A 'magnificent' library at the heart of campus
TEESSIDE University’s library’s roots go back to 1929 and the opening of Constantine College which trained workers for industry.
At that time it was a small affair, with one member of staff and opening for only two hours each day.
Contrast that with today’s opening hours of 8am to midnight - extending to 2am during exam time - and the continuing demands from students for even longer opening times, and you get an idea of the transformation. It could be argued that today’s library never really closes as many of its resources can be accessed online around the clock.
Over the years, as industry grew rapidly on Teesside, so too did the college and its library. By the late 1960s, the library had already moved several times in order to cope with an expanding stock of books and journals and the increasing number of students.
By the time Constantine College transformed into Teesside Polytechnic in 1969, it seems relocating the library was a regular occurrence each vacation.
Alma Cuthbertson, a former member of staff, noted that the need to move stock so often was hard for teaching staff to understand. She said: “They seemed to think we were indulging in some kind of esoteric ritual peculiar only to library staff”.
Some things never change, and here in 2010 library staff are preparing for another summer of stock moves. There’s no hidden motive - simply a desire to make the stock more accessible to our users by organising it into a single numerical sequence.
By 1977, the library held 26,000 books and 700 journals - all printed material, of course. Today, the digital age has changed the face of information provision.
In 2010, the 400,000 books are supplemented by 50,000 e-books, and 20,000 journals are now available electronically both on and off-campus. Library staff have worked hard over the years to ensure a good reliable service and long-serving staff, such as Lesley Astell and Val Sonley, well remember the arrival of the automated library system in the 1980s which revolutionised circulation and cataloguing processes.
In Teesside’s case, it was fortunate to have the talented and highly respected Peter Brophy as deputy librarian, from 1977 to 1983. Funds were tight at the time and the polytechnic could not afford to purchase a commercial system for the library. So Peter designed and installed TEAL - the Teesside Automated Library system with his team.
Professor Brophy went on to a long and distinguished career, eventually retiring as the director, Centre for Research in Library and Information Management, based at Manchester Metropolitan University, in 2008.
As a tribute to his work, Peter’s TEAL system was still going strong well into the 1990s when it was replaced by Talis, which is still used today.
Technological changes gathered pace through the 1990s, culminating in the creation of a new state-of-the-art Learning Resource Centre, which was officially opened by the then Northern Ireland Secretary of State and Redcar MP Mo Mowlam on January 16, 1998, who called it ‘magnificent’.
She particularly praised the University for not forgetting its roots while growing from a local higher education establishment to a centre of learning and excellence with a national and international reputation and congratulated the then director of library and information services, Ian Butchart, for continuing to allow free access to the library to local people.
During the opening, she met some of the local children involved in the university’s summer schools and even surfed the net with a couple of the students who worked part-time as Learning Resource Centre IT helpers. Back in 1998, that was quite a revolutionary thing for an MP to be doing.
The £11m five-storey campus showpiece continues to dominate the university today, but one recent change has had a ‘back to the future’ feel and a positive reaction from academic staff, and that was to drop the name Learning Resource Centre and revert to calling it the University Library again.
But it is a library packed full of learning resources, which provided 1,300 study spaces and 400 PCs when it opened in 1997 and has just kept on expanding its services.
Liz Jolly, director of library and information services, said: “Back in the 1980s, there were only eight Apple Macintosh computers and Ceefax (teletext) was a modern wonder. Today’s Google generation and social networkers have long forsaken teletext for the more interactive charms of the internet.
“The pace of the digital age continues to challenge the way we support learning at Teesside. The library is still as versatile as ever in meeting this challenge.
“The recently installed self-service system, the forthcoming Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, along with our expert staff, will ensure we continue to offer a service worthy of the 21st century.”