The Main Library fifty years ago

The black and white photograph reproduced here is of the Main Library Issue Desk in the mid-1950's. It offers a glimpse of a past time, which perhaps persists only in the memory of the most senior UCL staff, and in images like these. Notice the lack of computers or telephones, the blank walls and the empty shelves. Observe too, the self-consciousness of the librarians themselves, perhaps less used to being photographed than we are today. The photograph conveys a sense of space, quiet, restraint and order.

Contrast it with this image of the Main Library, taken during the first week of term in January. Like the society we live in, the Issue Desk today is busier, noisier, more colourful, and more dynamic than it once was.

When the first image was taken, Britain was undoubtedly a very different place. But while many things have disappeared forever, some linger on. Away from the hubbub of the Issue Desk there remain many quiet places within the Library, conducive to peaceful reflection, and study. It's still there - you just have to look.