Issue 5, November 2011

Welcome to the Special Collections Centre

We are thrilled to announce that the new Special Collections Centre on the lower ground floor of the University Library is about to open its doors for the first time, offering unprecedented access to the University's internationally significant rare books, manuscripts, archives and photographs.

The future of Library, Special Collections and Museums is set to be an exciting one: look out for details of our forthcoming programme of exhibitions and events, which we hope will encourage a real sense of engagement with the life of the University of Aberdeen and its connected communities.

The staff of Special Collections would like to thank all our readers for their patience and understanding while we have been carrying out the collections move, and look forward to welcoming you to the stunning new facilities.

Siobhán Convery, Head of Special Collections


In this issue...

Opening date for Special Collections Centre Curious cube
More news from the moves Bike storage update for cyclists
Quick returns coming soon Calling all coffee lovers

Opening date for Special Collections Centre

Siobhán Convery, Head of Special Collections



The Special Collections Centre is the new home to the University’s historic collections of books, manuscripts, archives and photographs and will open to readers on Tuesday, 15 November.

Housed in environmentally-controlled facilities, the collections comprise over 200,000 rare printed books – including more than 4,000 16th century items – as well as 4,000 important archive collections, with material dating as far back as the 3rd century BC. The collections cover all aspects of the history and culture of the University, the City of Aberdeen, the region and the relationship they enjoy with the wider world, and are available to be consulted in the Wolfson Reading Room on the lower ground floor.

The Wolfson Reading Room has 36 reader spaces, a large map and print consultation table, a dedicated room for microfilm reader-printers, as well as a listening room for accessing the department’s oral history and audio collections. Local history, bibliographic and print history texts are also available to browse in the Reading Room alongside many historic periodicals.

The Centre also has a Seminar Room and Learning Room which provide visitors of all ages with dedicated spaces to learn more about the collections through seminars, workshops and educational activities. The adjacent Glucksman Conservation Centre will be operational in early 2012 and a newly-appointed team of professional conservators will carry out vital preservation and conservation work on our most fragile items, enabling wider access to the collections.

You can find further details at




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Curious cube

Siobhán Convery, Head of Special Collections
Scott Byrne, Exhibition and Programming Officer

The exhibition will open to the public from 24 November to 17 March 2012.


November also sees the opening of the Gallery: the curious cube located on the ground floor adjacent to the café. The impressive space represents an important public venue for visitors to the University Library to engage with the collections and be inspired. The space within the Gallery has been designed to be dynamic and accessible, offering opportunities to present enlightening and inspiring exhibitions that make connections to our collections. The exhibitions are being designed to have a broad appeal and to be of interest to a wide public audience.

Rebels with a Cause: The Jacobites and the Global Imagination marks the inaugural exhibition at the Gallery. The exhibition displays treasures from the University's rare book, archive and museum collections to explore and challenge traditional assumptions about the Jacobites.  It highlights the worldwide dimension to the Jacobite story, revealing the lives and travels of the historical characters whose ideologies have played a distinctive role in forming part of Scotland's contemporary cultural identity. The exhibition aims to look at an enduring subject from a new perspective and to appeal to a wide range of visitors; from those well-read on the Jacobites, to others for whom the Jacobites remain an evocative mystery.

The Exhibition Programme will host an exciting series of exhibitions, each of which will be accompanied by regular, accessible and engaging events which are open to all, including special performances, illustrated talks and accompanied tours.

Scott Byrne, Exhibitions and Public Programming Officer with Special Collections, welcomes your thoughts and queries about any aspect of current or future programming and may be contacted at

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More news from the moves

Amanda Brown, MovePlan Project Manager

A selection of special collections on our newly installed shelving on the lower ground floor


The meticulously planned physical relocation of materials from the Special Libraries and Archives buildings at King's to the stores in the new Library is now nearing completion.

Working with specialist removals contractors, Harrow Green, we are already into week 5 of operations, with all going smoothly and to the planned schedule. The bulk of the items being relocated at the moment are from the rare book collections, and of course particular attention is being given to ensure all materials leave their outgoing locations and arrive at their final destination in a protected and secure manner. Books are wrapped in the appropriate tissue or foam wrap or surrounded by custom-sized board as required; all items are sequentially packed, are checked into and out of both the packing crates and the buildings by a member of Special Collections staff and the crate contents and numbers recorded; all crates are sealed using numbered ties and no loaded vehicles leave their outgoing locations until confirmation has been received from the attendant at the new Library that the incoming Loading Bay is completely clear. The new stores areas are fully security zoned, ensuring a highly secure and environmentally controlled space for these important collections.

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Bike storage update for cyclists

Christopher Osbeck, Travel Plan Co-ordinator

Find out more about how the university is encouraging greener ways to get to campus at


With the opening of the new Library a large number of staff, students and visitors naturally want to take a look inside. Many people have been arriving by bicycle, which is great news for our sustainability aims, and they've been asking what cycle storage is available near the Library.

Within the second stage of the project there will be permanent, covered storage provided. Until then, temporary storage has been provided beside the entrance to the Meston building. The temporary storage has capacity for approximately 35 bicycles with more storage available close by at the QML car park and between the Elphinstone Road flats and Fraser Noble building. Cyclists are asked to make use of these facilities rather than attaching bicycles to railings, fences and lampposts. The provided cycle storage is not only more secure but helps keep access routes clear for building users and keeps handrails clear for people with mobility difficulty who need them.

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Quick returns coming soon

Laurence Bebbington, Deputy Librarian

Currently taking shape in the north east corner of the Ground Floor (the area on the right as you come through the University Library's main entrance) is the new Returns Room. Here we are installing an automated book sorter, which will become the fastest and simplest method for returning your borrowed books.

Two internal drop points (like letter boxes) allow you to return books one by one through a slot. Books are then automatically discharged from your borrower record and routed by conveyer belts to sorting bins allocated to each floor or collection. Books are then collected by library staff and taken up to the relevant floors for fast reshelving.

Shortly, we shall also be introducing an external book drop slot in the outside wall of the Returns Room. This will allow return of books when the Library building itself is open or closed, so 24 hour book return is on its way.

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Calling all coffee lovers

Wendy Pirie, Head of Administration and Planning

Due to the high demand for places in the popular Hardback Café on the ground floor of the library, we are about to order additional seating to expand the café area. Most of these new seats will be placed behind the current café space, along from the short-stay PCs and overlooking Bedford Road. We planning to have a mix of high 'poseur' style tables and standard seating, with a few more soft seats by the big video wall.

These extra spaces will be available when the adjacent Events Area is not otherwise in use for talks, tours, inductions and events.

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Flythrough of the new library [wmv - 123MB]
Video - Building a library: from concept to construction
New Library photostream on Flickr
Share your New Library photographs via the New Library Flickr Group

Library | Special Collections | Museums