Store at the North Haugh! (although not the current building, which houses Special Collections; in 1972/73 the store, known as ‘The Tunnel’, was located in the space beneath the high-level entrance to the Purdie Building.) These books were not inaccessible, but could be retrieved via application to the department, or to one of the Library Counters.

A student Library Receipt Book from 1869-1881. Borrowed books were listed under the reader’s name, and then scored out when returned. As today some students read much more than others, for it can be seen that Wotherspoon borrowed many more books than Dunn in the 1872/73 session (UYLY207/20).

A student Library Receipt Book from 1869-1881. Borrowed books were listed under the reader’s name, and then scored out when returned. As today some students read much more than others, for it can be seen that Wotherspoon borrowed many more books than Dunn in the 1872/73 session (UYLY207/20).

Apart from the exceptions set out in Section 7 (which included books on reserve, special collections, new books, and reference only books), all books and periodicals on the open shelves could be borrowed for home reading. But there were rules to be followed.

An example of a registration card for external readers of the library – note that they had to supply “Grounds for Application” (UYLY/203/1).

An example of a registration card for external readers of the library – note that they had to supply “Grounds for Application” (UYLY/203/1).

Before borrowing a book a reader had to register by completing a Reader’s Card at the appropriate Counter (either the Arts Counter or the Science Counter). There were a set number of books which readers in any given category could borrow – Honours students (those in their 3rd or 4th year) could borrow 10 volumes at a time, all other undergraduates only 6. Loan periods also varied. Matriculated students could borrow a book for 14 days, all other readers for 4 weeks, although “books may usually be retained until the end of term provided they are not required by other readers or for other library purposes.”

For those choosing to study their books in the library, rather than take them home, blotter (blotting paper) was supplied for drying wet ink. Students being students, this would be written upon, and this is an example of some such graffiti from the 1971/72 session, which some unknown librarian gathered together (UYLY975).

For those choosing to study their books in the library, rather than take them home, blotter (blotting paper) was supplied for drying wet ink. Students being students, this would be written upon, and this is an example of some such graffiti from the 1971/72 session, which some unknown librarian gathered together (UYLY975).

Before a book could be taken out of the library a Borrowing Voucher had to be completed: “Until this is done the book must not be removed from the Library under any circumstances.” This consisted of two parts, a white and yellow part. The white part was filed under the reader’s name, whilst the yellow part was filed under the book’s classmark (which enabled the book to be recalled if required by another reader). It was the reader’s responsibility to ensure that the white part of the voucher was cancelled upon returning the book.

Pics18and19

On the left is an example of a real borrowing voucher, issued in March 1959, with a line through it indicating the item had been returned (UYLY [box 4256]); on the right is a mock example from the Reader’s Guide. Books were not to be removed from the library until a completed voucher had been checked by a counter assistant.

Armed with this information, I was ready to borrow my library book. The Library today is very different to 40 years ago – our student and staff ID cards act as our registration; the online catalogue SAULCAT contains books and periodicals, so there’s no need to search numerous paper catalogues; and we no longer have to take our books to the counter to be issued, but instead use self-service machines. This was going to be tricky to re-create historically, but I would try my best.

Extracts from Abstract of Library Report 1972-73, revealing library membership and the number of items issued for the session 1972/73 (UYLY465).

Extracts from Abstract of Library Report 1972-73, revealing library membership and the number of items issued for the session 1972/73 (UYLY465).

To start with, I could go to the library during the 1972/73 opening hours; it’s term time now, so that would be 9am-10pm Monday to Friday, and 9am-12.15pm Saturday. This fits in with the current opening times, so no problems there. Next, I can look for my book in the page catalogue, as we still have these in the library. The item I’m after is L. Delaporte’s Mesopotamia: the Babylonian and Assyrian civilization (London, 1925), which I manage to find in the Page Catalogue, no. 114 (Decker, M – Delbasc). This tells me it has the prefix ‘s’ and the classmark DS75.D3.

The entry in the Author Catalogue for the book I wanted to borrow, L. Delaporte’s Mesopotamia: the Babylonian and Assyrian civilization (London, 1925).

The entry in the Author Catalogue for the book I wanted to borrow, L. Delaporte’s Mesopotamia: the Babylonian and Assyrian civilization (London, 1925).

In the 1972/73 library this item would have been in the stacks, accessible only to teaching staff and stack card holders (Junior Honours students and Research students could apply for these cards), although presumably as a member of Library staff I too would have had access. So I have no excuse, and must find my own book – which, being a monograph, should be on level 3 of the current Library.

The Library still has the Series Catalogue, although it is now kept in a staff area. Delaporte’s Mesopotamia is part of the History of Civilization series, the slips being housed in the drawer on the left – although sadly I couldn’t find the entry for this particular work.

The Library still has the Series Catalogue, although it is now kept in a staff area. Delaporte’s Mesopotamia is part of the History of Civilization series, the slips being housed in the drawer on the left – although sadly I couldn’t find the entry for this particular work.

But to my frustration, the book isn’t on the shelf. Following the advice in the Reader’s Guide I don’t give up too easily, and check the immediate shelf area, but with no luck. So it doesn’t look as though it has been shelved out of sequence. Well, this is 2014, not 1973, so I decide that I should use the other finding aids at my disposal, and check the online catalogue, SAULCAT.

The area on the shelf where I was expecting to find the book. A search on the nearby shelves also failed to locate the item I wanted.

The area on the shelf where I was expecting to find the book. A search on the nearby shelves also failed to locate the item I wanted.

Bingo! Here’s my book, and no wonder I couldn’t find it, for the online catalogue shows that it’s a Library Store item. As a reader, I don’t have access to this area, so need to recall the book instead. Unlike 1972/73, I don’t need to speak to a member of staff at the counter, but can recall it myself via the online catalogue.

The book’s record in the online catalogue, SAULCAT. This clearly shows me that the item is held in the Main Library Store, and that it is available for recall – an easy process, for I simply have to select the ‘recall’ button.

The book’s record in the online catalogue, SAULCAT. This clearly shows me that the item is held in the Main Library Store, and that it is available for recall – an easy process, for I simply have to select the ‘recall’ button.

Having logged in with my university username and password, I can then request the item I want from Store.

Having logged in with my university username and password, I can then request the item I want from Store.

This done, I then simply awaited a notification email advising me that the book was ready for collection, and collected the book from the holding shelf in the Short Loan area on level 2, using one of the self-issue machines to check it out.

One of the two self-issue machines in the Short Loan area, which contains the holding shelf for items recalled from Store. Having successfully used this to issue my book, I can now take it out of the library for home reading.

One of the two self-issue machines in the Short Loan area, which contains the holding shelf for items recalled from Store. Having successfully used this to issue my book, I can now take it out of the library for home reading.

My feelings are that the whole process of borrowing a library book today is a lot more impersonal than in 1972/73, there being less contact with library staff; of course the self-service method for borrowing frees up library staff to engage with readers in new ways.  It’s easy today to check the online catalogue, rather than the numerous paper catalogues readers had to peruse some 40 years ago. Who knows what will have changed in another 40 years? Will there even be physical volumes on the shelves …. ?

BA

My thanks to Jenny Evetts, Marjory Park, Janet Aucock and Martin Barkla for their help in researching various parts of this blog post.

3 responses to “52 Weeks of Historical How-to’s, Week 48: How to Borrow a Library Book!

  1. I remember how tiring on the arms a day’s research could be, lifting heavy catalogues off shelves. The St Andrews Page Catalogues were not too heavy, but the old British Museum Reading Room had heavy catalogues tightly packed – really exhausting, and you sometimes had to queue for access to your desired catalogue volume!

  2. Well, how that takes me back! I particularly liked the illustrations and photographs. (I was a student 1959-63)

  3. As an x-librarian (in Exeter, not St Andrews) I loved reading this post – so many memories of different systems and buildings designed to accommodate those different systems – happy trip down memory lane!

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