UCL School of Pharmacy


Tribute to former Head Librarian Professor Anthony John (Tony) Evans

11 July 2023

UCL School of Pharmacy colleagues have paid tribute to Professor Anthony John (Tony) Evans, the first Librarian of the School of Pharmacy.

Professor Tony Evans

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Professor Anthony John (Tony) Evans, the esteemed first Librarian of the School of Pharmacy. Tony played a pivotal role in establishing the School's dedicated library when it relocated to the Brunswick Square site in the 1950s. Prior to this, students and staff relied on the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's Library, while each department maintained its own libraries.

Born in Bristol, Tony ventured from the West Country to pursue his undergraduate studies at what was then The School of Pharmacy, University of London. In 1954, he successfully obtained his BPharm degree with honours in Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Engineering Science. Although pharmacy wasn't initially his intended career path, Tony was encouraged by his Chemistry schoolmaster to explore this field. Consequently, he spent an additional year studying biology at a college in Bristol to fulfil the entry requirements for The Square.

Upon arriving in London without a place to live, Tony initially stayed at a B&B before relocating to a hostel in Lancaster Gate. Eventually, he found accommodation arranged by the School, sharing a room with John Gilbert, who later became a Chemistry lecturer. Tony commenced his undergraduate degree during the College's time at Bloomsbury Square, and quickly developed a passion for pharmaceutical engineering. Tony described his student days as "a great time" and that “it wasn't all work and no play.”

An avid rugby player since his school days, Tony joined the Birkbeck Rugby team and later co-founded the School's team with the Royal Free in 1953. The team, based at the jointly owned Myddelton House playing grounds, frequently travelled long distances for matches. In 1954, Tony noted with pride in "The Square Chronicles" that the team triumphed over Chelsea by a resounding score of 20-0.

While pharmacy wasn't Tony's initial career inclination, he grew to love the subject and the School, leading him to pursue a PhD under the guidance of David Train. Tony held David in high regard, considering him the most influential figure in his professional journey. During his PhD studies, he served as a Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Engineering Science (1954-1958) under the leadership of Professor Ted Shotton, the Head of Department.

The move from Bloomsbury to Brunswick Square in 1955 presented Tony with unforgettable memories of an incomplete building. They endured constant construction noise from above and below, with pigeons making their way through the unfinished structure. The absence of catering facilities often meant that junior lecturers had to fetch rolls for lunch. Despite the initial discomfort, the completed facilities at Brunswick Square proved to be a vast improvement over those at Bloomsbury. It was during his PhD studies that Ted Shotton approached Tony about the prospect of establishing the School's own library. Given his experience managing the library for Pharmaceutics, Tony, after consulting with David Train, decided to take on the challenge of creating a library "from scratch."

The School of Pharmacy Library in the 1960s.

The subsequent years were a whirlwind of activity for Tony. He successfully completed his PhD in 1961 while simultaneously pursuing a part-time postgraduate course in Librarianship at University College for two years. Throughout this period, he dedicated his efforts to designing, stocking, and managing the Library at Brunswick Square, which officially opened its doors in November 1959. Tony passionately advocated for librarians to maintain close contact with researchers, and for researchers to explore a diverse range of current materials.

Tony firmly believed that the most significant transformation for libraries and their users came with computerisation and the advent of the Internet. In 1964, he bid farewell to The School of Pharmacy to assume the role of University Librarian at Loughborough. His exceptional design and organisational skills were showcased when Loughborough commissioned the construction of the Pilkington Library, which opened to critical acclaim in 1980. Tony also exhibited a keen interest in user education, promoting the development of skills among future librarians and encouraging para-professionals to pursue professional training. To this end, he played a pivotal role in establishing Loughborough's Department of Information and Library Studies, along with its postgraduate courses in Librarianship.

Tony's involvement extended to various library organisations, including being Vice-President of the Association for Information Management. He also served as an advisor to the National Audit Office on the construction of the new British Library building at St. Pancras. Although he retired as Librarian at Loughborough in 1991, Tony remained steadfast in his commitment to libraries and professional education. He engaged in consultancy work and played a key role in developing Loughborough's Alumni Office. Demonstrating his belief in the value of libraries, he established the Tony Evans Travel Grant, which is awarded to young librarians attending conferences organised by the International Association of Technological Libraries.

In many ways, Tony stumbled upon librarianship, just as he did with pharmacy and The School of Pharmacy. When asked if he enjoyed the profession he ultimately embraced, he emphatically replied, "Oh yes. I got into it in a strange way, but it clicked...I liked dealing with people, helping people, developing other people's research abilities." His passion for serving and nurturing others' intellectual pursuits was unmistakable.

Site Libraries Manager and Senior Librarian, Michelle Wake, said: “Tony made a difference to the School’s library and to the wider information profession, but also to individuals. I shall always remember his kindness and the generosity with which he gave his time and advice over the years. His good humour, encouragement and endorsement could only ever make you feel positive. He spoke with great pride about The School, his mentors, colleagues, and most of all about his family, but unless pressed, never about the great things he had achieved or his charity work. Those of us in the School’s Library team who met Tony will not forget him – he made a difference and will continue to do so.”

We mourn the loss of Professor Tony Evans, a distinguished figure whose pioneering efforts shaped the School's library and left an indelible impact on the field of pharmacy and librarianship as a whole. He will be sorely missed, and his contributions will be cherished and remembered by all whose lives he touched.


Courtesy of the UCL School of Pharmacy Library Archives

Further information:

UCL School of Pharmacy Library