Tag Archives: Libraries

61. J.B. at the JBPL: The Opening of the J.B. Priestley Library, 18 October 1975

On 18 October 1975, J.B. Priestley opened the Library that bears his name at the University of Bradford.  We know a great deal about the opening ceremony thanks to files in the University Archive and this week’s Object, an album of photographs taken on the day and presented to Priestley as a memento.   This later returned to the University as part of Priestley’s Archive.

Presentation slip in album commemorating opening of J.B. Priestley Library 1975Proceedings began the night before with a small dinner party in “one of the private dining rooms” in the main building.  The menu survives: Florida Cocktail or Spring Vegetable Soup, then sole, lamb, and Cherry Cheese Cake.  Harold Wilson, the University’s first Chancellor and Prime Minister at the time, wrote to Vice-Chancellor Ted Edwards that “the warmth of the occasion surpassed even the high quality of the cuisine”.

Priestley and Harold Wilson looking at book by shelves in new J.B. Priestley Library

Priestley and Harold Wilson looking at book by shelves in new J.B. Priestley Library

On the day, the Chancellor and Priestley spoke, Priestley unveiled a plaque, then the party toured the new building and had a buffet lunch before the University car whizzed the Priestleys back to their home in Stratford.  The event was planned to the last detail, including the whereabouts of umbrellas and keeping the lift free for Priestley to use (he was then over eighty).

Harold Wilson and J.B. Priestley, with pipes

Harold Wilson and J.B. Priestley, with pipes

The new Library building (which was supplemented by an extension in the 1990s) was five levels high, one floor occupied by the Computer Centre.   The publicity campaign emphasised what was described as a “whole phalanx of mechanical and electronic aids to ease the paths of users” of both services.  The rapid expansion of the University from the Bradford Institute of Technology had put considerable pressure on library services.  The new building transformed what was possible for staff and students.   From the 1959 situation of two rooms crammed with 9,000 out of date books (which could not be browsed) staffed by two assistants, 1975 offered students over 200,000 volumes, 53 professional and support staff and a pioneering system of subject librarians offering specialist help.

Brochure for J.B. Priestley Library and Computer Centre 1975

Brochure for J.B. Priestley Library and Computer Centre 1975

This year the GLEE building project is transforming the upper floors of the Library.  J.B.’s album (along with our other archives) records these areas as they were imagined at the time, as impressive modern facilities which aimed to provide the best possible environment and services for students: we hope to do the same today with the new facilities.


Quarter Way There!

We’ve now shown 25 Objects: a quarter of the way through the exhibition.  We’re really enjoying writing about and sharing the wonderful stories behind the Special Collections at the University of Bradford: we hope you find them interesting too.   Please let us know via blog comments or otherwise contacting us if you have something to say about the Objects.

This site has had over 5000 views, not to mention all the visits to the Objects on Facebook, Flickr and now Youtube.  We would never have been able to fit you all into the Reading Room to see the Objects for real, which shows how online exhibitions can bring Special Collections and people together as never before.

The most popular Object (site views): Singing Sixties!

Most popular (Twitter buzz): Dr Raistrick’s mapsThis image of one of his maps is the most popular image on the site.

Most popular Google search to reach this exhibition: bizarrely, “Clarkson Book Support System”.  Lots of librarians must be looking for their own Foam Family.  The next most popular is, fittingly, the University of Bradford Coat of Arms, part of our history with a story behind it.

15. A Library for Peace: the Commonweal Story

This week’s Object is Commonweal Library.  Commonweal is an independent library devoted to non-violent social change, which like Special Collections lives in the J.B. Priestley Library at Bradford University.  Commonweal’s archives are part of Special Collections and will make several appearances as individual Objects.  Here is Commonweal’s own story.

Commonweal was founded by David Hoggett.  He had become a pacifist during military service in the Second World War and was interned as a conscientious objector, later working in forestry.  After the war he helped in International Voluntary Service for Peace work camps in Europe, and later in India.  During his time there, he was deeply influenced by Gandhi’s ideas of “sarvodaya”, a transformed society based on nonviolence.  On returning to Europe in 1955, David trained as a carpenter; he was putting these skills to good use building houses for refugees in Austria in 1956 when a serious fall left him paralysed.

David Hoggett, using POSSUM machine (see below)

David Hoggett, using POSSUM machine (see below)

On leaving hospital, he moved to the family home at Cheltenham, where he built an excellent collection of books on non-violent protest and social change, encouraging his many contacts to help him develop the material.  David, his carer and companion Alfred Heslegrave, and the books moved to a community based on Gandhian ideas at Garthnewydd.  The anti-nuclear campaigners of the late 1950s and early 1960s were keen to learn about the ideas underlying non-violent action and found David’s growing book collection very helpful.   A postal library began to develop.  David called it Commonweal: an English version of Gandhi’s “sarvodaya”: the good of everyone.

David Hoggett's Nansen Medal

David Hoggett’s Nansen Medal

David’s work on behalf of refugees was recognised by the award of the Nansen Medal by the United Nations Association in 1958.

After the community was dispersed, David ran Commonweal from a nearby cottage, later moving back to Cheltenham.  In 1965, he obtained a POSSUM suck-blow typewriter, which allowed him to do his own typing.  The work of Commonweal included answering enquiries, creating bibliographies, seeking donations of books, journals and funding, and managing the postal loans system.

A few records of his work at this time survive in the Commonweal Archives.  To save effort in typing, he used a form of shorthand, as you can see here.

David Hoggett's use of abbreviations - advice on indexing magazine articles

David Hoggett’s use of abbreviations – advice on indexing magazine articles – click on image to see detail!

In poor health following his accident, David turned Commonweal into a Trust during the 1960s so that it would continue.  After his death in 1975, the Trustees decided to move the library to the University of Bradford, where the department of Peace Studies had recently been created.

Memorial sculpture by Chris HoggettTwo memorial sculptures were created in memory of David Hoggett by his brother Chris, featuring a dove of peace and related inscriptions.   One of the sculptures now lives in Commonweal, the other in the Peace Museum.

Perhaps David Hoggett’s most important memorial though is Commonweal itself.  The Library is still very active and offers a unique resource to staff, students and local people.  You can find out more about David Hoggett and Commonweal in an article I wrote with my colleague Ellie Clement in the Journal Information for Social Change.

7. Handle with Care: Foam Family and Friends

Foam supports ready for use

Foam Family ready to help

Special Collections at Bradford offers a range of materials to help staff and readers handle fragile objects carefully.  For example, the Clarkson Book Support System, which we call the Foam Family.  The System was designed by conservator Christopher Clarkson with Polyformes (also available from other conservation supply firms).   The foam wedges range in size from mini to massive and help support open volumes so their spines aren’t broken. We also offer booksnakes and weights, to hold down maps and other rolled items without damage.  Pencils avoid damage from ink; cotton gloves keep photographs free of sweat.

Foam supports in use with rare books

Foam Family at work

Special Collections staff teach our visitors  how to handle original archives and rare books with understanding and respect.  This is part of our preservation policy.  Special Collections, like most organisations, has very limited funding available for conservation work on individual items.   So we rely on preservation: simple, cost-effective ideas which prevent damage to collections occurring in the first place.

Book with foam supports

Map weights in action