Library collections to benefit from Friends £260,000 donation

The University of Aberdeen community has dug deep with two significant gifts totalling over £260,000 from The Friends of Aberdeen University Library in support of the institution’s new Library and Special Collections Centre.

An independent charity with over 200 members from as far afield as Australia and Canada, The Friends aim to help Aberdeen’s unique Library by developing its collections for the benefit of the University community and the people of Northern Scotland.

A first gift of £200,000 has been made towards the construction of the new building. This will be recognised in the Friends of the Library Room, which will provide a dedicated space for collaborative study between students and to allow staff and volunteers to work with the University’s precious historic books and archives. This area will be adjacent to the Reading Room, which as the centrepiece of the Special Collections Centre will form a part of the building’s facilities for the in-depth study of the University’s unique archival holdings.

The gift was made possible through the many recurring subscriptions and donations made to the Friends, and through two substantial legacies from:

  • The estate of Lewella Keith and her late husband Dr Alexander Keith: Dr Keith graduated from Aberdeen with an MA in English in 1916 before beginning a long and varied career with interests as an author, local historian, broadcaster and as an editor of local songs and ballads. He also gifted his collection of 4,000 books to the University
  • The late Fred Murray: a long-standing member of staff in the Queen Mother Library, he graduated in English from Aberdeen in 1969 and was a prominent figure in the annual student show during the years he was completing his degree

Another contribution from the Friends of more than £60,000 has been made towards the provision of community-focused learning activities in the new building. This second gift has been made in memory of the late Roy H. Thomson, who as an Aberdeen graduate and long-term supporter of the Library was a member of the Friends for 36 years and Chair of their Executive Committee for 23 years. The Library’s comprehensive public engagement programme, which will incorporate exhibitions, events, talks and school activities, will benefit from the gift by allowing additional staff and resources to be directed towards increasing community access to these treasures.   

Graham Hunter, Chairman of The Friends of Aberdeen University Library and who works as a voluntary archivist at the University, said: “The Friends have been able to make these two gifts thanks to the generosity of Lewella and Alexander Keith, Fred Murray and contributions made by our many members.

“We all owe Roy a great debt and so we are honoured to be able to make this gift in recognition of his significant and long-term commitment to the University and its Library. With Roy’s passing late last year, the Friends have lost a valued Chairman and the University has lost a close friend.

“We are pleased to be supporting the construction of the new building to provide the most modern learning and research environment to students and staff and also the provision of public activities which will help the University share its precious collections with the community.”  

Professor Christopher Gane, Vice-Principal and academic lead for the Library project, said: “While our fundraising campaign has achieved great success in securing gifts from all over the globe, the generosity of our closest friends and supporters is vital if we are to achieve our vision for the new Library.

“We are very fortunate and extremely grateful to the Friends for their contribution. We will be delighted to offer an enduring recognition of their generosity through the creation of the Friends of the Library Room in the Special Collections Centre.”

With the opening of the building now only a year away, the main project contractor Pihl UK Ltd have begun work on constructing the new pedestrian Academic Square to the front of the building to allow a dramatic reshaping of the University’s King’s College campus – allowing it to become a more welcoming venue for the local community. The building itself is taking shape and the seven-storey ‘tower’ of the main Library is now visible across the University campus and far beyond.

The new £57 million project will provide much more than a conventional Library. It will provide an important resource for the whole community, who for the first time will enjoy access to priceless historical collections of books and manuscripts and regular events. A dedicated Special Collections Centre within the building will offer a welcoming cultural venue where a wide range of public audiences can engage with the collections through educational programming, exhibitions and volunteer opportunities.