chapter  2
16 Pages

Space in the University Library: An Historical Perspective

ByJohn Feather

In modern times it has become almost an article of faith that the provision of a library is a core function of a university. In 1993, when many aspects of that provision were being questioned and challenged, a British review was unequivocal: ‘Libraries play a central role in the support of teaching and learning across all subject areas’ (Joint Funding Councils 1993: 7). In the nearly two decades which have passed since that af¿rmation there has been profound change; at the very least there has been a change in the balance of emphasis between the library building as a storehouse of books and other documents and its role as a place for study. The paradigm – a collection, some of which is consulted or read on the premises and some of which is taken out for use elsewhere – has broken down to the point at which this traditional model is fully applicable only to a small part of the information needs of most users. The fact that universities continue to function as organizations delivering both teaching and research suggests that the traditional model may have been a paradigm for libraries rather than for education itself.