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The Lit & Phil soldiers on

VE Day celebrations

The Lit & Phil's Annual Report for 1945 reads very much like the Reports produced today, although very much shorter in content. As was the case during the First World War, the Society continued to function as best it could during the Second World War. It recruited new members, bought books, recordings and periodicals, and organised lectures. There is no specific reference to V.E. Day in the 1945 Report but we can surely imagine the relief and excitement of staff and members as a new era approached.

The Lit & Phil's Librarian, Lieutenant Commander M.C. Pottinger, RNVR, FLA, who had been on active service in the Royal Navy, returned to his post on 1st December. Two Committee members, Mr Page and Mr Fallaw, are given special thanks for their contribution to the Society's affairs during the War. On the Librarian's return, a Miss Brown was appointed sub-librarian, having "during the war years rendered unremitting service to the Society, often under difficult conditions."

In addition to Miss Brown, there were 11 Assistant Librarians working in the Lit & Phil, as well as a relief caretaker, the regular caretaker being on active service.

In a similar way to the position in 1918, war had not diminished the library's membership. At the end of 1945 membership stood at 3,171, with 851 new members having joined during the year, but 797 members having departed - unfortunately a very familiar story as far as membership recruitment and retention is concerned during the long history of the Lit & Phil, including to the present day!

More than 4,000 volumes were added to the collection in the categories of non-fiction, fiction, music, children's and "H" (popular or duplicate non-fiction) - an impressive figure. In 2019 we added just under 1,000 books to the library. The effect of the War on additions to the library is nevertheless noted in the Report: "The numbers and variety of new books published continue to fall short of public demand, a state of affairs which is unlikely to improve until there is an increase in the allocation of labour and paper to the printing and publishing trades."

The Society's collection of musical scores, "probably the most valuable and comprehensive in the North of England , received special attention during the year, with emphasis on pianoforte, organ, vocal and orchestral scores." In addition, 189 recordings were added to the music collection, which stood at over 1,500 items. Whilst noting the increasing popularity of this section of the library, a polite reprimand was issued: "The opportunity is taken to stress that it is imperative to use thorn or fibre needles only on the Society's records, a number of which have been irreparably damaged by the use of metal needles in spite of the undertaking given by each member of the section".

The Report also announces a plan to undertake a major rebinding project for 100s of non-fiction books, some of which were noted as having been handled for 100 years.

With the end of the War, the headquarters of the Northern Regional Library System (Inter-Library Loan service, as it is known today), which had been evacuated to Durham, was restored to rooms in Bolbec Hall, the Lit & Phil's investment property and next door neighbour. A total of 386 volumes were borrowed for Lit & Phil members via this system.

Finally, lectures continued, as ever, on a wide variety of subjects including "The Poetry of Pope", " Seabirds and seals", "The Ballet" and "The New Europe". It is also noted that two documentary films were shown in the lecture theatre during October and November of that year.


About the author

Kay Easson

Kay is the Librarian of the Lit & Phil.

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