‘Ode to the Library’ event celebrates building’s 50th anniversary

On Thursday 22 November, the Library celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with an evening of art and performance prepared by UEA students.

The Library officially opened on 25 October 1968, and has been celebrating its fifty years with a range of events and displays since October, culminating last night with an event organised by the Creative Writing Society, Filmmaking Society, and EggBox publishing society.

Faculty Librarian for MED, HSC, and SWK Matthew Smith formally organised the event, but told Concrete he left much of the preparation for the night open to the invited societies.

“I really wanted it to be a student led thing, and it really is. All I’ve done is basically give them the space and say ‘do what you want to do with it.’ Universities do a lot of stuff but it’s about the students,” he said.

“It’s the people in the building that give it life really. So it seemed natural that we find some way to celebrate the people that are here now making use of the Library. The societies that have helped sort it out are really positive about the Library, in the sense of it being a space that’s important to them.”

Performers read their poetry and prose from one of the Library’s easily recognisable and homely seats. Photo: Matt Nixon

The event consisted of a prose and poetry open mic organised by Creative Writing Society, screenings of short films from UEA Filmmaking Society’s recent 48 hour filmmaking challenge, and picture displays of the Library throughout its fifty years (pictured).

EggBox publishing society are also set to release a digital zine about the library online via issuu, which will be available either today or tomorrow.

Designed by Denys Lasdun and Partners in the mid-sixties, the grade II listed building has repeatedly extended and transformed itself to meet the rapidly changing needs of its users.

In an announcement on portal, the university said: “For fifty years the Library has played a central role in the social, creative and academic life of UEA students and staff.

“Open 24/7, 365, the Library shows no sign of slowing down, receiving over 1.5 million visits each year and over 6 million digital visits; living every day to the fullest and looking forward to many more decades of service.”

Speaking about how the night went, Matthew Smith said: “It’s good. The room is quite nice. We thought originally we might got for something larger scale in the main part of the Library. But we didn’t want to disrupt anyone so we went for a cosy thing.”

Approximately twenty to thirty people were in attendance. Matthew said “If we’d had about six to ten more we would have been absolutely at capacity. So it’s really nice.

“It’s lovely actually looking back, and I hope people look back and think that the Library marked it and students got involved, because students are what the space is really about.”

The library has also been celebrating the fiftieth anniversary in other ways, including archive displays and a virtual environment where people can tour the library and read information points and people’s memories of the library.

A display made by the librarians, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary. Photo: Matt Nixon

“I get the impression, and I am very biased, but academic environments are changing all the time, and not everything [at UEA] is how you expect it to be. But the Library is something that, when people leave, they think back to their time and the Library almost symbolises their academic experiences,” Matthew said.

From the late nights we have all spent in the Library, to the books we have read and the people we have met, there is something everlasting about how we all experience the Library. While a lot has changed over the Library’s time here, it’s easy to relate to the students pictured on the displays even from decades ago.

“The Library sort of ties us all together,” Matthew said. “I do think of libraries as the gateway to all of human knowledge. So it’s nice seeing that thread that runs through the years and goes back to beyond this library.”

“There’s something really reassuring about those same things being important to people, like knowledge and sharing that, understanding other people’s knowledge and taking it forward as a constant striving to stand on the shoulders of giants.

“To be able to celebrate that in some form is a nice thing, and anniversaries like this just give us a nice chance to do that.”


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October 2021
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