When the University of Melbourne was established in 1853 the role of University Librarian was held by Mr John Frederic James, who also served as Registrar and University Secretary.
In the mid-1920s the Library, then in the North Quadrangle, was overcrowded with students queuing to get a seat during 'swot vac'. The role of University Librarian had become a full-time job. When the new Baillieu Library opened in 1959 its 1000 seats were almost immediately swamped by 8000 readers.
Today the Melbourne University Library is one of the busiest in Australia. We operate in more than a dozen locations across several campuses. Our branches see more than 1.4 million visits every year and our web sites serve more than 3 million visitors. In a single year our students, academic staff, professional staff, alumni and other Library Members complete more than 1.3 million loans and renewals.
Our general collections contain more than 3.5 million items, not only books but other materials such as DVDs, photographic slides, music scores, periodicals and children's toys. Our extensive digital collections include more than 32,000 e-books, hundreds of databases and 63,000 general and specialist journals.
The University Library holds many named collections of rare books, ancient maps, prints and other published materials. We manage several of the University's 33 Cultural Collections. Some of these collections are unique in the world, or have special significance for local communities and professions.
The Learning Environments team designs and manages a range of shared teaching spaces on campus. Learning environments can also be online, such as the Learning Management System (LMS+) and the Sakai collaboration space for researchers and project teams.
Qualified Library staff provide research consultations, guidance for students, and a range of services to help Library users develop their research and scholarly literacy skills.
Modern libraries do much more than lend books and collect fines. Our Information Management professionals advise University staff and students on copyright and are a source of expertise about information strategy, information management, knowledge management, information architecture and the design of business processes.
The University Librarian is Mr Philip G Kent.