The University of Sydney Library is the library system of the University of Sydney. It comprises eight locations across several campuses of the university. Its largest library, Fisher Library, is named after Thomas Fisher, an early benefactor.
Among the collection are many rare items such as one of the two extant copies of the Gospel of Barnabas, and an annotated first edition of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton,. In 2017, a member of staff discovered an original Giorgione sketch in Rare Books and Special Collections with a definitive date and cause of death for Giorgione, information that had been lost for over 500 years in a 1497 edition of Dante Alighieri‘s Divine Comedy.
In 1885, the University received thirty thousand pounds from the estate of the late Thomas Fisher, retired bootmaker and property investor, to be used “in establishing and maintaining a library”.
There was a difference of opinion in the University on how to spend the bequest. The Chancellor thought the fund should be used for a building and to contribute to the salary of a Librarian, but the Vice Chancellor and Library Committee preferred to buy books. In 1887 a compromise was reached. £20,000 plus accumulated interest was set aside for a building fund with the hope that the government would provide matching funds and £10,000 was directed to an endowment for books.
After many reversals and delays the New South Wales government agreed to fund the full cost of a new library building and the Fisher capital could be preserved as an endowed book fund. Plans were drawn up for the library by the Government Architect, Walter Vernon, and construction took eight years.
The first Fisher Library opened in 1909. The reading room was in the Gothic tradition with a magnificent cedar roof but the adjoining multi-tier book stack was of advanced design, including two electric book lifts. The reading room is now the MacLaurin Hall.
Fisher Library is the largest and first branch of the library system, located on Eastern Avenue on the Camperdown Campus, adjacent to Victoria Park. The Fisher Library is for University of Sydney students and staff. Its collection focuses on humanities, social science and commercial disciplines. The original Fisher Library, in the 19th century, was housed in the Quadrangle in what is presently the Senate Room. A purpose-built Fisher Library was completed in 1908 at the southwest corner of the Quadrangle, with its former reading room now known as MacLaurin Hall. The library was moved to its present location in 1962. Although it appears to be one building, the university classifies it as two separate buildings which are connected by foyer areas on the lower floors.
(Building F03) was built in 1962 and holds multiple copies of texts commonly used by undergraduate students of the university. This building also houses two computer labs, the audio and visual collection, the microform collection, the rare books and special collections section, and the photocopying room.
(Building F04) was built in 1967 with copper-clad outer walls. It is an accessible stack library with a larger and more historical collection. This building also houses the East Asian collection, the University Archives, and silent study desks. Some of the building’s space is used by the School of Psychology.
Located on Eastern Avenue, adjacent to Victoria Park, the Law Library is for University of Sydney students and staff. It is spread over 5000 square metres of floor space and houses substantial collections that support the needs of the Law School.
The library consists of a ground floor that contains the majority of the collections, staff area, information desk, printing/photocopying facilities and computer access. Upstairs on the mezzanine level are the research collections and six more group study rooms. All of these rooms are equipped with computers.