History of the ANU Library (1948 - 1975)

The University Library had its beginnings in the borrowed temporary accommodation, Wyselaskie Hall in Ormond College, at the University of Melbourne in 1948.  The 40,000-strong collection was relocated to what were then the Old Canberra Hospital buildings on the university site in 1950. In Keith Murray's report, Report of the Committee on Australian Universities, 1957, he considered a new library building "the most urgent need" as "the library is housed in a wooden building which is already fully taxed and which represents a most serious fire hazard." (p.51). It was not until 1963 before the collection was moved into its first permanent home, the R.G. Menzies Building.

The history of the Library is fraught with the repercussions of the decisions made regarding the University's amalgamation with the Canberra University College (CUC) in the early 1960s. Under the recommendation by the newly formed Australian Universities Commission, Menzies announced: "We have decided in favour of association. The government could not justify two universities in a small town at a time when other cities with larger populations had more pressing demands" (Foster & Varghese, 2009:155).

One of the most difficult issues arising from this was the library. Thus far, the ANU library collection was built on the specific needs of the research schools whilst the CUC library collection was built to meet the teaching and learning needs of undergraduates. After much debate and discussion notwithstanding an intervention from Prime Minister Menzies, it was decided that while administratively one system, there would be "two separate libraries, one for research, especially in the social sciences, and the other for undergraduate with a limited collection of books but plenty of room for readers" (ibid.:157). Thus, the building plans underway (later R.G. Menzies Building) would be dedicated for the research collection, and another building (later J.B. Chifley Building, opened in late 1963) for the undergraduate/teaching collection.