History of the Commons Library

1818: Benjamin Spiller appointed Librarian

1818: Benjamin Spiller appointed Librarian

The appointment of Benjamin Spiller as Librarian in 1818 was significant. As well as managing the creation of the first Library catalogue in 1830, Spiller decided the Library needed a central location.

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1831: Thomas Vardon appointed Librarian

1831: Thomas Vardon appointed Librarian

Thomas Vardon was appointed House of Commons Librarian in 1831. He understood the Library to be more than simply a repository of books but a source of knowledge on a variety of subjects.

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1834: Palace of Westminster burns down

1834: Palace of Westminster burns down

 

Like much of the Palace of Westminster, the Library suffered grievous damage during the 1834 fire. An invaluable set of Commons records dating back from 1547, including Elizabethan petitions and papers, were lost.

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1852: The new Library opens

1852: The new Library opens

 

Due to its importance to Members, the Library kept its central location and it was imperative to open it as soon as possible. The new Library building opened in 1852, the same year as the new Commons Chamber.

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1946: The research service opens

1946: The research service opens

By 1945, a select committee looking at the future direction of the Library called for the development of research services. As a result, the Library modernised its collection and set up a dedicated Research/Statistical Division in 1946, alongside its Reference Division.

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1946: The first woman Library Clerk

1946: The first woman Library Clerk

It wasn’t until after the Second World War that women were employed in the Library, with Dorothy Elizabeth Dusart thought to be the first woman executive servant, when she became a Junior Library Clerk on 15 October 1946.

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1968: First ever research briefing is published

1968: First ever research briefing is published

By 1968, the need for more analysis was becoming apparent, leading to the creation of Research Papers. The first ever research briefing was published on the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

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1980: First computing system replaces hand-typed indexes

1980: First computing system replaces hand-typed indexes

In 1980 the Library’s first computing system, POLIS, was installed. This replaced hand-typed indexes and allowed for much faster retrieval of information.

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2017: Commons Library website launched

2017: Commons Library website launched

The Library has continued to embrace digital developments and in 2017 launched a new website – commonslibrary.parliament.uk.

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2018: Commons Library celebrates its 200th anniversary

2018: Commons Library celebrates its 200th anniversary

2018 marks 200 years since Benjamin Spiller was appointed as the first House of Commons Librarian in 1818.

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