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Royal Commonwealth Society : The Library, Northumberland Avenue

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Royal Commonwealth Society

<p style='text-align: justify;'> A library has been at the heart of the Society since its inception, and a room was set aside for it at 15, The Strand (its headquarters building) from the early 1870s. The library collection grew rapidly – from 273 items in 1872 to over 7,000 titles in 1886. In 1881 J.S. O’Halloran was appointed Librarian and Assistant Secretary – the Society’s first senior salaried official - though the main work of the library fell on James Rufus Boosé, who was appointed Librarian in April 1889. The library grew from 10,000 to 70,000 items during his twenty-year tenure, and although growth slowed down during the war, expansion continued in the 1920s. By 1936, it had a separate law library, map room, newspaper room and parliamentary library. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> We believe this photograph was taken in 1931 and shows the Society’s library in the Northumberland Avenue premises it occupied from 1884 to 1935, before its contents of 244,000 items had to be packed and put in store as Sir Herbert Baker’s grand new headquarters building in Northumberland Avenue was being built. The library collection filled 36 pantechnicons and weighed 130 tons! The library not only occupied the largest room on the first floor of Baker’s new building, but also a gallery, adjoining rooms and a two storey basement. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> The photograph is taken from a collection of lantern slides commissioned by the Society and used to mark the opening of its new headquarters building in 1936, many of which were published in its journal United Empire </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>See Janus record <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>here</a></p>

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