University of Manchester Library

Last updated

The University of Manchester Library
University of Manchester Library Main Library 2014.jpg
Main Library, The University of Manchester Library, looking towards the entrance from Burlington Street.
Type Academic library
Location Oxford Road, Manchester
Items collectedbooks, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, maps, prints, drawings and manuscripts
Sizeover 10 million items [1] [2]
Access and use
Population servedGreater Manchester and worldwide
MembersThe University of Manchester (and some other groups on application)
Other information
Budgetsubject to review
DirectorProf. Christopher Pressler
University of Manchester Library

The University of Manchester Library is the third largest academic Library in the UK and the Library system for the University of Manchester. The main library is on the Oxford Road campus of the university, with its entrance on Burlington Street. There are also thirteen other library sites, ten spread out across the University's campus, plus The John Rylands Library on Deansgate and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre situated inside Manchester Central Library.


Originally established as the Library of the Manchester Mechanics Institute in 1824, in 1851 the library of Owens College was established at Cobden House on Quay Street, Manchester. This later became the Manchester University Library (of the Victoria University of Manchester) in 1904. In July 1972 this library merged with the John Rylands Library to become the John Rylands University Library of Manchester (JRULM). [3] [4]

On 1 October 2004 the library of the Victoria University of Manchester merged with the Joule Library of UMIST forming the John Rylands University Library (JRUL). [5] The Joule Library was the successor of the library of the Manchester Mechanics' Institute (established in 1824) which later became the library of the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology (UMIST). One of the Institute's first actions was to establish a library, with a full-time librarian, at premises in King St., Manchester. The library changed its name in the summer of 2012 to become The University of Manchester Library.

The library is one of only five National Research Libraries – an award of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and the only one in the north of England. [6] It is a member of the North West Academic Libraries consortium (NoWAL) [7] and of Research Libraries UK consortium (RLUK). RLUK was formerly the Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL) of which the library was a founder member in the 1980s.


The library has the largest non-legal deposit academic collection in the United Kingdom, [8] the largest collection of electronic resources of any library in the UK [8] and supports all subject areas taught by the University. The library provides its members with a range of services and materials, including an extensive collection of electronic resources. A range of services is provided for members of the public and schools.

Library buildings

The main building is on Burlington Street, west of Oxford Road: (building no. 55 on the University's Campus Guide): its oldest part is the east wing built in 1936: it was extended by south and west wings in 1953–56 and by the Muriel Stott Hall in 1978. Until 1965 it was known as the Arts Library. The Christie Building contained the library's scientific section and the medical library was in a separate building until 1981. An extension to the north designed by architects Dane, Scherrer & Hicks opened in 1981. (It had been designed in 1972 as the first instalment of a larger building.) The University of Manchester Library has a number of site libraries in other university buildings, including the Eddie Davies Library in the Manchester Business School, the Joule Library in the Sackville Street Building, the Stopford Library in the Stopford Building and the Lenagan Library in the School of Music and Drama.

Notable collections housed in the main library are the Guardian Archives, the Manchester Collection of local medical history, maps and plans, and the Christian Brethren Archive. For many years the main library housed the offices of the Manchester Medical Society which had accommodation in the University since 1874. [9]

Between summer 2009 and January 2010 part of the ground floor of the main library was refurbished. [10]


1824 – 1851

The library is made up of collections brought together on various occasions: These are the library of the Manchester Mechanics' Institute, established in 1824; the library of the Manchester Medical Society, established in 1834; the library of the Manchester Royal Infirmary from the 1750s to the late 19th century; and the Radford Library from Saint Mary's Hospital, Manchester (early obstetrical and gynaecological literature collected by surgeon Thomas Radford). [11] (The two latter collections were donated to the Medical Library in 1917 and 1927 respectively.) The library of the Manchester Mechanics' Institute was the original library which eventually became the UMIST Library (Joule Library) which was merged with the John Rylands University Library in October 2004.


The first home of the Medical School in Coupland Street, Chorlton on Medlock (as seen in 1908 looking west) The medical library was accommodated here, 1874-1981 Old Medical School.jpg
The first home of the Medical School in Coupland Street, Chorlton on Medlock (as seen in 1908 looking west) The medical library was accommodated here, 1874–1981

Owens College was founded in 1851 and the college library began with donations from James Heywood (1,200 volumes) and Dr William Charles Henry in the first year. The first large addition to stock was the library of James Prince Lee, bishop of Manchester, 7,000 volumes in 1869 and then a further instalment. The collection contained theology, church history and fine art. Over the following 30 years, many additions were made such as the personal libraries of E. A. Freeman (6,000 volumes) and Robert Angus Smith (4,000 volumes). [13] In 1904 the Owens College Library became the Manchester University Library when the college merged with the Victoria University of Manchester which had been so named in 1903. The library had three locations in its early years, Cobden's House on Quay Street, the John Owens Building between 1873 and 1898 and the Christie Building from autumn 1898. From 1903 the librarian (Charles Leigh) improved the administration of the library by introducing the Dewey Decimal Classification and higher cataloguing standards. On the death of Richard Copley Christie the library received his personal library of over 8,000 volumes including many rare books from the Renaissance period. In 1936 the library was divided into two when the Arts Library opened on Lime Grove. Thereafter the Christie Building contained only scientific and technical literature. The medical school had its own library founded in 1834 as the library of the Manchester Medical Society accommodated in Owens College once the Medical School was established there in 1874 and on its centenary in 1934 was enriched by the Manchester Collection of Dr E. Bosdin Leech relating to the medical history of the Manchester district. From 1919 the Deaf Education collection was established and was significantly enlarged by Abraham Farrar's bequest. [14] [15] [16]


Moses Tyson

For the first thirty years of this period the librarian was Dr Moses Tyson (1897–1969) who had previously been keeper of western manuscripts at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. He was a historian and the first Librarian to be a member of the University Senate. The building of a new Arts Library meant that the stock had to be divided into two groups of subjects: arts and social sciences, and science and technology. The latter subjects remained in the original Christie Library though in areas of overlap there was some duplicating of entries in the library catalogues to assist the readers. By the early 1950s the stock had grown to such a size that the arts library building needed to be extended. This had been foreseen by the architects and once funds were available the building of two new wings in a similar style was undertaken between 1953 and 1957 (however the pattern of reading and stack rooms in the three wings is not the same). Features such as an exhibition hall and a department of special collections were included in the design together with improvements in the administrative accommodation. New departments had been established in the university by this time and these meant that the library extended its coverage in areas such as American studies, history of art, music and Near Eastern studies.

Frederick Ratcliffe to Christopher Pressler

After Dr Tyson's retirement in 1965 Dr F. W. Ratcliffe was appointed librarian and a period of further expansion followed which included an ambitious acquisitions policy, the beginnings of library computerisation and better liaison with the academic departments. He had a major role, with Sir William Mansfield Cooper, the vice-chancellor until 1970, in the successful merger of the John Rylands Library with the Manchester University Library on 19 July 1972. An additional extension was planned about this time though it was not built until eight years later as funding was not then available. The extension was planned as a rectangular block, in two unequal parts (the second part was never built). Before the extension could be built congestion in the library building had to be alleviated by moving some stock to other locations on the campus. The benefaction of Miss Muriel Stott, an honorary governor of the John Rylands Library, enabled the building of a tent-like octagonal hall next to the library, the Muriel Stott Conference Centre (on the building of the extension this was enclosed by the rest of the library). The design of the extension was modified when actually implemented in 1979 so that a link section united it with the three-wing existing library building. This new extension opened in the autumn term of 1981 and at the same time the medical and science (Christie) libraries were vacated so that a more coherent organisation of stock became possible. [17] By the time this building opened Dr Ratcliffe had left to be the University Librarian at Cambridge.

Ratcliffe was succeeded in 1981 by Dr Michael Pegg, formerly Librarian of the University of Birmingham, who remained until he resigned on grounds of ill health in 1991. He was followed by Christopher J. Hunt, formerly Social Sciences sub-librarian and later university librarian of James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, and of La Trobe University, both in Australia and, after returning to the UK, librarian of the British Library of Political and Economic Science, London. [18] On Mr Hunt's retirement, William G. Simpson, librarian of Trinity College, Dublin, was appointed. Mr Simpson had previously been Acting Deputy Librarian of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester until 1985 and subsequently university librarian of the Universities of London and Surrey. Mr. Simpson remained until his retirement in December 2007. During the period 2004–07 a major refurbishment of the historic John Rylands Library in the centre of Manchester, together with the construction of new visitor centre, was completed, whilst the Library as a whole merged with the libraries of UMIST and the Manchester Business School to create The John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester. Following Mr Simpson's retirement in 2007, Jan Wilkinson (then Head of Higher Education at the British Library and formerly University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection at the University of Leeds and Deputy Librarian at the London School of Economics) [19] was appointed as University Librarian and Director of The John Rylands Library, taking up the post in January 2008. [20] In 2019, Christopher Pressler, formerly University Librarian of Dublin City University, the University of London and the University of Nottingham was appointed John Rylands University Librarian and Director of The University of Manchester Library. [21]

Former librarians

Notable librarians of the library before 1972 were Charles W. E. Leigh (1903–1935), Moses Tyson (1935–1965) and Frederick William Ratcliffe (formerly assistant librarian, librarian 1965–1980) whose years of service amount to a total of 78 years. George Wilson was librarian of the Medical Library for over 50 years.

Related Research Articles

University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology Former English university

The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) was a university based in the centre of the city of Manchester in England. It specialised in technical and scientific subjects and was a major centre for research. On 1 October 2004, it amalgamated with the Victoria University of Manchester to produce a new entity called the University of Manchester.

Victoria University of Manchester British university (1851-2004)

The Victoria University of Manchester, usually referred to as simply the University of Manchester, was a university in Manchester. It was founded in 1851 as Owens College. In 1880, the college joined the federal Victoria University. After the demerger of the Victoria University, it gained an independent university charter in 1904 as the Victoria University of Manchester.

University of Manchester Public research university in Manchester, England

The University of Manchester is a public research university in Manchester, England, formed in 2004 by the merger of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and the Victoria University of Manchester. The University of Manchester is a red brick university, a product of the civic university movement of the late 19th century.

Cambridge University Library Main research and legal deposit library of the University of Cambridge

Cambridge University Library is the main research library of the University of Cambridge in England. It is also the largest of 114 libraries within the University. The Library is a major scholarly resource for the members of the University of Cambridge and external researchers. It is often referred to within the University as the UL. Twenty-one affiliate libraries are associated with the University Library for the purpose of central governance and administration.

Richard Copley Christie British philanthropist

Richard Copley Christie was an English lawyer, University teacher, philanthropist and bibliophile.

John Rylands Library Research library building on Deansgate in Manchester, England

The John Rylands Library is a late-Victorian neo-Gothic building on Deansgate in Manchester, England. The library, which opened to the public in 1900, was founded by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her husband, John Rylands. The John Rylands Library and the library of the University of Manchester merged in July 1972 into the John Rylands University Library of Manchester; today it is part of The University of Manchester Library.

Chethams Library library in Manchester

Chetham's Library in Manchester, England, is the oldest free public reference library in the United Kingdom. Chetham's Hospital, which contains both the library and Chetham's School of Music, was established in 1653 under the will of Humphrey Chetham (1580–1653), for the education of "the sons of honest, industrious and painful parents", and a library for the use of scholars. The library has been in continuous use since 1653. It operates as an independent charity, open to readers free of charge, Monday-Friday 09.00-12.30 and 13.30-16.30 by prior appointment. Tours of the Library for visitors are bookable online from 2 September 2019 via the Library website.

Thomas Tout British historian

Thomas Frederick Tout was a 19th- and 20th-century British historian of the medieval period.

James Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford British politician

James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford and 9th Earl of Balcarres, FRS, FRAS was a British astronomer, politician, ornithologist, bibliophile and philatelist. A member of the Royal Society, Crawford was elected president of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1878. He was a prominent Freemason.

School of Medical Sciences, University of Manchester

The School of Medical Sciences at the University of Manchester is one of the largest in the United Kingdom with around 6,000 undergraduates, 3,000 postgraduates and 2,000 staff. It is the third oldest medical school in England and the largest medical school in the United Kingdom. The Faculty is a member of the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre and has four affiliated teaching hospitals at Manchester Royal Infirmary, Wythenshawe Hospital, Salford Royal Hospital and the Royal Preston Hospital.

Moses Gaster British-Romanian academic and rabbi

Moses Gaster was a Romanian, later British scholar, the Hakham of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish congregation, London, and a Hebrew and Romanian linguist. Moses Gaster was an active Zionist in Romania as well as in England, where in 1899 he helped establish the English Zionist Federation. He was the father of Jack and Theodor Gaster and the grandfather of Marghanita Laski. He was also son-in-law to Michael Friedländer and father-in-law to Neville Laski.

Henry Guppy (librarian) British librarian

Henry Guppy CBE was Librarian of the John Rylands Library in Manchester from 1899 until his death in 1948.

The School of Biological Sciences is a School within the Faculty Biology, Medicine and Health at The University of Manchester. Biology at University of Manchester and its precursor institutions has gone through a number of reorganizations, the latest of which was the change from a Faculty of Life Sciences to the current School.

Whitworth Hall

The Whitworth Hall on Oxford Road and Burlington Street in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, England, is part of the University of Manchester. It has been listed Grade II* since 18 December 1963. The Gothic revival hall lies at the south-east range of the Old Quadrangle of the University, with the Manchester Museum adjoined to the north, and the former Christie Library connected to the west.

Christchurch City Libraries library system for Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch City Libraries is operated by the Christchurch City Council and is a network of 21 libraries and a mobile book bus. Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake the previous Christchurch Central Library building was demolished, and was replaced by a new central library building in Cathedral Square, Tūranga, which opened in 2018.

The Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester was formed from three departments in the 2004 merger between the Victoria University of Manchester (VUM) and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). The merged departments were the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering which was joint between both universities, the Department of Mechanical Aerospace and Manufacturing Engineering at UMIST and the Manchester School of Engineering at VUM.

Sackville Street Building grade II listed architectural structure in Manchester, United kingdom

The Sackville Street Building is a building on Sackville Street, Manchester, England. The University of Manchester occupies the building which, before the merger with UMIST in 2004, was UMIST's "Main Building". Construction of the building for the Manchester School of Technology began in 1895 on a site formerly occupied by Sir Joseph Whitworth's engineering works; it was opened in 1902 by the then Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour. The School of Technology became the Manchester Municipal College of Technology in 1918.

Frederick William Ratcliffe is an English philologist and librarian. He has a Ph.D. in German, given for his thesis on Heinrich von Mügeln at the University of Manchester. From 1954 he was an assistant librarian or sublibrarian in the universities of Manchester, Glasgow, and Newcastle upon Tyne. He succeeded Moses Tyson as the University Librarian at Manchester in 1965 and from 1972 was additionally director of the John Rylands University Library. In 1980 he became University Librarian at the University of Cambridge where he remained until his retirement in 1994. From 1995 to 2000 he was Parker Librarian at the Parker Library, Corpus Christi College. He has written a number of papers on the subject of librarianship including the preservation of library materials.

Charles William Edward Leigh was an English academic librarian. From 1895 to 1903 he was successively on the staff of the British Museum and librarian of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. In 1903 he was appointed librarian of the Library of Manchester University and held the post until his retirement in 1935. He edited two important catalogues of collections in the Library and established new administrative methods to replace the cumbersome systems used in the 19th century. The Dewey Decimal Classification was introduced by him together with higher standards in cataloguing based on those of the British Museum library.

Moses Tyson, historian and librarian, was keeper of western manuscripts at the John Rylands Library 1927-1935 and from 1935 to 1965 librarian of the Manchester University Library. His successor Frederick William Ratcliffe described him as "one of the great unsung figures of the University"; according to Brian Pullan, historian of the University, Dr Tyson was "a painfully shy bachelor who shunned the company of women" and "the self-effacing, misogynistic, chain-smoking Librarian". His friends included Sir William Watson the poet and H. B. Charlton, Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. He was a Member of the Chetham Society, and served as a Member of Council (1934-58) and as Secretary (1940-51).


  1. "Libraries on Copac". Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  2. University of Manchester Library; JISC Library Hub Discover. Retrieved 13 April 2020
  3. Guardian, The (London); 20 July 1972
  4. Manchester Evening News; 19 July 1972
  5. MacLeod, Donald (21 October 2004). "Umist and Victoria—an impressive legacy: a timeline". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  6. "Related collections". University of Manchester. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
  7. Matthew Pringle. "The North West Academic Libraries". NoWAL. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  8. 1 2 SCONUL Annual Library Statistics 2005–2006
  9. Isherwood, Ian. "An Historic Address, 20th June 2003" . Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  10. John Rylands University Library. "Blue Ground Refurbishment Project" . Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  11. The Book of Manchester and Salford; for the British Medical Association. Manchester: George Falkner & Sons, 1929; pp. 229–232
  12. The part in the foreground is the extension of 1894, to the left is the part added in 1883, further left the original building of 1874 (mostly out of view)
  13. The Book of Manchester and Salford; for the British Medical Association. Manchester: George Falkner & Sons, 1929; pp. 73-75
  14. Tyson, Moses (1937)
  15. Leigh, Charles W. E. (ed.) (1915) Catalogue of the Christie Collection. Manchester: University Press
  16. Leigh, Charles W. E. (ed.) (1932) Catalogue of the Library for Deaf Education. Manchester: University Press
  17. The official opening was performed by HM Queen Elizabeth II in June 1982 (recorded on a plaque by the Main Library entrance).
  18. Who's Who; "Hunt, Christopher John"
  19. Jan Wilkinson "World-class ambitions", in: Library + Information Gazette; 22Feb. – 6 March 2008, p. 19
  20. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. Christopher Pressler. Retrieved 1 June 2019

Further reading

Coordinates: 53°27′52″N2°14′08″W / 53.46444°N 2.23556°W / 53.46444; -2.23556