August 23, 2023, by Nicholas Blake

History of Hallward Library Part 1: Need for the Library

2023 marks fifty years since the opening of Hallward Library at the University of Nottingham.  In this first of four blog posts we delve through the University archives and contemporary publications kept at Manuscripts and Special Collections to explore the history of this unique building.

In 1928, when University College Nottingham moved into the newly built Trent Building, the ground floor east wing was reserved for The Library.   

Photograph of the University Library in the Trent Building, around 1928. A tall ornate room with large windows, tables and seats, with bookcases at the edge of the room.

Photograph of the library at University College Nottingham within the Trent Building, c.1928. (UR 1382/7)

The University College was a lot smaller back then, and all academic departments and facilities were initially housed within the one building.  As the institution grew and was granted full University status in 1948, there was a lot of pressure on the library to provide materials to cater for new subjects, as well as accommodate far more than the 225 readers for which it was initially designed.  Lack of space meant that books ended up being stored in the temporary “cowshed” huts behind Trent Building as well as Wortley Hall’s outbuildings. 

Photograph of the "cowsheds", rows of temporary buildings. In the background can be seen the Trent Building.

Photograph of the “cowsheds” behind the Trent Building, c.1940s-60s. During the 1940s and 50s some overspill library stock was stored here. (UMP/3/9/9/6)

In the 1950s, as academic departments began moving out of the crowded Trent Building, it was originally considered that the library could expand into more and more of the vacated space, with the entire building eventually becoming the University Library.  The distance between the new locations and the Trent Building led to some departments (such as Law, Music, Biology, and Fine Art) taking their subject specific books with them, and this fragmentation of the collections became a strike against the idea of a single library space serving the whole university. 

When Science and Engineering were eventually granted their own bespoke library building (which opened in 1964), along with the realisation of the costs required to renovate the Trent Building to withstand the weight of additional library shelving, the case for a new Arts and Social Sciences library building increased.

Black and white photograph showing an ornate library space with multiple students working at wooden desks, with two storeys of books around the edge of the room.

Photograph of the University Library in the Trent Building showing how desk space was becoming limited, 1966. (ACC 1266/75/236)

The idea of a new standalone library had previously been part of Vice-Chancellor Bertrand Hallward’s 1949 vision to expand “The Youngest English University”, though when funding had not immediately materialised the Trent Building conversion had become the favoured alternative.  It was only in 1962, however, after campaigning from University Librarian Richard Smith, Professor Monica Partridge, and the Students’ Union, along with a report from academic building specialist Sir William Holford, that Hallward and the University Grants Committee were once again convinced of the need for a new library building.

Richard Smith envisioned that by 1972 the new University Library would need to cater to 1,500 students and 200 staff in the Faculties of Art and Social Sciences, with 500,000 books and a floor space of up to 85,000 square feet, ideally over a four storeyed building.  Bertrand Hallward helped choose the architect – H. Faulkner-Brown – and championed a trip to the USA for everyone involved in the design and construction to study and learn from the most modern academic libraries.

The new University of Nottingham Library was destined to be pioneering.

This blog continues in History of Hallward Library Part 2: Designing the Library.

Logo featuring a graphic representation of Hallward Library with the text "Hallward Library : University of Nottingham : 50 years"

Manuscripts and Special Collections material consulted:

Nottingham : a history of Britain’s global university / John Beckett. Woodbridge : The Boydell Press, 2016. (East Midlands Collection, Not 5.E2 BEC)

The history of the University of Nottingham / B.H. Tolley. Nottingham : Nottingham University Press, 2001.  (East Midlands Collection, Not 5.E2 TOL)

UG/C/11/1: University of Nottingham Library Committee signed minute books, 14 January 1974

Posted in From the collections