Robinson College is proud of its history as the first purpose-built co-educational Cambridge college for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Designed by Andy Macmillan and Isi Metzstein, architects who gained recognition for modern Scottish churches, the Library is one of the architectural highlights of the College. Andy and Isi firmly believed that a good building should never reveal itself at any given moment in entirety. They advocated partial revelation, with aspects simultaneously revealed and obscured as the ideal. The Library adheres to this principle with wonderful views of both the interior and the exterior as you walk around. This concept of partial revelation is also expressed with the Piper/Reyntiens stained glass windows in the Chapel.
By 1977 planning had commenced with the formation of the Library Committee. They had a brief to establish a library for 350 to 400 undergraduates. Commander George Coupe worked tirelessly on this brief for the first two years. He consulted and visited the libraries at Trinity, Kings and Churchill in order to get a clear understanding of what was required and Godfrey Thompson, then President of the Library Association, gave invaluable advice.
The foundation of our collection came from some 18,000 books acquired from Hockerill College in Bishop Stortford, which was just about to close. This had been a teacher training college, established in 1852 by the Church of England for the training of women teachers; it subsequently re-opened as a co-educational boarding school in 1980. With some 5000 new books purchased by 1979 the University Library kindly offered us space to store our growing collection on the 9th floor of their tower.
In November 1978 Dr Mikuláš Teich became the first Fellow Librarian and had to ready the library in time for the first intake of 20 undergraduates in Michaelmas 1979. The library found a home in a bay-windowed room in Thorneycreek House: a building in the college gardens dating from 1895. The books were placed on beautiful oak shelving, bought from Lincoln Cathedral. The library soon doubled in size and spread into offices vacated by admin staff before being moved across the site for the opening of the new Library at the start of Easter Term 1981.
There have been many generous donations over the years which have helped to shape our collection. Of particular note was the Munby Collection on Transport Economics and the A.G. Dickens Collection, both of which are no longer held. The Henry Button Collection of Business Histories is a fascinating and unique collection which came to us, as a new College, in 1981. We have a good selection of Piper and Reyntiens related material and hold Arts Council exhibition catalogues from 1948-1972. In 2019 we received an interesting bequest from Miss V J Bowles on local history, which now forms the basis of our Bowles Collection.
Fellow Librarians: Dr Mikuláš Teich, Dr Martin Brett, Professor German Berrios, Dr David McKie, Wing Commander Peter Milloy, Professor Rosalind Love, Professor Peter Kornicki. College Librarians: Alison Houghton, Lesley Read, Judith Brown
The Light In the Library, image copyright Judith A. Brown