Durham University’s historic Cosin’s Library reopens

ONE of the earliest surviving public libraries in the North East will be reopening its doors to visitors following a lengthy closure of essential conservation work.

Cosin’s Library, which sits at the heart of the Durham World Heritage Site within Palace Green Library, will be open from Wednesday (April 13).

The library has undergone extensive work to protect its rare and precious collections, and to make them more accessible and enjoyable for visitors.

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From Wednesday visitors will be able to enjoy this remarkable venue with free entry, although pre-booking is required.

The library, which is now part of Durham University, was founded by John Cosin, Bishop of Durham, in 1669 and the extensive book collection was developed over many years by Cosin and his successors.

It is home to over 5,000 books, covering subjects including classics, theology, science, archeology, law and local matters, in languages ​​including Latin, Greek Hebrew, Italian and French, representing a remarkable breadth and depth of material.

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Researchers can look at the books by making an appointment with Archives and Special Collections in the search room at Palace Green Library.

The conservation work has included major repairs to the roof structure, the removal of damaged plaster and repainting of the library with specialist conservation grade paint. The splendid wooden bookcases have also undergone conservation work to ensure they are protected and preserved for generations to come.

In addition to this, work supported by Arts Council England’s National Lottery funded Designation Development Fund will enable researchers and the public to engage with the library in new ways.

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New provisions include a virtual tour of the library, computer generated historical images of the library, and upgraded catalog records for much of the collection.

Visitors to the re-furbished library will be able to see collections housed in magnificent wooden bookcases together with the painted portraits of theologians, philosophers, historians and classical authors which sit above most of the bookcases. These portraits were there to inform users about the subjects of the books shelved underneath.

They can also speak to team members about the conservation work.

Speaking about the reopening Liz Waller, Director of Library and Collections, University Librarian, Durham University, said: “We are thrilled to be able to welcome visitors back to this beautiful and historically important library.

“The conservation and accessibility work we have undertaken has enabled us to keep this remarkable collection safe, whilst opening up new ways for us to share it with visitors both in person and virtually.”

Cosin’s Library will be open Wednesday to Sunday, between 11am and 3pm, plus most Bank Holidays.

Entry will be free, but booking is necessary to keep the number of people in the library at any one time to a comfortable level.

Further information about booking a visit is available at https://cosinslibrary.webspace.durham.ac.uk/.

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