The Morris Miller Library, University of Tasmania
Feature article published in the Tasmanian Year Book, 1972 (cat. no. 1301.6)
The University of Tasmania Library was established under the University of Tasmania Act 1889 which provided that the University Council '...shall have power to appoint Professors and Lecturers...and to establish Scholarships, Exhibitions, Prizes and a Library'.
Accorded a low priority by statute, the University Library languished for some years, the first recorded expenditure on books not appearing in the University accounts until 1900, seven years after teaching began. In 1911 the total ordinary expenditure on books was £68 yet the subjects available on the University curriculum that year included English, French, German, Philosophy, Psychology, Ancient and Modern History, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Law and Engineering.
A special grant and a bequest in 1913 provided £300 for the library and marked the beginning of the growth which has culminated in the present University library collection of 223,000 volumes. By 1915, 6,162 volumes had been accessioned with donations in this early period of the library’s growth often exceeding purchased items; in 1921, donations accounted for 770 volumes while 438 were purchased. For twenty years, from 1923 to 1943, expenditure averaged £529 a year. However, the collection continued to grow and by the end of World War II totalled 55,000 books and 11,000 pamphlets, some 12,000 of the books being housed in seven departmental libraries.
The State Government in 1947, provided an extra grant of £15,000 over a five-year period and bookstock growth accelerated. Total stock in 1957 was 117,000 volumes and this had risen to 172,000 volumes in 1967.
In 1913, Edmund Morris Miller (after whom the library was named in 1966) became honorary librarian in addition to his primary role of lecturer in Philosophy and Economics. For 32 years he was the only trained librarian employed by the University.
The first full-time assistant was engaged in 1919 and employed on shelf-listing. The entire library staff in 1943 consisted of the part-time honorary librarian, an assistant librarian and a cataloguer. Branch libraries, nominally under central control, were supervised by departmental staff. Following World War II there was considerable expansion in all University functions including the library. The first full-time librarian was appointed in 1945 and in 1946-47 a qualified deputy librarian, an additional cataloguer, two junior assistants and a typist were employed.
The library staff has since increased commensurate with the size and responsibilities of the library itself and by 1970, twelve professional librarians were included in the staff of 58.
ADMINISTRATION AND SERVICES
The Library is a centralised system responsible for provision of library services to the whole University. Management and administration is vested in a Library Committee of which the Librarian is the executive officer.
Most of the collections (particularly material for the study of social sciences and humanities) and the central administration are housed in the main library building. Branch libraries are located within the relevant faculties of Law, Engineering, Biomedical and Clinical Medicine and Biology; small collections are maintained in the departments of Geology, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
Library facilities are available to University staff and students and to other authorised persons including Royal Society of Tasmania members, while Clinical Library facilities are available to medical and dental practitioners. In 1970 the library introduced an extension service in Launceston in conjunction with the provision of an extension University service and lectures.
The library has on occasion been associated with various publications in the fields of bibliography and history. Continuing publications include the Library Handbook and Annual Report; the library is responsible for editing and publishing the Union List of Higher Degree Theses in Australia University Libraries which has been issued continuously since 1959.
The University Library was housed until 1954 in the former Hobart High School Building on the Queen’s Domain, firstly in one room which was also used as a venue for official and social functions. By 1954, the library occupied one floor and an annexe. Following the move of the University to its present Sandy Bay site collections were established in the science departments.
Work commenced on a new building for the main library in 1959. First occupied in 1961, the five storey building was finally completed and occupied in 1970.
New accommodation was completed in 1968 for the Clinical Library in the Clinical School building at the Royal Hobart Hospital. The Pre-Clinical and Biology Libraries will be merged into a new Biomedical Library in 1973, when new accommodation is planned for completion. The Law Library will also move into a new building in 1973.
Curiously, the Library has benefited from only a few major gifts, endowments or bequests. Among those it has received are part of the Walker Collection (books on philosophy, theology, history, voyages and literature) and a valuable classics collection formed by the late Professor R. L. Dunbabin. Other recent donations and bequests include 2,000 books on religion from the Archbishop’s Library, Hobart, and 850 volumes on medical diseases of the eye bequeathed by the late Dr John Bruce Hamilton of Hobart.
ARCHIVES AND RARE BOOK ROOM
An Archives Section has operated in the library since 1954 to collect and make available for research, business, property and private papers relating to the history and development of the State of Tasmania. The section also maintains a collection of material relating to the University, including the University archives. Rare and valuable volumes are displayed in the library’s Rare Book Room. The collections, to which access is restricted, include pre-1900 Australiana and material published overseas before 1800.
ROYAL SOCIETY LIBRARY
The Royal Society of Tasmania library of about 35,000 volumes was transferred to the University library in 1970 but remains a separate entity. The Society and University have strong historical links and together the two libraries, which have been built-up in a complementary manner, form a comprehensive resource for studying the natural and physical sciences.
Establishment of a library branch in northern Tasmania, as an expansion of the present extension service, will be considered in the future but this is dependent on the expansion of the University’s northern facilities.
Initial steps have been taken to provide an audio-visual collection in the central library. Equipment is to be installed for playing disc and taped recordings, particularly music, both from a central control point and individual cassette-players.
Investigations have been made of the feasibility of automating some library routines but introduction of automated techniques is considered a doubtful economic and technical proposition at the present level of transactions.
The following table gives details of major expenditure items, staff, bookstocks and library loans for a five-year period:
UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA, Expenditure and selected statistics
|Current serial titles taken|
(a) Excludes salaries for bindery staff.
(b) Includes salaries for bindery staff.