Starting university can be quite a daunting prospect. There is a lot to learn in a short space of time. When I started at The University of Hull in 2018 I had to find my lecture rooms, meet new friends and discover new learning styles.
It is for this reason that I missed out on some of the excellent features of the Brynmor Jones Library. Now don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of time studying in the library and took books out often. But, I definitely didn’t utilise the full potential of the library when I had the chance.
Now I am an intern at the university library and I have finally had the opportunity to explore the space and all it has to offer.
So here are a few things I wish I knew as a student about the Brynmor Jones Library. I hope that this encourages you make the most of your time here and enhance your studies.
My tour of the Brynmor Jones Library started all the way up on the 7th floor in a room called The Cube. No, I am not talking about the gameshow hosted by Phillip Schofield. Rather, The Cube is where the library houses its rare book collection in a temperature-controlled environment.
According to my guide, Helen, the rare book collection was started by the Vice-Chancellor at the time, Brynmor Jones, after who the library was named.
The collection boasts titles that are over five hundred years old. As well as many rare, first-edition and signed copies of texts. Some of my personal favourites housed in The Cube include a first edition, signed copy of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a signed Rudyard Kipling collection and first edition copy of Peter Pan (University of Hull, 2020b).
The Cube also has ongoing project work that you can see. Here, work experience students and library volunteers get to create themed displays and highlight the variety of rare texts that are available in the library. One display focuses on tragic love and the other, war. This emphasises that it is possible for many students to find a rare book that may enhance their studies at the university. As well as giving students the opportunity to get involved with archive work.
I think one of the most important things to note about the Brynmor Jones Library rare book collection is how accessible it is to students. All you have to do is fill in a form online to arrange an in-person viewing of these marvelously preserved texts.
During my own time at the university, I missed on utilising this collection due to a sense of nervousness surrounding these fragile pieces of work. But, when I did finally see this collection my worries dissipated almost instantly as the staff were welcoming, approachable and passionate.
So, do not miss out on your chance to visit the rare books held at the Brynmor Jones Library and get to hold a piece of history in your hands and enhance your academic research
Philip Larkin’s Office
Next on my tour of the Brynmor Jones Library was the office of Philip Larkin.
In 1955, Larkin joined the University of Hull as a librarian (Orwin, 2021). There he played a vital role in the redevelopment and expansion of the library (Hull History Centre, 2022). To this day, his office is preserved in the library and well worth a visit.
Stepping into this room was like stepping back in time. Here you will find the original electrical fire place and Larkin’s own type writer. Its charm comes from Larkin’s more personal items such as his collection of rather stained, well used mugs and the selection of vinyl records.
My time in this room was brief, but certainly very interesting. More Larkin memorabilia can be found at the Hull History Centre which has strong connections with the library. You can also click here to read more about Larkin’s office and his time at the library.
Down in The Basement
One thing I did not know about the library when I was a student was that as well as having eight floors above ground, there is also an extensive space below the library.
Next time you grab a coffee in the university library, just think about what could be below your feet. There is a labyrinth of old journals, books and pamphlets. Most of these have be digitalised or replaced with newer version, and some have been considered too controversial to access. Additionally, there are rooms full of different art works from the gallery and boxes quirky of items.
What I enjoyed when visiting the basement was the sheer magnitude of it. I believe you could spend all day down there and not have the chance to discover everything it stores. My guide also told me some eerie stories from staff who have felt and heard strange happenings in the basement.
Most of the material found in the basement can be accessed by the Library Search. This gives students an even larger option for sources and research.
On the ground floor of the Brynmor Jones library is the art gallery. This space is free to access whether you are a student or member of the public.
The collection of art held in the library began with a yearly fund of just £300 (University of Hull, 2022a). Despite this, the gallery is an impressive feature to admire.
The gallery has its staple collection of pieces and an exhibition space that changes regularly. Currently, you can see Larkinworld 2 by D J Roberts, which is part of Larkin’s centenary celebrations by the library (The Philip Larkin Society, 2021). This exhibit is available to view until the 25th of September, but I already look forward to seeing what is there next.
That concludes my list of things I didn’t know about the Brynmor Jones library when I studied at the university. I suggest you make the most of these fantastic facilities when you can. Whether you need to access rare materials for your studies or just fancy a cultural day out.
Hull History Centre (2022) Archives of the University of Hull Brynmor Jones Library. Available online: Archives of the University of Hull Brynmor Jones Library – Hull History Centre Catalogue [Accessed 25/08/2022].
Orwin, J.L. (2021) Philip Larkin biography. Available online: PHILIP LARKIN BIOGRAPHY – The Philip Larkin Society [Accessed 25/08/2022].
The Philip Larkin Society (2022) ‘Larkinworld2′. Available online: ‘Larkinworld 2’ – The Philip Larkin Society [Accessed 25/08/2022].
University of Hull (2022) Art Gallery. Available online: Art Gallery | University of Hull [Accessed 25/08/2022].
University of Hull (2020) The university library part 1- our buildings, collections and people. Available online: The University Library Part 1 – Our buildings, collections and people | University of Hull [Accessed 25/08/2022].