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A Brief History of the University of Sydney Library

IV A New Era

In 1959 Andrew D. Osborn became Librarian and led the Library into a new era of collection building and service provision. In less than four years he doubled the size of the collection and planned a new library building.

Osborn had left to become Professor of Library Science at the University of Pittsburgh by the time the new Fisher Library opened in 1963. The first stage of the building was a five storey undergraduate wing, to which a nine storey stack was added four years later.

Newly completed undergraduate library prior to construction of stacks Bronze cladding being added to the Fisher Library stacks

First volume purchased by the Friends of the University of Sydney Library, 15th century mass book mssIn 1962 the Friends of the University of Sydney Library was launched, with Professor Sir Edward Ford presiding. The Friends first purchase was a 15th century French manuscript which they presented to the Library in their first year. Over the years the Friends have raised more than $250,000 to support the Library, have presented 400 special volumes and assisted the acquisition of major collections.

Library transaction card from punched card circulation systemHarrison Bryan succeeded Osborn in 1963. The Bryan years coincided with a period of expansion in tertiary education and the adoption of new technology to improve services. In 1964 the first coin-operated copier was installed for student use and a punched card system was introduced for loans.

The unit card system was replaced in 1975 by a fully automated circulation process.

The One Millionth Book Henry Lawson's Short Stories in Prose and Verse 1894 titlepageIn 1967 the Library became the first university library in Australia to achieve a collection size of 1 million volumes. The one millionth acquisition was the work by Henry Lawson Short Stories in Prose and Verse and was presented by the Friends.

The 2 millionth book, John le Gay Brereton's Sea and Sky manuscript was presented in 1976 by Walter Stone.

Presentation of the Two Millionth book by Walter Stone.  Seated are from left Sir Herman Black, Sir Bruce Williams and the librarian Harrison Bryan

By 1970 the staff had grown to over 200. Computer input of current cataloguing began in 1971. In 1972 the first electronic book detection system was installed in the Medical Library. In 1976 the first tentative steps were taken to search an overseas database, Medline, on a computer terminal lent by the Faculty.

New Medical Library 1986The number of department libraries had grown over the first half of the century but gradually some were incorporated into the library system or combined with others. By 1981 there were 10 branches and 5 department libraries.

Harrison Bryan resigned to become Director-General of the National Library of Australia in 1980 and Neil A Radford was appointed Librarian. The Library joined the Australian Bibliographic Network as a foundation member and remains a constant contributor to the national database of library holdings.

Three Millionth Book Gli Amori Pastorali Di Dafne E Di CloeThe three millionth item was added to the collection in 1983. The volume Daphnis and Chloe was printed by Bodoni.

A large storage facility was opened in Darlington that year, easing pressure on accommodation. The store now houses 650,000 volumes.

During the 1980s automation of library processes accelerated. Production of catalogue cards ceased and the catalogues were initially output in microfiche before being replaced in 1987 by an online catalogue listing all items acquired since 1971. An integrated library system was implemented for cataloguing, circulation and Special Reserve in Fisher. The first CD-ROM was purchased for the collection in 1989.

On 1 January 1990 three colleges of advanced education and two parts of a fourth amalgamated with the University. After protracted negotiations the Institutes of Education and Nursing of the Sydney College of Advanced Education joined the University Library and three college libraries remained separate. The mergers took total staff numbers to 271, boosted the collections to 4.2 million items and increased the number of branch libraries to 22. The addition of the 4 millionth item went unnoticed in the turmoil.

The momentum for automating library services was building and although automated loans were available in four branch libraries by 1992, funding constraints impeded further progress.

In 1993 a review of the Library was held, led by Professor Mairead Browne. Implementation of its major recommendations began the following year with the University funding a new automated system. The new system went live in 1995 and transformed the library into a full network, offering automated services at all sites. The Library's first web site was launched that year.

Another major recommendation of the review was that "all the University of Sydney libraries be managed as one system for which the University Librarian is responsible" and in 1996 three department libraries and the Cumberland College of Health Sciences joined the library system.

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