The Library

The first Library at St Hilda's was the room opposite the original front door of Hall Building. Like everything else in the new establishment it was furnished as cheaply as possible. However, it was necessary to make the room as warm and comfortable as the limited resources permitted, for if the students worked in the Library money would be saved on coal for their rooms.

A new wing opened in Michaelmas Term 1909 included a basement Library 'beautifully panelled and fitted in oak', which now forms part of the Law Library. The carved overmantel in the new Library was given by Miss Christine Burrows at a cost of £20. Christine Burrows, second Principal of St Hilda's and daughter of the first Principal, had been the original Librarian of St Hilda's in all but name. She was purchasing books for the Library when still a student. In 1901, by which time she was Vice Principal, she compiled the first full catalogue.

Between 1893 and 1928 the students were required to subscribe to the Library, with the Council of St Hilda's regularly contributing grants to match the subscriptions. The student Library subscription was not abolished until 1928, when the payment of 5/- a term was taken over by the College. The announcement of the abolition was made to the meeting of students 'amid applause'.

Use (and abuse) of the Library varied very little over the years, with regular complaints about missing books, noise, breaking of rules and excessive fines. For many years a list of missing library books was read out at the students' general meeting. Touches of sarcasm appear in the complaints of 1911 that 'as people seemed incapable of putting library books into their right shelves on returning them, the books should be put on the table in the library' and of 1931 that 'many students seem incapable of using an alphabetical catalogue'.

In 1925 the Library was extended into an adjoining room, but the additional space did not prove to be enough. A memorandum written for consideration by the Library Committee stated that the Librarian had one small table, 'cramped and in a direct draught between two doors which are constantly used'. The table was in such an exposed place that nothing could be left about and if she made any noise she was looked on with resentment.

New shelves were added in 1931 and 1933, but it was clear that the Library had outgrown its two rooms. In 1935 the present Library was completed and opened as part of an extension named, appropriately, for Mrs. and Miss Burrows.

The Library has continued to be extended. A new stack room was provided in 1956-1957, and enlarged in 1964. A refurbishment took place in 1992 and a major extension was built in 2003-2004. The Library was renamed the Kathleen Major Library in 2005, in honour of a former Librarian and Principal whose bequest to the College provided a substantial proportion of the extension costs.