Library Services


Newsam Library History

A brief history of the IOE Library.

Early days - Southampton Row and Senate House

The Institute of Education was founded in 1902, as the London Day Training College. It occupied premises in Southampton Row, and these included a library. The first Librarian, Miss Geraldine de Montmorency, was appointed in 1925, on a part-time basis, only becoming full-time in 1940.

In 1932 the Institute became part of the University of London and subsequently moved to occupy rooms in the North wing of Senate House. Here the main library collection, now numbering some 15,000 items, occupied the largest classroom, but soon overflowed into a basement storeroom and bookshelves in corridors. A separate Comparative Education collection was established in 1937, and other small department collections also evolved.

Douglas Foskett succeeded Miss de Montmorency as Librarian in 1957. By this time the library had outgrown space in Senate House, and in 1958 it moved to new 'temporary' premises in a large hut, next door to Senate House, and originally built in 1918 to house Belgian refugees. Although far from ideal, this provided a welcome increase in space - much needed, as the library had now grown to some 78,000 books and runs of 660 journals.

Ridgmount Street

By 1969, plans for the new building at Bedford Way, including a library wing, were well under way. Meantime, the Library moved to another temporary space at 11-13 Ridgmount Street. This was a 1950s office building on 5 floors. It at last offered enough space for the main library, the research library, and various departmental collections to be brought together under one roof. The original lease on the building ran out in 1981, but with no new building in sight, it was extended until 1991.

Douglas Foskett remained as Librarian until 1978, when he moved on to become Librarian of the University of London Library. His successor was Norman Beswick, who retired in 1986, to be followed by Gordon Brewer.

New Building

Under the leadership of Sir Peter Newsam the Institute finally succeeded in building an extension to its Bedford Way building to house the library. The lease on the Ridgmount St building was surrendered in 1991, to be followed by a further two years in temporary accommodation in the Bedford Way building (including the Institute's two main basement lecture halls) before the new library was completed in early 1993. Gordon Brewer, satisfied at seeing the library in new premises at last, moved on to the University of Derby, to be followed by his deputy, Anne Peters, as Librarian and later Head of Information Services. Meanwhile, other aspects of the library services had also grown and developed.

Online searching

Online resources had begun to make their appearance in the early 1970s, but were far from common. The Library was in the forefront of this new development when it set up a research project on the use of online databases in 1976. This was followed by a mediated 'Computer Search Service' in 1979. Throughout most of the 1980s, online searching was regarded as a specialist activity which required the help of an expert member of staff, but by the 1990s 'end-user searching' was growing rapidly, as the range of resources and their ease of use increased.

Abolition of the ILEA

The abolition of the ILEA in 1990 lead to a major new development in the provision of teaching resources to support students and teachers in schools. The National Textbook Reference Library, established in the early 1960s as a reference only collection of school books, was combined with the ILEA's Resources Library to form the Curriculum Resources section of the library, providing an extensive stock of school books and resources for students to examine, evaluate, and borrow for use in school. Other resources inherited from the ILEA included a more historical stock from the Education Library in County Hall.


The Library is also responsible for the preservation of the Institute's historical papers and since the 1940s has been collecting the archives of external organisations and individuals working in the field of education. By the 1970s the Library had accrued the papers of a number of major organisations including the National Union of Women Teachers, the World Education Fellowship and the Assistant Masters Association.

The Library's first qualified Archivist was appointed in 1998 and since this date the department has been working to facilitate better access to the archives. Today the Library has over 100 deposited collections dating from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Recent acquisitions include the papers of the Girls Day School Trust and the eminent education historian Brian Simon. Nearly 80% of the collections are fully catalogued and available via the archives online catalogue which was launched in 2007.