More books in the Library

Monday 22 May 2023

Can’t find the book you want in the library? You can request it through the more books service. Many students and members of staff have found this service useful. Take a look at the Main Library blog to read more about it.

In this blog, we look at the history of requesting books in the library, as documented in the University archive.

Nicholas Vilant (1737-1807) was Professor of Mathematics at St Andrews between 1765 and 1807. In the library archive there is a small note, most likely from him, requesting mathematics books to be purchased for the Library, on the recommendation of Baron [Francis] Maseres (1731-1824), Cursitor Baron of the Court of Exchequer.

Request by Professor Vilant for the purchase of books for the University Library

There is an entry in the minutes of Senatus for the 25 January 1800 agreeing to purchase the books proposed by Vilant, although they are not listed. It could be presumed that at least the first book on his list was purchased, as it can be found in the 1801 Library catalogue, and is still in the Library today.

Entry for book in the Library catalogue, 1801 UYLY105/14
Traité du calcul différentiel et du calcul intégral (s QA303.L2)

Professor Vilant was clearly eager to see it as he is listed as borrowing it July 1801 in the library borrowing registers.

By the 1840s, the Library had a dedicated recommendations book for library users to put in their suggestions. In the second volume dated from 1892, there is a note at the front on the volume explaining that the book would be placed in the Senate Room for Professors to add their recommendations for library purchases.

Students too could suggest books as there is a suggestions book for the Students Representative Council. Suggestions included Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the Complete Works of Louis Stevenson.

The Library Manual of 1926 includes a section on recommendations, by this time the recommendations book was left in the magazine room of the Library. Recommendations would be considered by the Book Selection Sub-Committee of the Library Committee.

The above report from the meeting of the 9th December 1925 lists the names of staff members who had had their request approved, including Miss Smith’s requested books. Miss Muriel Smith was Lecturer in German from 1915 to 1929. She was a graduate of Edinburgh and in 1929 married Professor George Duncan, Principal of St Mary’s College. One of her requests was Sämtliche Werke : historisch-kritische Ausgabe (complete works), a twelve volume set of the work of German poet Friedrich Hebbel. The set is now available in Walter Bower House Library. The authors she recommended were to be set for the 1926 German examinations.

Library Suggestions Book, 1921-1929 (UYLY305/4)

In Library Notes for Readers, dated 1948, under the section for Students’ Privileges, we see that students could make suggestions by completing the recommendations forms available at the Library Counters. Users would be notified of successful recommendations.

Library Notes for Readers, dated 1948

The process was the same in the library user’s handbook of 1964 and 1972-73. Some of the recommendations slips have been retained in the Library archive, some still in a shoe box! One example is from 1967 in which Nicholas Peter Brooks (1941-2014), Lecturer in Medieval History at St Andrews requested Hilfswörterbuch für Historiker Mittelalter und Neuzeit as an essential research tool. The Library still has a copy of the text in Walter Bower House Library.

Library Handbook, 1972-1973

Now students can recommend books to the Library for purchase by emailing ([email protected]).

Library Notes for Readers, dated 1948

The Library has a history of putting new acquisitions on display, as reported in the 1948 user guide above. On level 1 of the Main Library we currently have a display of books requested by postgraduate students in the academic year 2021/22. Unlike 1948, we encourage staff and students to browse and borrow the books on display!

Share this story

Leave a reply

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.


Enter your email address here to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,493 other subscribers.