Senate House Library

Exterior view of Senate House.

Brief History
In 1871 Sir Julian Goldsmith gave £1000 to the University of London so that it could establish, ‘a first class University Library, which….will not only improve the position of the university, but also will be of great service to its students and graduates.’ In the same year the library received 4000 volumes from Baron Overstone and a further 7000 volumes on the death of the classical historian, George Grote. In 1871 the Library Committee was appointed to devise regulations for the Library’s use and to direct the Registrar to have a catalogue compiled. In 1873 the Treasury agreed to give the Library £100 per year to pay for the maintenance of the library. The University of London Library was formally opened to readers in 1877.

In 1879 the library of the British Association was presented and in 1880 the Library received a collection of Russian books from the widow of Sir John Shaw-Levre. At the reconstitution of the University of London in 1900 the library was moved from Burlington Gardens to South Kensington. In 1901 the Company of Goldsmiths purchased Professor Foxwell’s library of economic literature, some 30,000 volumes, and presented it to the University Library in 1903. This gift doubled the size of the collection. Mr L W Haward was appointed Goldsmith’s Librarian in 1905. Reginald Rye succeeded him in 1906, and remained in the post until 1944. In 1910 the Travelling Libraries began, when at the request of the Library Committee (from 1973, University Library Board) to promote the extension of University teaching, the University Library agreed to accommodate a small collection of books for issue to Tutorial Class students. Collectively known as the Travelling Libraries it was renamed the Extra Mural Library in 1955. It continued to be administered by the University Library until 1975 when it became a separate unit of the Central Library Services under the control of the Library Resources Co-ordinating Committee. In August 1981 the Extra Mural Library became part of the Department of Extra Mural Studies. The Library grew at a tremendous rate before the Second World War. In 1924 a music library was established. The Teachers Guild of Great Britain presented the Library of R H Quick in 1929 and in 1931 the Library received the Durning-Lawrence Library. The Harry Price Collection was put on deposit in 1936 and came as a bequest on the death of Harry Price in 1946.

The growth of the collection made the acquisition of new premises a matter of extreme urgency. When the University moved to the Bloomsbury Site in 1937-1938 the Library was given space in the Senate House building. During the Second World War the tower and three stack rooms were heavily damaged, but only around 200 books were lost. The Goldsmith’s Library was evacuated to the Bodleian and other valuable books were sent to the University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge. After the war the Library continued to acquire collections. Notable donations include the Sterling Library opened in 1956, the United State Information Service Library, 1965 and the Sturge Moore papers, 1963. In 1952 the Library set up the open Lending Library – hitherto nearly all books except reference and music books were housed in closed stacks. In 1961 the Depository Library was opened in the grounds of Royal Holloway College at Egham to house little used books and theses. The University of London Library joined the School of Advanced Study libraries to form the University of London Research Library Services (ULRLS) in 2004. ULL was was officially renamed Senate House Library, University of London in August 2004.

John Burns collection
Trotskyist papers

Contact Details
Senate House Library
Malet Street

Tel : 020 7862 8500
Web :
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