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History and architecture


Brotherton Library

The architects of the Brotherton Library were Lanchester, Lucas and Lodge, who submitted the winning designs for a new campus as part of the University's Architectural Prize Scheme of 1927. The library was funded entirely by a hugely successful local industrialist and equally far-sighted philanthropist, Lord Brotherton of Wakefield. Sadly, he did not live to see the Brotherton Library's opening in 1936.

Outwardly an unadorned redbrick building, the Brotherton Library was always intended to lie behind an imposing University frontage. This materialised in the form of the Parkinson Building, which opened in 1951.

The Brotherton's round, domed reading room was deliberately modelled on that of the British Museum, but, with Yorkshire bravura, a slightly increased diameter ensured that it was larger than the southern original.

Above the reading room entrance, carved in oak, sits the University's coat of arms. It features a book inscribed with the University's motto: "et augebitur scientia" – "and knowledge will be increased".

In 1993, every book in the Brotherton was moved to allow readers into the new West Building extension (formal opening in 1995).

Edward Boyle Library

With the rapid expansion in higher education after the Second World War, student numbers at Leeds grew enormously. As a result, the University appointed the architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon in 1959 to develop a buildings strategy for an extensive teaching precinct.

Part of this plan was the Edward Boyle Library (then the South Library), opened by the former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1975. It was designed to act as the University's undergraduate library, offering students core course materials and new teaching spaces.

Twenty years later in 1997, in response to the growing number of students who continued to flock to Leeds, the Edward Boyle Library Learning Centre was opened. It including teaching rooms and a large conference room.

In 2010 the Library celebrated the Edward Boyle building receiving Grade II Listed status.

The Edward Boyle Library received a multimillion pound refurbishment in 2016. It provides more study spaces than ever before. The interior design reflects the Brutalist and distinctive exterior design and shape of the Chamberlin, Powell and Bon buildings.

Health Sciences Library

In 1977 the new Medical and Dental Building, including the Health Sciences Library, was unveiled. The medical library began as the Leeds Infirmary Library, which was established in 1786 by surgeon William Hey. In 1865 this library was given to the Leeds School of Medicine, later becoming part of the university. Over time, the expansion of the Medical and Dental Library meant that it moved to its current modern premises at the Worsley Building.

Laidlaw Library

The need for more modern study environments heightened and the Laidlaw Library, a dedicated undergraduate space, was opened in 2015. The Laidlaw boasts state of the art facilities and is built to offer students a contemporary option for their study.

See inside our libraries

Step inside some of our libraries with some 360 degrees photography of key areas.

Leeds University Library Galleries

The Art Gallery was rebuilt and refurbished in 2008. It was named, in honour of its benefactors, The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.

In 2016 the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery opened its doors to display interesting artefacts and items from the Library’s Special Collections to the public. Based in the Parkinson Building, in its first year it attracted 20,000 visitors.