Part 1: Ipswich Library before 1924

Between 1887 and 1924, the library was situated in the museum in High Street. The following is the description for the library given in Kelly's Directory of Ipswich for the year 1920. Although Kelly's was primarily a business directory, it had, as its first section, information about the town. As you can see below, these entries were quite extensive. Notice that they call it the "Free Library". This was quite a common description since there often existed a public subscription library at the same time as the publicly-funded library was first formed. Here in Ipswich there was a subscription library that operated from Ancient House.

Ipswich Museum and Free Library: these institutions are located in the Museum buildings in High Street and are under the direction of one committee, appointed by the Corporation.

The Borough of Ipswich Free Library, Museum buildings, High Street, is a rate-supported institution under the direction of the Museum Committee of the Corporation. The growth of the Free Library has been very gradual, a municipal library for the free use of the inhabitants having existed for nearly three centuries. A collection of books was formed in 1612, partly from a bequest of books made in 1598 by William Smart, Portman of the Borough, for the use of the town preacher, and partly from a legacy of £50 from Mrs Walters in 1594, probably left for the Corporation to apply at their discretion. Many gifts were made from time to time, and about 600 volumes still remain as part of the reference department, including some ancient manuscripts written on vellum, incunabla, and other works of bibliographical and historical interest. In 1887 the Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria was celebrated by a public subscription, which was applied to the building of the Lending Library, and there are altogether about 48,000 volumes, the lending department containing about 24,000. The Reference department includes a complete set of the Specifications of Patents, and has also been stocked with books to meet the requirements of all classes of students and book-lovers - science, art, and technical works, history topography and local history &c. The hours of opening are as follows:- Library, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed on Wednesdays at 1p.m.; reading room, 9 a.m. to 9.30 p.m. Secretary, Frank Woolnough F. R. Met. Soc.; chief librarian and clerk, Henry Ogle F.L.A.

The following is part of the entry for the museum in the same directory and explains the layout of the rooms at the museum.

The main hall is devoted to natural history, the gallery above containing a fine collection of ethnographical specimens. The new wing at the west end contains the British birds, and on the ground floor the reference library; the southern wing contains on the ground floor the reading room and above the geological museum, in which is included the series of Red Crag fossils of the district, the most complete in existence, and containing many of the type of specimens figured in Searles Wood's "Manual of the Mollusca of the Red Crag."

These two entries need to be taken with a bit of caution. Looking through the collection of Kelly's directories at the Records Office, it is evident that the same material was used year after year with only minor changes. The second entry, the one on the museum, is obviously out of date as it doesn't even mention the lending department.

Part 2: Ipswich Library after 1924

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19th August 2004