We began the morning at the Bill Bryson library talking Librarianship. Our host was the ever-engaging John Purcell and his colleague Richard Parish, Academic Librarian Liason.
The Bill Bryson Library is part of the Durham University Library System. Durham University has its roots in the monastic scholars that were centered at the Cathedral. Three Oxford Colleges were founded from this monastic tradition: University, Balliol, and Durham which later became Trinity. Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell both tried to get an official charter for Durham University, but the Oxford/Cambridge monopoly prevailed. It was not until 1832 that Durham was granted the ability to form an official University by the king. It consistently ranks in the top five Universities of the UK. It follows the collegiate university model like its predecessors Oxford and Cambridge. The Bill Bryson Library is the main University library of Durham. Individual colleges have libraries, but they are not under Mr Purcell's supervision.
Richard Parish shows us the layout of the library.
Palace Green Library
Next we were taken to the Palace Green Library. It is here that there are classrooms and exhibition spaces that enable the university to partner with the community. We were shown a 17th century carriage house that has been re-purposed as classroom for instruction of the national curriculum. Because these are historic buildings, every inch is used. There is an exhibition area dedicated to Battle of the Somme that has been carved out of what used to be a breezeway.
The library was originally founded by Bishop Cosin in the 17th century. It is the first public lending library in England. Bishop Cosin was an Anglican Chaplain and courtier of Charles I. He traveled with Queen Henrietta Maria when she was in France during the Interregnum. It was here that he began to amass his collection. Because of this, there are French materials in the collection whose copies were destroyed during the French Revolution.
Ushaw College Library
We had a delicious lunch at Ushaw College, our final stop in Durham.
Ushaw College holds its roots in France. During the reign of Elizabeth I, who outlawed Catholicism in England, a college (Douai) was started in France to train priests to minister to English Catholics. The college thrived until the French Revolution when the lands and property of the school were confiscated. The repatriated school returned to the Durham area in 1794. In 1804 building began on Ushaw. The greater building project that is still in evidence today was began by Bishop Newsham c. 1837. It is a great example of Gothic architecture designed by the Pugins.
We were shown the beautiful ancient library by Johnathan Bush, Archivist.