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Our history

Readers in the Donaldson Library

The first UCL Librarian, Revd Dr Francis Augustus Cox, was appointed in 1827, a year after the University was founded at Gower Street. The earliest Library, known as the ‘Small Library’, opened at the South end of the Wilkins building a year later.

The first purpose-built General Library opened in 1849 and was later re-named after the Professor of Architecture who designed it, Thomas Leverton Donaldson. 

In 1907 the Library expanded to take up the whole length of the first floor of the Wilkins Building and became the Main Library, still very popular with students today and often appearing in films and television programmes.

The Main Library primarily holds collections in the Arts & Humanities and there is an equally large Science Library close by, in the former National Central Library building in Malet Place acquired by UCL in 1967 and named after DMS Watson, Jodrell Professor of Zoology (1921-1951).

Following further expansion over the past century there are a further 14 libraries supporting UCL’s teaching and research, including one in the award-winning SSEES building in Taviton Street and several that provide services to both UCL and the NHS.

Our Special Collections are a rich source of manuscripts, archives and rare books.

We also have a remote store in Wickford, Essex, which sends requested material to our libraries on a daily basis.

Page last modified on 19 mar 14 08:58