Brief history of Te Tumu Herenga | Libraries and Learning Services

Auckland University College was founded in 1883. In 1890, a room in Old Parliament Building was made available for a library, and £100 a year allocated for books.

Early development

University Library 1931

University Library 1931

The Library moved into the old Auckland Grammar school as a temporary measure in 1917, and at the end of this year Alice Minchin was appointed as the first Librarian. She took charge of new premises in 1927 when the Library moved into the ClockTower building in Princes Street, and remained as Librarian until 1945.

In its early years the Library received a number of gifts and bequests. Thomas Moore Philson gave 270 sovereigns to the College in 1887 to found a medical library, and medical books held by the Synod of the Auckland Diocese were transferred to the embryonic collection in 1926. Two years later the collection of the Auckland Branch of the British Medical Association was added. In 1894 Professor Pond of Classics bequeathed 1,300 books, and Sir George Fowlds donated a large collection of valuable books in 1925. Professor Paterson's bequest in 1932 gave the Library 2,000 volumes, mostly in Classics and Old Testament history, and £1,000 for the updating of the collection. Between 1927-1937 the Carnegie Corporation of New York gave the Library generous donations of books and money, and granted Alice Minchin a fellowship to study librarianship in the United States in 1932.


Arthur Sandall

Arthur Sandall

Arthur Sandall was appointed Librarian in 1946. The total book stock at this time was 51,093 and expenditure £2,000 a year. Library accommodation had become quite inadequate, and the book stock was housed in twelve separate locations. The schools of Architecture and Engineering had well organised libraries by the late 1940s, while the Law Library occupied three reading rooms. Separate reading rooms in Geography, Geology and Physics were set up without consultation with the Librarian, and the Elam School of Fine Arts also administered its own reading room. A New Zealand Collection was started in the 1950s.

Further donations came from the Carnegie Corporation, and in 1955 a large collection of mathematics journals was deposited by Professor H.G. Forder. A long series of annual donations from the Auckland Savings Bank were used to purchase significant reference and other materials. The American Council of Learned Societies made a grant of $16,000 in 1965 to build up American material in Economics, English, Geography, History, Law and Political Studies. By 1966 the Library held a quarter of a million books and was the largest University Library in the country.


General Library 1987

General Library 1987

In 1962 the Fine Arts Library employed its first trained librarian and moved into the newly completed building at Whitaker Place. Approval was given in 1964 for a temporary Law Library building at the back of the Law School. A Biological Sciences Library opened in 1967, and included services to Leigh. The first Medical Librarian was appointed in 1967 with the establishment of a medical school. A new General Library building was completed at the end of 1968, but had to be shared with other departments including the Law School and Law Library, which remained tenants until May 1992 when they moved to new premises in Eden Crescent. A unified Music Library was set up in 1968, and moved into the Pembridge building vacated by Law. The School of Engineering returned from Ardmore in 1969, and its library was housed in a new building in Symonds Street.

Peter Durey became Librarian in 1970, by which time the collection totalled 343,316 volumes. An Undergraduate Reading Room opened in the same year, and the Geology Library came under the control of the Library administration. In 1972 the Science Library opened and the Adult (later Continuing) Education Library joined the system.

By 1973 the Library held half a million volumes, and when the University celebrated its centenary in 1983 the millionth book was accessioned. A generous bequest of $100,000 from the Topeora Rina Riches estate in 1981 enabled the purchase of many valuable items. However enormous rises in costs forced drastic cuts in serials subscriptions on several occasions during the 1970s and 1980s, and again in 1991 and 1998.


Music Library 1987

Music Library 1987

In the 1980s two new libraries were added to the system: the Audiovisual Library in 1985 and Te Huka-ā-tai, the Māori Studies Library, in 1986. In addition, the Music Library moved to a new building in 1986, and the Continuing Education Library was relocated in the ClockTower building in 1987. In 1991 a new library opened on the Tāmaki campus. An off-campus storage facility opened at 82 Merton Road at the end of 1995, and contained mostly older material that was no longer in high demand. At the end of 1997 the Library had 1,610,273 items in the collection excluding microforms and non-book materials.

Janet Copsey became University Librarian in February 1998 and greatly encouraged the uptake of technology in Library services. The prime vehicle for electronic delivery of collection resources is the Library website, which was first launched on the internet in 1996.

In February 1999 the Continuing Education Library moved into the old University Hall with an expanded role and a new name, the Clock Tower Library. This library was closed at the end of 2002 with some of its collections being moved to the General Library.


Kate Edger Information Commons 2003

Kate Edger Information Commons 2003

In 2001 agreement was reached with the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to transfer the extensive records of the Western Pacific High Commission to the University of Auckland Library. Because of the size of the collection it was not possible to accommodate the records in the General Library so an agreement was negotiated with a commercial records storage company for appropriate accommodation.

A library service was provided at the North Shore Campus from 2001-2006 to support the Faculty of Business and Economics. The library was closed when the Faculty was centralised on the City Campus. An Education Resource Centre containing curriculum resources in support of teacher education was located in Anzac Avenue; this Centre closed in 2005 when the Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library in Epsom and Tai Tokerau (part of the College of Education) merged with the University Library. In early 2002, the General Library building was extended to allow for incorporation of the collections and services of the Science, Biological Sciences and Geography libraries.

A merged Short Loan collection moved into the Interim Commons in the former Science Library at the end of 2001, and then to the Kate Edger Information Commons when it opened in April 2003. At the end of 2015, with the ongoing reduction in print holdings as a result of the growth of electronic materials, the Short Loan collection was moved back into the General Library. The Audiovisual Library’s physical collection was also moved to the General Library as it closed at the end of 2015.

Sylvia Ashton Warner Library - Epsom 2006

Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library (Epsom) 2006

At the start of 2009 responsibility for the management and development of the Archive of Māori and Pacific Music was transferred from the Faculty of Arts to the Library. The collection was renamed Archive of Māori and Pacific Sound in 2018. At the end of 2009, Te Huka-ā-Tai ceased to be part of the library system and the collection was transferred to other parts of the Library. Early in 2011 the Chapman Archive was also transferred from the Faculty of Arts to the Library. Both archives have substantial unique collections and are significant collection assets for the Library.

In 2011, the Tāmaki Library was moved to a new location on campus where it was combined to become the Tāmaki Library and Information Commons. In 2012, the University of Auckland became the lead library for the development of a collaborative store with their CONZUL colleagues; this project enabled one shared copy of a print serial title to be retained in a jointly funded store. In 2014, the remaining collection in the Off Campus Storage facility in Merton Road, together with the Bindery service, was moved to a much improved facility in Highbrook. Extensive additional shelving was purchased to allow for collection growth off-site as there was unlikely to be any future growth in library collection space, especially on the City Campus.

The Library is the largest university library in New Zealand and one of the largest in Australasia in terms of volumes and electronic resources held, number of staff and total expenditure. By the end of 2010 approximately 2.2 million print volumes were held in the Library system, as well as very extensive collections of electronic books and electronic serials, and large collections of microforms, multimedia, maps and archives. With the ongoing reviews of the collection, and the closure of some libraries, the number of print volumes reduced and by the end of 2014 was 2.1 million volumes. Over 80% of the Library's annual collection budget in 2014 was also spent on electronic resources. There are also significant collections of material that were digitised locally, including University of Auckland theses.

Janet Copsey retired at the end of 2015, and Sue Roberts started as University Librarian in January 2016.

2017 onwards

The release of a new Vision and Strategy (2017-2021) has refocused the collection strategy for library collections. Addressing the sharp decline in print borrowing over the last decade the new strategy proposed retention of current, high-use resources on campus.  Older, low-use research material is provided on-demand from off-site storage sites.  The refocused strategy instigated reviews of the Engineering Library and the three Creative Arts and Industries Libraries (Architecture and Planning, Fine Arts, Music and Dance) leading to a programme of consolidation. The Engineering Library closed in December 2016, the Music and Dance Library closed in January 2019, the Architecture and Planning Library closed in July 2019 and the Fine Arts Library closed in November 2019. The print collections from these libraries are relocated to the General Library and off-site storage. The Tāmaki campus closed at the end of 2019 leading to the relocation of the Tāmaki Library collection to the Philson Library and off-site storage. With the relocation of the Faculty of Education and Social Work from Epsom Campus to the City Campus, the Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library (Epsom) collection was relocated to the General Library and off-site storage at the end of 2023.

In 2020 a large-scale rightsizing project commenced. A collection methodology based on usage and age is being applied to all books and journals and items with low usage are being moved to the On-Demand Collection. In addition, various Collections are being assessed. The New Zealand and Pacific Collection was disestablished at the end of 2021. Items with a New Zealand focus were integrated into the Main Collection and a separate Pacific Collection was created.

Due to the changes in the PhD Statute in 2020 and Masters Regulations in 2021 no longer requiring print theses to be deposited with the Library, and the predominance of online journal resources, demand for the services of the Print and Binding Service diminished significantly. A review of the service recommended closure. In August 2022, the Print and Binding Service closed.