Monthly Archives: June 2016

50 objects 25: Library Staff Suggestions Book

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar.

In celebration of Brunel University’s 50th birthday, which is fast approaching on the 6th July, we thought we would share with you another item from the Library History Archive. In 1978, a staff suggestion book was created by the University Librarian Nick Childs, to allow library colleagues to have their say on how services could be improved.


Library Staff Suggestion Book, 1978-1984.


The comments were recorded between 1978 and 1984, and offer a unique insight into the operations of an academic library in this era. Often borrowing books from the Library was a time consuming and arduous process. Before the existence of online record systems, Brunel University Library used an early computer form of automated library system, which read a student’s issue ticket and ticket held within the item they wanted to borrow, and copied them on to a tape which was printed every day for records. One colleague lamented about the complexity of issuing journals under this system, and in particular, was concerned about the difficulty of discharging journal articles if its ticket had fallen out, as was often the case. They suggested that journals should become reference only as a solution, and later on this was indeed the case. As expected, with barcodes now allowing paper journals articles to be easily discharged from our computer system, this is no longer a concern.

Nevertheless, the rise of the computer has not resolved all of the concerns from the 1970s and 80s. In 1978, a staff member refers to the frequency of checked out books being left behind on library desks. This is a common phenomenon even today. Likewise, a comment recorded in 1979 states ‘someone was disco dancing in the reading room at 5pm (till I saw him!)’. One staff member in 1978 had an enthusiastic way of describing the high noise levels in the Library and in verse declared:

‘Once upon a time,

Before the laughter pierced the silence,

And pattering tiny feet,

Thundered round in circles,

…….Library quiet had lingered,

Once upon a time’

Though I can’t say I have ever seen a student ‘disco-dancing’, we still have our fair share of noise complaints!

50 objects 24: Railway Riot

Railway riot : the new indoor & outdoor treasure hunt for all social and festive occasions

Amongst the transport history collections are ephemera such as tickets and posters, but also a game showing how universal railway travel and timetables must have been in everyday life.


“Railway Riot” front cover

“Railway Riot” is a game for up to twelve players, produced by Universal Publications in the mid twentieth century and costing one shilling. It’s a form of treasure hunt based on railway timetables, in which players must fill in a card with a route and times by finding and consulting the correct timetables.

The “directions for play” offer suggestions as to where to hide the cards – if indoors, inside the wardrobe or behind the bath; if outdoors, up a tree, under a car, “or some other similar absurd place”. Conveniently, perhaps to settle arguments, a sheet with correct answers is also given.



“Railway Riot”: part of the game

The set appears never to have been used : it still has two rounds’ worth of cards for twelve players intact and unmarked.

Universal Publications, established in the 1930s, produced a range of party games: you can see some more of them found in an archive collection elsewhere in this blogpost.

For other games based on railways, see the National Railway Museum’s “Using the Railway” section.  If you’re interested in games more generally, you can find many resources via Brunel’s Games Design libguide.

50 objects 23: bookplates

Some of the books in the Library’s collections were owned by other libraries, or by individuals, before they came to us. One way of learning about a book’s history is to identify the former owner’s plate or label, usually glued to the inside front cover or front flyleaf. Here’s a selection of bookplates found at Brunel:

Brunel University Library bookplate

Brunel University Library bookplate

Brunel University Library bookplate. This features the swan image from the old University crest, which represents the University’s location in Uxbridge, and the cogwheel represents technology.


Shoreditch College bookplate

Shoreditch College bookplate

Shoreditch College was founded in 1902 and became a teacher training college specialising in craft, design and technology. In 1980 it merged with Brunel University, and some of the books from its library were transferred to the University Library. For more about Shoreditch College, see the Discovery Trail and the College’s archives held by the University.


Oldham Public Libraries bookplate

Oldham Public Libraries bookplate

Some books belonging to colleges which were merged with the University came from yet another library beforehand. This book’s plate shows it once belonged to Oldham Public Libraries. It came to Brunel University Library via Borough Road college, which was established in Southwark in 1817 but moved to Osterley in 1889, eventually becoming part of the West London Institute and so joining Brunel University in 1997. Another book came from Stoke Newington Public Library.anotherbookplate







DC Watt bookplate

DC Watt bookplate

Donald Cameron Watt in 2008 gave the Library a collection of books to do with intelligence and security studies; for more information see the collection page. His books have this commemorative plate.


Anthony Murray bookplate

Anthony Murray bookplate




Some of the books bequeathed to the Library by  Charles Clinker, and now forming part of the Transport History Collection were previously owned by Anthony Murray, whose bookplate featuring a steam engine is one of our favourites.



50 objects 22: tube tickets to the Queen’s coronation

A post by Subject Liaison Librarian Joanne McPhie.

A sample of the tickets

A sample of the tickets

The London Underground might be one of the most egalitarian modes of transport available, where everyone can tour London as long as they can crowd into the carriage. However, some items housed in Brunel Special Collections shed a light on an occasion when the tube was by appointment only.

On the day of the Queen’s coronation on the 2nd June, 1953, tens of thousands of people wanted to get to Westminster to witness the event. Well-wishers lined the route her carriage would take with an estimated 3 million eventually attending. In order to ensure distinguished guests, peers and civic dignitaries would be present, specially scheduled trains ran to transport them to the ceremony without interference from the masses. In the Transport History Collection some of the original tickets from these trains are preserved.

Detail of one of the tickets

Detail of one of the ticket for Peers’ train

Hierarchies were upheld even on the Underground with blue tickets granting entrance to the Peers only train, while orange tickets were good enough for the civic dignitaries. Obviously, even on this special day London Transport did not want to miss out on revenue as fares of 10d and 6d are still listed on the ticket, begging the question of what special treatment the Peers enjoyed for the extra 4d. Passengers would have had to get up early in the morning: tickets detail that trains left High Street Kensington at 7.15am, while those boarding at Mansion House had the even earlier time of 6.52am. These special one off routes were not available to everyone and in fact Westminster Station itself was closed to the public until after the ceremony.

These small pieces of history are only a tiny part of the organisation of a much larger day, but reveal much about the mind-set and mores of mid-20th century British culture.